Animals Rescued by Pet-Loving Pilots

Patches is five months old, part Bassett hound, part who knows what - and a few weekends ago she barely escaped being euthanized in a Georgia animal shelter.

Patches is about to be taken on a flight for her life by John Wehrenberg, a member of a group of animal-loving aviators called Pilots-N-Paws.CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports that it's a sort of an "over-ground railroad" for pets.

Geography often can make the difference between life and death for dogs and cats.

Maddie's Fund

More than a thousand pilots working with rescue groups volunteer to fly pets mostly from the southeast - where one survey found 68 percent of animals in shelters are euthanized - to the north, where there are more no-kill shelters and pets stand a far better chance of adoption.

More information on animal rescues
Canine Hope Rescue
Illinois Doberman Rescue
Rover Rescue
Animal Rescue League of Northwest Georgia

Most of the animals flown to safety have been dogs but not all of them. Some are cats. One pilot in Florida flew a pot bellied pig. They've taken reptiles and at least 4 bunnies.

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Nobody has counted how many pets have been saved in these airlifts. One pilot, Steve Hall, has ferried more than 300 dogs north to Long Island, including some who became more than just passengers.

"By the time I got him and brought him over to the plane - I didn't want to see him go," said Hall. So Brutus became one of the newest members of Hall's family.

"He's a sweetheart," Hall said.

Hall and his wife already had Bonnie and Clyde who they got at a pet store. But Brutus was close to being killed in a shelter in Florence, South Carolina.

And Brutus isn't the only passenger who Steve Hall hijacked. There was also something about Amy - who's now the Halls' fourth dog.

This is one ad-hoc airline where every trip has a happy ending. All the dogs on Hall's flight had homes waiting for them when he landed.

And Patches, who was days away from death, is on her way to a new life in Illinois - where she's loved and looked after and above all, safe.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"