NEW YORK (CBS 2) – With curious noses pressed up against plane windows, more than 120 dogs came out of their crates and into rescuers’ arms.
Some held their heads high as their paws touched the ground while others needed some extra love after their long journey.
The dogs landed at Essex County Airport thanks to the Pilots N Paws rescue organization, a program of volunteer pilots who help fly thousands of dogs from shelters where they faced being euthanized.
“I’m gonna spend the time flying anyway and it’s way better to be giving something back to these poor dogs that need it,” pilot Terry Friedman said. “It feels real good. It’s a lot of fun.”
More than 2,000 pilots are registered with the program, which started in 2008.
This group of dogs came in memory of the so-called “Chesterfield 22,” the name given to the 22 dogs in South Carolina that were shot at a county shelter and dumped in a landfill back in March.
“We decided to save as many from that area as we could in honor of those that didn’t make it out,” Pet ResQ Inc. founder Robyn Urman said.
From start to finish, local rescue groups like Pet ResQ Inc. and Pet’s Best Friend New Jersey helped relocate the dogs from South Carolina.
The dogs will now go to foster homes or no kill shelters and eventually to permanent homes in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Florida and Georgia.
For everyone involved, it’s a labor of love.
“It’s good to find other people out there that really care about animals and are willing to volunteer time to save them,” volunteer Rachel Kelliher said.
For Urman, much of that labor of love comes from the pilots.
“They’re awesome,” Urman said. “It’s their time, their dime. They’re all volunteers who own their own planes and they do this every day. They’re amazing.”