— Retired orthopedic surgeon Peter Rork and his
co-pilot Doyle, a black Labrador retriever, spend their
free time flying precious, sometimes barking, cargo in
Rork’s Cessna. His last flight in March included 30
small dogs traveling from Arizona to a shelter in Idaho.
almost feel like Santa Claus with a sled pulling in. I’ve
got all kinds of goodies in the back of my plane,"
Rork said from his home in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
organization, Dog Is My CoPilot, is among groups around
the country that transport dogs by cars and planes to
combat an overabundance of certain breeds in areas, a
problem that often results in animal euthanasia.
trips out of Arizona, the breed usually filling Rork’s
plane is Chihuahuas.
have so many here that it tends to be overwhelming for
people," said Melissa Gable, public information
officer at the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control.
"Sending them some place where they might not have
as many Chihuahuas certainly means they’ll get adopted
a lot quicker than they would if they stayed here."
February, for example, Arizona Chihuahua Rescue worked
with Gable’s organization to transfer 25 Chihuahuas to
animal rescue group in Pennsylvania.
Zimet, a Phoenix attorney who also serves as the
executive director of Dog Is My CoPilot, said the
organization flies to 10 states in the Pacific West and
Rocky Mountain regions. Since the organization was
founded two years ago, Rork has transported more than
1,000 animals to no-kill shelters in other states.
the breeds are selected from the shelters comes down to
supply and demand, Zimet said. In some states the
organization takes big breeds from shelters and
transfers them to cities such as San Francisco that don’t
have a lot of large, floppy-eared breeds.
County only exports animals and has been a large
supplier of small breeds heading to out-of-state rescue
is specifically Chihuahua country for us," Zimet
we were bringing dogs, people would go to the shelter
and they wouldn’t find what they wanted and they’d
end going to the puppy mills or they’d go on
Craigslist or to breeders," she said. "But now
people can find what they need at the shelters, and that
way we help reduce overpopulation."
Nienstedt, Arizona director for the Humane Society of
the United States, said transporting animals to other
regions is a national trend.
think it really kicked into high gear after Hurricane
Katrina," Nienstedt said in a telephone interview.
"There was a growing awareness that some areas had
a bigger need for population issues and other areas didn’t;
other areas had needs for adoptable pets."
north there are a lack of puppies and small dogs, so
sometimes they’re shipping from south to north,
sometimes they’re shipping from west to east,"
she said. "It’s a great opportunity to reduce
euthanasia in some of these cities."
to Michael Morefield, shelter operations manager at the
Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA, Maricopa County
has the second-largest rate of euthanasia for cats and
dogs in the country. The first is Los Angeles County.
said Chihuahuas and pitbulls are the most common breed
2012, 2,476 Chihuahuas were euthanized, he said.
massive; we have a very serious problem in
Maricopa," he said.
said his group partnered with US Airways last year to
transport Chihuahuas out of Arizona. Over the course of
a few months, the experimental partnership transported
nine dogs to other states and Canada.
of our dogs that was taken to Canada lasted three hours
before he was adopted because they’re unique up
there," he said.
Jonathan McDonell, director of operations at HALO Animal
Rescue, working with Dog Is My CoPilot over the last
couple years to relocate the pets has been tremendously
something that’s been done for a while, but that’s
gaining a lot of momentum right now," McDonell
was a fantastic opportunity for us to get some of the
dogs that have been here awhile, get them out of here
and get them into a community that is really looking for
smaller dogs," he said.
Carter, director of development at HALO, said 12 of the
30 dogs that were sent to Idaho last Friday have been
who funds Dog Is My CoPilot mostly out of pocket, said
he knows the animals he leaves behind likely won’t
make it, so he tries to make every flight as full as