Cloud Nine Rescue flies pets to forever homes
Middletown, R.I. Her story started on a North Carolina veterinarians doorstep where she was dropped in a box with her littermates. But Kisses, a black and tan hound puppy, and her brothers and sisters were bound for happier days. They all found new homes in the Northeast, and she became the 1,000th dog to ride the rescue transport from North Carolina to the Potter Animal League.
The 16-week-old puppy and an assortment of other dogs from the Mitchell County Animal Shelter in Spruce Pine, N.C. received celebrity treatment when their private plane landed at the Col. Robert F. Wood Airpark. On the way to new homes in Rhode Island, the dogs were surrounded by news reporters, photographers and a throng of well-wishers.
The animals flew with Cloud Nine, the rescue flight organization based in Pennsylvania.
Ted Dupuis, founder of Cloud Nine Rescue Flights, flies about four transports a year to the Middletown, R.I. airport, according to M. Christie Smith, executive director of the Potter League.
Within a week, Kisses and the other puppies were adopted, Smith said. But if the dogs had stayed in North Carolina, the story might not have had a happy ending. If we don't move the pets we move, they die, Dupuis said. It's that simple.
Dupuis founded Cloud Nine to stop euthanasia at U.S. shelters, he said.
In its first 30 months in the air, Cloud Nine has moved more than a thousand pets to destinations across the U.S. and Canada. After the Joplin, Mo. tornado, for example, Dupuis teamed up with the ASPCA and flew 52 cats to Seattle, Wash. where new homes awaited them. Cloud Nine also took 47 Chihuahuas cross-country on a 12-hour trip from Los Angeles to New York.
Most passengers are dogs and cats, he said, but he has also worked with the International Fund for Animal Welfare and flown veterinarians and veterinary technicians to remote sections of northern Canada to care for animals in need.
We have flown dogs rescued from being buried alive by their owners, ones that survived being bait dogs, ones that didn't make the cut during hunting dog tryouts.
But the typical flight, which costs $2,500, sends 15 dogs from an overcrowded shelter in the southeastern U.S. to a rescue in the Northeast. The main reason U.S. dogs face euthanasia, he said, is due to living in an area of pet overpopulation.
Dupuis realized the scope of the pet overpopulation problem after he adopted his own dog.
In 2006, the same year he started taking flying lessons, he adopted Duke, a big, loveable, and sweet Rottweiler who had spent half his life in the local animal shelter and just needed someone to love him.
Because of Duke, Dupuis volunteered at the shelter to help train dogs, and there he learned the facts about euthanasia. Although I knew it was routine for pets to get put down at shelters, what I didn't realize was that the numbers were in the millions per year, he said. I didn't realize there were individual shelters putting down 300 pets per week.
He also realized as a pilot, he could make a difference by moving the animals to shelters that could accommodate them.
Originally, I started flying legs on small-scale transports working with some of the other aviation-based animal transport groups, he said. However, I quickly realized that there was a need not to transport one or two dogs at a time, but to transport 10, 15, or more in one trip. Additionally, I saw the problems with the standard transports in the form of frequent cancellations due to weather and pilot capabilities, problems en-route with transfer of animals, and the like. From there, I bought a larger, more capable aircraft that could transport that many pets in one shot in more kinds of weather.
Dupuis would like to run more flights but has had to cut back due to a drop in donations.
Before Cloud Nine, the rescue transport from North Carolina to Middletown, R.I. traveled by car, Smith said. We have been transporting animals a long time, she said, and have rescued over 2,000 pets, mostly from the South but with a few from Puerto Rico and Mexico.
The transport is not without controversy, Smith said. Among the issues, she said, people do question why a Rhode Island shelter should accept animals from other parts of the country when so many local animals are in need.
Were still taking care of animals in our community, she said, and the Potter League also helps other Rhode Island shelters. But the decision to work with the Mitchell County shelter was based on the fact that many local families ask for puppies.
New England shelters typically dont have any pups or young dogs.
In New England, weve spayed and neutered so many, there are no unwanted puppies, she said.
By bringing in puppies in from North Carolina, the shelter meets the needs of local residents and also keeps them from going to pet shops to buy a dog, Smith said.
The Mitchell County shelter sends healthy animals that are up to date on their vaccinations, she said. We trust them completely.
The connection with the North Carolina sister shelter, Mitchell County Animal Rescue, started in 2005, she said, and the flights began about a year ago.
The transports definitely save lives of animals that would otherwise have been euthanized, according to Patricia Beam, Mitchell County Animal Rescues executive director.
Beam said her shelter is routinely overwhelmed with unwanted animals. Asked for the numbers, Beam said the Spruce Pine, N.C. shelter last year took in 569 dogs. The shelter has only 18 kennels, and there is no other animal rescue in Mitchell County, which Beam described as a small, rural area and home to about 15,000 people.
Most residents do understand the pet overpopulation problem, Beam said, but they dont have the money to spay and neuter their pets. Unemployment in Mitchell County stands at 16 percent, she said.
We have lost several major industries in the past five years, she said. We have a real, strong spay/neuter program, she added, but we keep getting litter after litter. As she spoke, the shelter was dealing with a new litter of beagles and four litters of hounds.
We understand we cant adopt our way out of the spay/neuter problem, she said, but in the meantime, the Potter League has been a lifeline for more than 1,000 pets, she said. Since 2005, the Mitchell County shelter has sent 1,014 animals to Rhode Island, Beam said.
Pictured: Kisses1000th transported dog from Mitchell County Animal Rescueand Tia Menezes, Animal Care Technician at the Potter League for Animals, standing in front of Cloud Nine Animal Rescue Flights plane. Photo taken by Roskelly, Inc. for the Potter League. Photo courtesy of the Potter League.
How to Help: Potter League for Animals, P.O. Box 412, Newport, RI 02840.
The Mitchell County Animal Rescue & Shelter, P.O. Box 308, Spruce Pine, NC 28777.
Cloud Nine Rescue Flights, 1738 E. Third St., PMB#128, Williamsport, PA 17701.