Amelia Air uses volunteer pilots to transport animals from overcrowded shelters to rescue centers and forever families. Their pilots fly dogs, cats, and other animals around the country to avoid euthanasia. Over 800 animals have been saved since Amelia Air started three years ago, and they hope to expand their reach going forward to rescue even more pets.
What is the story behind Amelia Air?
There are about a million pets euthanized each year in the US. Amelia Air started because we noticed a niche in animal rescue that was unserved. There are shelters that are overcrowded, and there are shelters that have the capacity to take care of additional animals. My co-founder Dean used his passion for aviation to connect those dots and allow animals to avoid euthanisia. Dean and his wife flew a tiny plane to rescue their Great Dane and were worried about how she would do on the flight. She hopped right in, and they named her Amelia after Amelia Earhart as a result. She was the inspiration for Amelia Air. Dean would fly our first missions while I was behind the scenes, and then I learned how to fly a few months later. I grew up volunteering in shelters and always wanted to learn to fly, so this was the motivation I needed to make it happen.
Where do you take the animals that you rescue?
We typically move dogs from overcrowded, rural shelters to no-kill rescue centers. The centers we bring animals to have the funds, network, and resources to get them adopted. Sometimes we’ll fly animals to individual adopters as well. We balance the system because there are different needs in different areas of the country. For example, we’ll bring animals from the south up to northern cities, from Mexico to Los Angeles, and tons of other routes. We go where there is a pet overpopulation issue to bring the animals somewhere safe. We have 12-15 volunteer pilots that transport animals for us, me being one of them.
What are some of your favorite rescue stories?
We recently completed our first international rescue trip to Mexico. It was a lot of logistics and planning to get Amelia Air registered as an intermediate handler for the international transport of animals. We rescued 12 dogs and it went off without a hitch, I can’t wait to do it again. Another trip that was really impactful was when we rescued 45 beagles from an animal testing facility. I arranged an American Airlines flight for 45 beagles to travel from Texas to Los Angeles, where our rescue partner worked to get all of them adopted. Dean also flew 30 dogs during the Kentucky floods and brought them to safety in New York. Aviation is an under-utilized asset in rescue— you can get in and out quickly and it’s much less stressful for the animals.
What has been the best part of co-founding Amelia Air?
There is no better feeling than rescuing an animal. If I’m having a bad day and I get in a plane to pick up dogs and cats that would have otherwise been put down, it instantly turns my mood around. Hitting the sky with a bunch of rescue animals in the plane with me is such a unique, incredible experience, especially since I know they are on their way to forever families. I have a big dream for Amelia Air, which is to create a digital platform that would enable rescue centers to communicate with each other. It could connect the dots between who needs help and who has space to help, would allow rescue centers to share resources and knowledge, and would enable us to work more efficiently.