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Cost of COVID: Rescue dogs fly from Macon to new homes in pandemic adoption boom

Since the start of the pandemic, Pilots N Paws has placed around 2,500 in new homes
Credit: Liz Fabian
Hundreds of dogs from Albany have been shipped via transport from Georgia to Virginia where there is a rescue pet adoption boom as more people work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MACON, Ga. — Packed in a dog crate, a 3-year-old boxer mix named “Sky” took flight Saturday. 

She was one of a half-dozen dogs who got the ride of their lives flying from Macon to find new homes in Virginia.

Kim Williams, who volunteers for the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation of Arlington, Virginia, has tapped into a puppy pipeline of sorts to bring some of Georgia’s homeless pet population to the mid-Atlantic region where they are bombarded by requests for dogs to adopt.

“We have had the most incredible outpouring of people in the D.C. Suburbs that have a strong desire to rescue dogs and cats during this pandemic,” Williams stated in an email.

Williams, who has family in Macon, met Kristin Reid during one of her visits with relatives.

Reid, who has a 30-acre horse farm in Forsyth, has rescued some unadoptable dogs from local shelters and tries to foster others when she can to fill in the gaps with shelters and keep dogs from being euthanized. Having the ability to run free after months of being cooped up can help the dogs decompress from shelter life, she said.

Without the ability to hold fundraisers this year due to the global pandemic, Reid found it difficult to take on more dogs. When she learned the Virginia foundation needed dogs to adopt out, they made it happen with the Pilots N Paws volunteer pilots organization.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the foundation has placed nearly 2,500 dogs in new homes.

“A number we have never seen before in our 19-year history as an organization. The true silver lining in this awful time,” Williams said.

While looking for adoptable dogs, the foundation discovered that many rural shelters are struggling in the pandemic as facilities closed and more families turned in their animals due to financial strain.

The reverse is true in Williams’ community.

Not only are people seeing the work-from-home atmosphere being more amenable to taking on a new pet, they are returning them at a lower rate than previous years.

“In our area, for the most part, people are very passionate about not purchasing dogs and instead rescuing,” Williams said.

Of the 360 dogs rescued from Georgia this year, about 200 of those recently adopted have traveled all the way by special transport vans from the southwest Georgia town of Albany. Earlier this month, 28 dogs and 19 puppies from Dougherty County arrived up north.

All of the animals have been adopted or placed in foster homes.

“The northern Virginia-D.C. area is actually having a hard time keeping up with the demand for rescue dogs,” Williams said. “Never in all the years that I’ve been involved with rescue have we seen such an insurgence.”

Last Saturday, the group made their first flight to Macon to pick up Reid’s six dogs and deliver a 250-pound plane load of pet food and supplies by teaming up with Pilots and Paws’ Todd Workman.

The shorter travel time by air can relieve some of the stress of the trip for dogs like Sky, who has anxiety.

The foundation’s executive director, Dawn Wallace, served in the Air Force and spent nearly 12 years at Robins Air Force. She hopes to continue rescuing animals from the South.

“There’s an extra special place in my heart for each of these dogs that we are saving with this airlift mission,” Wallace stated in an email. “I know of so many selfless and dedicated people in this area of Georgia who are helping to save and rescue animal lives, yet there is still such a prevalent need for continued relief to help reduce the number of homeless pets and save the lives of highly adoptable dogs.”

Transporting the dogs is not cheap as the cost of a ground transport crate is $125, Williams said, and the organization provides shots, spaying and neutering and other medical needs.

Those wishing to contribute to the rescue effort can visit the website lostdogrescue.org or email contributions to giving@lostdogrescue.org.

Sky and the other dogs arrived in Virginia Saturday evening and by Monday morning they were all adopted with multiple applications coming in for each dog, Williams said.

“We think people really are understanding what all of use in the rescue world have known for a long time; dogs and cats provide an incredible amount of love and affection that we are all in great need of as human beings, and especially during a pandemic,” she said

Reid received photos of all the dogs once they reached Virginia and began their new lives.

“It was great to see them with their new families,” she said. “It was like a dream come true.”

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or fabian_lj@mercer.edu.

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