Next Stop, Forever Home! Pilot’s “Freedom Flights” Are Changing Shelter Dogs’ Lives.

David Tan is not the sort of person to sit around and do nothing.

Although he is retired after 40 years as a military, commercial, and private pilot, you won’t find him doing the same stuff as other retirees such as tying fishing lures or playing golf. Instead, he’s keeping his flying skills sharp by volunteering with Pilots N Paws, a non-profit that transports shelter dogs to their new forever homes.

The Middleton, Wisconsin pilot started working with Pilots N Paws back in 2012. He uses his own airplane, an Aermacchi SF-260 two-person plane that’s very similar to the one he first learned to fly all those years ago. He routinely hops in the cockpit to fly to high-kill shelters, mostly in the southern U.S. states, to collect a lucky dog or dogs for their “freedom flight.”

Dave estimates he’s flown more than 360 dogs to safety in the past decade, but he also occasionally rescues cats, goats, pigs, and one time, a bat!

Dave first found out about Pilots N Paws while reading an aviation trade magazine. The organization matches volunteer pilots with shelters across the country, whisking endangered pets from crowded shelters and ushering them into a new life filled with love and belly rubs. Each trip averages around 250 miles roundtrip.

As an animal lover, David was eager to lend his skills to the cause. He says pilots have to log a certain number of hours in the air just to keep their skills sharp, so this is a great excuse to stretch his wings on a regular basis.

“If you fly, it’s a perishable skill and you must keep current,” David said. “So rather than take a flight and go somewhere for what we call the proverbial $200 hamburger, I’d rather be flying dogs.”

Working with Pilots N Paws has shown David some of the worst behavior humanity has to offer — and some of the best.

“There are just some terrible stories out there [about] how cruel people can be to animals, especially down south,” he said. “The abandonments are horrible. A family would just leave them, discard them like a piece of old furniture or something.”

On the other hand, he thinks the people who work to help animals are angels on earth. In fact, if anyone ever pays him for his services, he refuses to keep the money. He donates it to shelters for animals’ medical are instead.

“They’re always short [on money], especially when it comes to medical care for the animals,” David said. “It just costs so much nowadays.” He also brushes off any praise, saying: “The people who really pull the weight are the rescues.”

What a guy! We’re so happy there are people like David lending their time, money, and skills to help animals.

Share this story to thank David for helping the world’s cutest copilots find their way home.

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