The day began with 1,000+ dogs and 24 planes lined up at the Van Nuys Airport Friday morning (Nov. 20, 2015). “This is our biggest holiday event of the year, where we are flying a thousand pets to safety,” said Cindy Smith, founder of Wings of Rescue, a nonprofit 501c that is a donation-based charity. “We fly large numbers of at risk healthy pet’s long distances from high intake shelters to safety at no-kill shelters throughout the United States and Canada,” explained smith as she loaded up more food, cages, and blankets.
The emergency supplies of blankets, food, cages and other pet necessities were supplied by Operation Blankets of Love (OBOL). OBOL works like the Red Cross, said Brad Smulson, OBOL cofounder, who drives hundreds of miles a week to provide blankets, food, and supplies to scores of animal shelters and rescue organizations throughout the country. “We are helping Wings of Rescue with their annual event, which includes more than 1,000 homeless animals, who will be airlifted to new homes across the United States,” said Smulson.
OBOL is also a nonprofit 501c founded by Eileen Smulson and her husband Brad. “These animals come from a dozen animal shelters that need a home,” said the Smulsons. “The community can help us because we always need blankets and towels. We have drop-off locations throughout Southern California and pet lovers can make donations on our website,” he said.
OBOL is a grassroots, community-driven nonprofit animal welfare, and emergency relief organization founded in 2008. Its unique purpose is to improve the well-being and survival of homeless animals and increase chances for survival and adoption. By improving homeless animals’ quality of life, OBOL’S services help them become more outgoing and affectionate, leading to increased adoptability and reduced euthanasia. OBOL provides comfort and care items to shelters, rescues, pets of the homeless, sanctuaries, and improves the well-being of stray, sick, abused and neglected homeless animals.
According to Wings of Rescue dogs of all ages including pregnant dogs and their newborn puppies – spend their last day in a shelter and are euthanized simply due to lack of space. Too many dogs, not enough homes. Wings of Rescue works every day to change that by providing desperately needed air transport for their rescue partners and the thousands of animals they save each year from high kill shelters in California. “We fly these precious passengers in private airplanes to their new forever homes and rescue organizations up and down the west coast in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and even Canada,” Smith said.
Smith also noted that Wings of Rescue is the only all-volunteer organization to fly this number of pets to safety. They not only transport healthy dogs and cats but pregnant moms/moms with newly born babies/dogs with recent surgeries or animals in need of major surgical procedures. “Ground transport is not the best option for these animals due to the sheer length of the road trip which can be in excess of 24 hours in the same crate without any food, water or walks,” she said. “Most of our flights are completed in 3-4 hours.”
Founded in 2009, Wings of Rescue has a squadron of volunteer pilots flying the rescue missions on their own planes, as well as a fleet of chartered cargo planes. The animal rescue organization has already saved more than 12,000 dogs and cats and is expected to rescue 7,000 more by the end of 2015. “In 2016 we are hoping to fly 10,000 pets,” said Cindy Smith, Winds of Rescue. Since its inception, more than 16,000 pets have gotten their honorary “wings” and a new home.