My heart aches every time I see an abused or abandoned dog in an ASPCA television spot. Yehuda Netanel, an Israeli born architect, land developer, and private pilot in Los Angeles has the same reaction. So in 2009, at 59, he started Wings Of Rescue, (WOR), a nonprofit, after discovering that 5-6 million dogs a year are euthanized in the U.S. WOR has already rescued 13,000 dogs, and will save 7,000 more this year alone. Yehuda's philosophy; "I don't walk away from problems that are within my reach to resolve."
The Dog Hoarder
Two and a half years ago Yehuda heard about a woman in a desert community near Los Angeles who had 84 dogs. The authorities were about to remove them and Yehuda knew that the county's policy is to euthanize dogs within 24 hours. He persuaded the woman to turn the dogs over to him. He delivered all of them to a spay/neuter clinic. Afterward, they spent a few days at a horse ranch, and 10 days later were flown to Oregon, N.W. Washington, and Canada where 75 families adopted every dog.
Yehuda feels compelled to act because he's deeply offended that man's best friend is treated as expendable. The number of dogs in shelters awaiting euthanasia in some areas of the U.S. is extraordinarily high, while shelters in other regions have waiting lists to adopt dogs. Yehuda knew these discrepancies were avoidable.
Trucking is America's main distribution system, but these doomed animals aren't part of that system because the distances are too great for trucks to handle. The animals would arrive hungry, dirty, sick, or dead. UPS and Fed-ex don't fly dogs, and commercial flights can't carry enough dogs to make a difference.
"Private pilots are always looking to do something good with their hobby, and they're always on the lookout for another $1,000 hamburger, i.e. an excuse to fly their airplanes." He hopes to attract additional private pilots because more volunteers would make a difference. Interested pilots can reach Yehuda through WOR's website.
People Versus Dogs
When asked what prompted him to fly dogs to safety, Yehuda said there are an ample number of organizations that fly people for medical purposes, but virtually none to rescue dogs. After a year and a half flying for an organization that rescued a few dogs at a time Yehuda realized a business-like approach would be more effective. While WOR has thirty volunteer pilots, Yehuda flies 50% of the flights and the remainder of the pilots flies the other 50%, which is the main reason WOR needs a large cargo plane.
Some Good From Tragedy
Three months ago Yehuda's plane crashed after being serviced. Tragically the test pilot and copilot flying it were killed when they lost control of the plane. Yehuda has donated his insurance proceeds toward the $2 million cost of a used cargo plane, which can carry 100 dogs per flight and ultimately rescue 200,000 dogs. Until that cargo plane is purchased volunteer pilots are needed to fly one planeload of fifty dogs a month, which would save 600 dogs a year. Yehuda believes that when someone does something bigger than his or her own life it keeps that person young in mind and body, and that volunteering becomes a life extension practice.
The Problem Is Regional
Most of the dogs come from the South, Southwest, Los Angeles, and the Central Valley of California. WOR delivers rescued dogs primarily to the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and the Northeastern United States. WOR is well known and highly regarded. Shelters contact them with the number of dogs needing rescue as well as the number needed for adoption. WOR has become a hub for collating this information, which they use to create flights. They'll continue chartering cargo planes that carry up to 200 dogs per flight until they have their own cargo plane.
I asked Yehuda why certain parts of the country have the majority of the dogs in kill shelters. He was reluctant to answer because he's understandably uncomfortable talking about the demographics of the problem. I urged him to be frank so that the issue might be more effectively addressed. The number of abandoned dogs is directly related to the educational levels and cultural aspects of dog owners. Too many eschew the spay/neuter options, but have no qualms about abandoning dogs. Yehuda hopes to change this paradigm through education.
Smiles Are Payment
Yehuda feels his mission is worthwhile when he sees smiling faces at both ends of his rescue operation. But he'd like people to become more aware of how simply the kill shelter issue could be resolved. The primary solutions are spay/neuter and adoption, which would virtually eliminate the 5-6 million dogs that die in kill shelters every year. Yehuda's personal experience is that adopted dogs make the best pets, and he insists his three rescue dogs show him their gratitude daily.
I mentioned Paris Hilton often being blamed for the astronomical number of abandoned Chihuahuas. But Yehuda said that specific breed's overabundance started well before Paris and her dog became news. So let's stop blaming Paris, at least for abandoned Chihuahuas.
Yehuda Netanel devotes a significant amount of his time, energy, and money to rescuing doomed dogs in kill shelters around the country. That makes him a hero, especially with dog lovers.
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