An Army vet named Pual Steklenski learned how to fly and bought his own plane so he could rescue hundreds of dogs from death row.
The former tank operator decided he wanted to save animals after adopting a homeless dog named Tessa from a rescue center. Steklenski, 45, first considered driving to kill shelters and transporting the dogs that way to help find them owners. But, he knew there was a more effective way, so he shelled out $70,000 for an aircraft to transport dogs to adopters.
It was just a coincidence that Steklenski started learning how to fly in 2013 as a hobby, but once he realized he wanted to do this, he went and got his pilot license. In May 2015, he set up Flying Fur Animal Rescue and to date, he’s saved over 742 animals which have been neglected or abused. According to the New York Post, Steklenski said, “When I first started flying there were times when I wanted to quit because I didn’t think I could do it, but I kept going back.”
“Once I became certified I thought, ‘What am I going to do now?’ A lot of pilots like to fly to restaurants or nice places and that is great, but for me I had to have a different reason to go in the air. Seeing the dogs at the shelter was heartbreaking. It was horrible to think that there were so many animals being euthanized because they’re stuck in a certain area,” he continued.
Steklenski knew he could help make a difference by going down there, picking up the dogs and taking them to other shelters. “The plane is a tool that allows me to do a lot in a day that I couldn’t do with a bus,” Steklenski said.
Steklenski, who now works as an IT expert, takes off about two days a month to fly to shelters, where he picks up dogs and cats. On his biggest trip, Steklenski was able to fit 23 animals into the aircraft, and he ripped up the interior so they could all fit. Steklenski flies to North Carolina and takes the dogs to shelters in other states where they will have a better chance of being adopted.
Although this can be very costly, Steklenski says that it’s all worth it, as he doesn’t have children. “Once the engine starts up they fall asleep or will stay awake and look out of the windows,” he told the New York Post. “It’s always very quiet. I have never had an issue. I have a feeling they know better things are going to happen for them.”
When the dogs arrive at their destination, Steklenski knows they’re safe because none of the shelters he delivers to euthanize animals. “It’s extremely emotional, but I will do this for as long as I can afford to,” Steklenski said. “I hope to inspire other people to get involved.”
To find out more about Steklenski’s rescue efforts and learn how you can help, visit flyingfuranimalrescue.org.
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[Featured Image Credit: Flying Fur Animal Rescue]