Army Veteran Paul Steklenski knew he wanted to save as many rescue dogs as possible, and that meant thinking outside the box. After rescuing a homeless pup named Tessa, the former tank operator and current IT expert saw first-hand the positive difference he could make in the lives of innocent animals. He was determined to help by transporting animals from high-kill shelters in the south to no-kill shelters, and he came up with a creative solution for a limiting logistical problem.
Steklenski didn’t want to help only a few dogs find better lives; he wanted to help hundreds. With those kinds of numbers in mind, he knew transporting animals via a van, or even a bus, wouldn’t work. He needed something faster and bigger, and that’s when he came up with the idea of using a plane.
Coincidentally, Steklenski had recently taken up flying lessons when he realized his passion for helping animals.
It wasn’t hard to put the two hobbies together, and he went on to earn his pilot’s license and buy his own plane. With an airborne mode of transportation, the Pennsylvania native established Flying Fur Animal Rescue.
His non-profit organization has helped nearly 800 animals since its start in May 2015. Once a month, Steklenski boards his plane and flies down to shelters in North Carolina that are overrun with homeless pets. He targets areas known for having serious animal overpopulation problems, and he takes the dogs and cats most at risk of being euthanized.
With the seats ripped out of his five-seater Beechcraft Bonanza, he can fit up to 23 animals and their crates. He taxis them north where he drops them off at various no-kill shelters in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The homeless animals are welcomed at the new shelters where they have better chances at being adopted and finding families that will love them forever.
The number of lives saved grows rapidly with each trip, but keeping Flying Fur Animal Rescue up and running hasn’t always been easy. It takes a lot of communication between shelters to facilitate the transports, and there are paperwork and veterinary requirements with taking rescue pets across state boarders. There’s also the issue of money. Fueling and maintaining a plane isn’t cheap, but Steklenski is dedicated to what he does.
The dogs and cats he’s saved have gone on to find forever homes, and Steklenski doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon. He now has a second rescue dog of his own, Layla, and continues to make his life-saving flights.
Featured Image Source: Facebook/Flying Fur Rescue