No Dog Left Behind


Written by Scott Smith

We have a very special feature today. Say hello to the Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team (PAART). PAART transports at-risk animals from danger to safety. Their Hashtag says it all: #NoDogLeftBehind.

PAART works together with shelters, pet adoption services, and smaller rescue groups, who inform them of animals who are running out of time and need help. Their missions require a great deal of precision. Many times the target is rescued mere hours before being euthanized. Bottom line, the animals need to move or be killed. Their missions have included hoarding cases, saving animals from dog fighting rings and natural disasters, and helping overcrowded shelters.

Jonathan Plesset (left) and Brad Childs (right) in Charleston, West Virginia with 17 dogs on the airplane destined for Philadelphia and a new life.

PAART was founded in 2012 by best friends Brad Childs and Jonathan Plesset. Both of them had received their pilot licenses back in 2002, but were not doing much at all with them. In 2006, Brad had his first experience with rescue flying, which involved Monte, a 90 pound bulldog in need of a permanent home. Brad and his flight instructor successfully flew the dog to safety in Philadelphia.

In July of 2009, Brad and Jonathan responded to a post on the Animal Rescue Flights internet forum about a dire situation in Georgia where animal shelters were running low on food. The two men decided to use their companies, Eyetique and Shadyside Inn All Suites Hotel, for a fundraiser. Together, they raised enough for over 48,000 pounds of dog food, which Brad, Jonathan and Brad’s wife, Linda, personally delivered to Georgia shelters. As a result of this heroic rescue, the City of Pittsburgh decreed by proclamation that this date would be forever known as the Eyetique and Shadyside Inn Suites “Puppy Eyes Day” in Pittsburgh.

PAART Director of Operations, Lynda Manko, on a mission to save over 50 animals.

In 2012, Brad and Jonathan, along with their wives Linda and Megan, saw an opportunity to create a new kind of animal rescue operation. They envisioned more efficient ways to rescue animals that would save more lives. With that vision, they founded PAART, and a year later received their 501(C)(3) status.

PAART started out picking up animals from shelters and taking them to their new homes. Shortly after, they were using several airplanes to transport 10 to 15 animals at a time. In order to optimize rescue efforts, they’d pack the empty planes with food and supplies and deliver them to those same shelters that were desperate for help.

Through the use of social media, PAART began getting requests from all over the country to transport rescued animals. They have flown thousands of animals to safe havens since their inception. They have mostly focused on dogs, but are not strictly limited to them.

Jonathan Plesset (left) and Brad Childs (right) after delivering animals that were moments away from being euthanized to a private shelter in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

In 2014, they decided to expand their organization to land-based missions as well. Generating the funding for a large rescue van proved to be more difficult than expected. Thanks to social media, this little rescue operation with a big heart started getting national attention. Eventually celebrity chef Rachael Ray took notice of PAART, and in short order the financial challenge was gone, as she donated $25,000 in March of 2015.

PAART volunteer Chris Klasic, on a mission with the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium to release 30 rehabilitated sea turtles into the Atlantic Ocean.

That donation came right on time. The winters in the Northeast United States can be extreme, causing flying missions to be more difficult. PAART immediately opened up a new division called the PAART Land Team. The new 70-animal rescue van, nickname the “Landplane,” allowed the crew to transport hundreds of animals per month on the ground and not just rely on planes.

The PAART Landplane, the rescue vehicle used for ground transport.

Now that PAART provides both air and ground transport, they have greater flexibility in deploying the appropriate strategy for any given rescue. If all this wasn’t impressive enough, they can also now deploy drones to fly over areas associated with suspicious activities.

Seven puppies loaded up in the back of the plane, incredibly excited to make their rescue flight.

This organization is firing on all cylinders with respect to animal rescue. It is producing real results and saving lives. PAART has given, and will continue to give, thousands of animals another chance at having a good life. PAART has a big future ahead of it, which is great news for animals all over the United States. The world is a better place with this organization in it.

Santana was the 5000th animal rescued by PAART on March 6th, 2017. Watch video above about Santana’s amazing story.

Featured image: PAART’s plane and a canine passenger looking out at the City of Pittsburgh. This image and all images in this story credited to PAART.

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