Flight companions needed to save dogs from freezing in rural areas

Sep 13 2019, 1:19 pm

Canadian animal rescue organizations are looking for people flying from Winnipeg to BC and Ontario to help efforts to save stray dogs from freezing conditions in rural communities.

As winter fast approaches, groups are looking for flight companions and escorts to get the dogs moved to other provinces — with all costs covered for the furry travel companion.

BC’s Companion Animal Advocacy & Rescue Effort (CAARE) said the goal is to not only save these little ones from being out in the cold, but to also put them in a position to find a forever home.

In a phone interview with Daily Hive, Co-founder Sara Gardner said CAARE works with animal advocates located in rural communities in northern Manitoba to find dogs in need of a home.

Gardner said there’s a huge dog overpopulation problem in Manitoba’s remote areas, causing rescue organizations to be inundated with animals.

(Sash-Mar Paws Helping Northern Dogs/Facebook)

Gardner said once the dogs are found, they then stay with the advocates until transportation can be arranged to get them to Winnipeg, then they are flown to Vancouver on commercial flights.

One of the biggest hurdles is finding flight escorts.

Gardiner says the volunteering is stress and cost-free.  CAARE pays for the dogs to fly on the flight, and travellers are met at the airports by volunteers to drop off the animals and then pick them up on the other side in Vancouver to get them to their foster homes.

“It’s really no trouble for people because it’s organized by the rescue,” Gardner said. “It’s just basically escorting the dog, that’s all people have to do, just give us their flight info and we arrange everything.”

(Sash-Mar Paws Helping Northern Dogs/Facebook)

Before the animals board their flights, Gardner said the dogs are quarantined for a period of about two weeks to make sure they have no diseases that can be transferred and vaccinated.

Now that it’s getting colder, strays are becoming more at risk.

“As soon as the weather changes in the northern communities, the animals don’t survive,” Gardner said.

“Unfortunately when puppies or kittens are born in those frigid temperatures, they’re often found deceased, or they’re found in such poor condition that they have to be humanely euthanized,” she said, adding food is also scarce.

“It’s awful coming across a litter of puppies that are frozen to the ground, you know, and the mom is just lying there shivering and her puppies are all dead around her,” said Gardner.

(Sash-Mar Paws Helping Northern Dogs/Facebook)

“[Dogs] they don’t ask to be born in a certain area,” Gardner said, “the suffering is just beyond words.

Now that the weather is beginning to change, CAARE’s goal is to save as many dogs as it can from freezing to death.

‘One-woman show,’ Karen George, of Sash-Mar Paws Helping Northern Dogs in Ottawa is working to bring dogs to Ontario from Winnipeg that have been rescued from rural areas in Manitoba, operating in the same fashion as CAARE.

George said she works with rescue groups that find animals at risk in Manitoba and then they decide which animals are going to be flown out east.

“I like to take a lot of the older dogs that have medical issues because, you know, the rescues I work with will do the medical,” George said.

All dogs that George works with in Manitoba are treated before they’re flown out to Ottawa.

(Sash-Mar Paws Helping Northern Dogs/Facebook)

“That’s when I need escorts to attach them [dogs] to their ticket,” George said, explaining all she needs is a flyer’s reservation number to book the dog with them and she’ll pay for the animals to fly.

George said all escorts have to do is meet volunteers at the airport to check in with the dogs and go through security together, then when they land in Ottawa, the dogs are picked up in the oversized luggage area by volunteers.

“Most people wanna stick around to make sure the dogs get off the plane, it’s so cute,” George said.

“My huge reward to people that offer to do this is they can have all the puppy kisses they want, you know, all the puppy kisses, all the older dog kisses, all the tail wagging,” she said.

“You could take the little dogs for a walk around the airport, all the interaction you want at the Winnipeg airport.”

(Sash-Mar Paws Helping Northern Dogs/Facebook)

George said her reaction from escorts have been nothing but positive, and now she has repeat passengers who let her know when they are available to take dogs again.

George tells people that “you were flying anyways, but bringing that dog on the flight with you changed their entire life.”

“They’re gonna have enough food, they’re always gonna be warm, they’re gonna belong to somebody,” she said.

Both Gardner and George said they’re also working to get as many dogs flown out as they can before WestJet and Air Canada‘s seasonal embargoes, meaning no pets can be flown during the holiday season from mid-December to beginning of January.

If you’re interested in becoming an escort for a furry new friend, you can contact CAARE on Facebook and online, as well as Sash-Mar Paws Helping Northern Dogs on Facebook.

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