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Rescue flight takes off from El Paso: 63 dogs and 9 cats en route to new forever homes

EL PASO, TX (KVIA) -- Early this morning, 63 dogs and 9 cats boarded a plane taking them from El Paso to different animal shelters in Washington, Wyoming and Oregon. The journey to find their new forever homes is made possible by Dog Is My CoPilot, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing at-risk animals from overcrowded shelters.

El Paso Animal Services has been partnering with Dog Is My CoPilot since 2019, participating in approximately ten flights per year. These flights transport pets to regions with higher adoption rates, a huge help for our local shelters. Julie Newbold, Public Affairs Coordinator for El Paso Animal Services told ABC-7, “A lot of the times the pets that go up there maybe have been with us for a year, they're adopted within days there. And so it's completely life changing for them.”

In 2023, El Paso Animal Services sent 231 pets. This year, the shelter is projected to complete ten flights, having already sent out 108 pets.

The selection process for these flights prioritizes animals that are harder to adopt locally, such as larger dogs. Smaller, more easily adopted animals are often used as incentives to ensure the larger animals also find homes. Recently, the program has also included kittens due to a shortage in certain areas.

Dog Is My CoPilot operates as a nonprofit and is funded by a community of donors and partnerships, such as with Petco Love.

Pilot Coordinator for Dog Is My CoPilot, Frank Maresca told ABC-7 the safety of the animals is their priority. He explains they fly at a lower altitude as it is an unpressurized plane, “We have a temperature monitor in the back. They're all secured. If there's a loose area, we put bungees on it to hold them in place. And then we make sure that there's plenty of ventilation during the flight. These are actually passenger airplanes. So the ventilation system in these airplanes is made for people.” 

This partnership also helps reduces costs for El Paso Animal Services. Preparing each pet for a flight costs about $20 which covers medical checks and health certificates. This is a big difference compared to the $150 average cost to prepare a pet for adoption locally and the $27 daily cost of care at their facilities.

Community members who are looking to support can help by donating airline crates, pads, toys, or their time. Volunteers can participate as “flight attendant fosters,” caring for animals selected for flights before they depart. 

El Paso Animal Services offers a $50 spay and neuter program as part of their efforts to reduce the number of unwanted animals in the community.

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Isabella Martinez


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