Sam Taylor is a pilot for Pilots N Paws. He has worked with Leavenworth Animal Welfare Society to fly animals to safety. In this Q5, he talks about flying for a good cause.

Sam Taylor is a pilot for Pilots N Paws. He has worked with Leavenworth Animal Welfare Society to fly animals  to safety. In this Q5, he talks about flying for a good cause.


1. How did you get involved with the organization Pilots N Paws and what does the group do?
I got involved in volunteering as a pilot for Pilots N Paws in the summer of 2009.  A friend of my wife, Wanda, sent her an email with a photo of a dog in a plane that was being rescued by a volunteer pilot through Pilots N Paws.  Knowing that I had a plane she suggested to Wanda that, “Perhaps Sam would be interested in doing this sometime.”  How right she was.  
Pilots N Paws is a website-based meeting place for volunteers engaged in the valuable services of rescuing, sheltering and adopting animals, and volunteer pilots and plane owners willing to assist with animal transportation.  The intent of Pilots N Paws is to provide an environment in which volunteers can come together and arrange or schedule rescue flights, overnight foster care or shelter, and all other related activities.  

2. When and why did you learn to fly and were you a military or commercial pilot, or just a lover of open sky adventures?
I went into Navy flight school in 1970 and became a helicopter pilot.  After retiring from the Navy in 1990 I did not fly again until 1998 when I was living in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I joined an aero club at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.  In 2000 I bought my first airplane, a Grumman AA1.   In 2003 I bought the plane I have now, a Piper Cherokee.

3. What are some of your favorite experiences of transporting animals in search of forever homes to new locations?  Is it strictly dogs that are flown?  
The best thing about flying animals to rescue is that it gives pilots a wonderful reason to get their planes in the air for a truly good cause.  It is a great feeling to be involved with people who are passionate about animal rescue.  It’s a joy to deliver a dog to an adoptive family waiting on the tarmac for their new fur-ever family member.
One particular flight stands out as my favorite.  In November of 2009, Wanda and I flew to Pryor, Oklahoma, to pick up a dog that was scheduled to be euthanized having been found as a stray.  We had volunteered to fly the dog to Olathe to a foster where it would be transferred on to a new home once an adoptive family had been located.  After we had picked up the dog and called the Olathe foster we learned the foster was unable to take the dog.  We contacted the transport coordinator and agreed to foster the dog for a few days until she could find another foster. Three days later we adopted the dog.  We are foster failures. The dog, Pryor “Oklahoma” Taylor, is still with us.
In 2010 a friend of mine, Patrick Regan, who is a writer in Kansas City, became intrigued with Pilots N Paws and asked if he could tag along on a rescue flight.  In 2012 Patrick’s book, “Dog Is My Copilot” was published, a collection of 24 rescue flights, some with very dire beginnings but all with happy endings.
Finally, I was fortunate to participate in a rescue flight that originated in Texas and culminated in Davenport, Iowa.  My leg was from Neosho, Missouri to Davenport.  It was filmed by the television program “Animal Planet” and has been aired several times.       
Dogs are not the only animals flown by Pilots N Paws volunteer pilots.  About every animal from birds to snakes that can fit into a general aviation airplane have been flown to rescue.  I once saw a rescue request to transport a horse but there were no takers.  I have flown a guinea pig and several cats and once flew 18 roosters.  The roosters came out of the University of Missouri veterinary school and went to a rooster sanctuary in Colorado.

4. Are the animals stressed on the flights or do they seem to sense they are being rescued and taken to a stable, safe environment?
That’s a great question because I’ve never transported a dog that appeared to be stressed.  They normally lay down on the back seat of the plane and go to sleep shortly after takeoff.  Jon Wehrenberg, co-founder of Pilots N Paws, who has flown many rescue flights summed it up nicely in the book mentioned above, “Dog Is My Copilot:”
“These dogs know — I mean they absolutely know—that they are being rescued.  Don’t ask me how.  Every rescue I’ve spoken to about this has agreed with me that somehow the animals know that when they’re pulled from a shelter, and put on a plane and delivered to another rescue, their whole attitude changes, as though they know they don’t have to be scared anymore.  They’re going to be safe.  I can’t explain it, but it’s like they sense that everything is going to be okay.”

5. What are your favorite parts of flights to freedom for these animals and what is the most rewarding part of the job for you and your wife who often accompanies you on the flights?  How can people find out more about Pilots N Paws and contribute to this rescue program?
Stepping back from the personal joys mentioned above of working with others who are passionate about rescuing animals I would say there are three things I enjoy about flying rescues.  First is the pre-planning and coordination that must be done to get all participants working together.  I was recently involved in a rescue that originated in Dallas, Texas, and terminated in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  
There were four planes.  There were also drivers who delivered the dogs to the first plane in Dallas and picked them up at the completion of the transport in Minneapolis. It’s fun helping set all that up.  Of course, it’s the coordinator of the rescue who does most of it, and there are some fantastic coordinators who make these rescues happen flawlessly.  But they’re not pilots and need (and welcome) input from pilots.  
Secondly is the flight itself and meeting the person delivering the dogs to me and the one I pass them on to.  And finally is the memory of the rescue and all those involved.   Over time one develops relationships with other rescue pilots and coordinators and transporters and that’s a real bonus. As far as Wanda flying with me I must confess I have banned her from most flights.  It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy her company but rather she wants to adopt every dog we transport.  She is definitely not allowed on any flight that includes puppies.
To learn more about the Pilots N Paws rescue program visit PilotsNPaws.org.  It’s a very thorough website that can answer any question one might have.  
On a final note, Pilots N Paws is 501(c)(3) and therefore all expenses related to a rescue flight are tax deductible as a charitable donation.  I keep my expenses and driving mileage on a spreadsheet so that at the end of the year I have all the information for my tax preparer.
— Rimsie McConiga