TUPELO – A national animal rescue organization boarded 90 animals from Tupelo’s animal shelter and prepared them for transport to no-kill shelters throughout the country.
Wings of Rescue, a nonprofit organization based out of California, rescues thousands of pets from high-kill or overcrowded shelters and flies them to no-kill shelters in the United States and Canada.
Rachel Allred, the director of operations at Tupelo-Lee Humane Society, has worked for the humane society for nearly three years. She said that she heard about Wings of Rescue’s work through a nearby animal shelter.
“Usually, with ground transports, it could take five to 20 animals an entire day to reach another part of the country, and it could be very costly,” Allred said. “With Wings of Rescue, they can transport a much larger number of animals in three to four hours in a more efficient manner.”
Wings of Rescue, founded in 2009, has a squadron of volunteer pilots that fly their own planes.
In 2016, the donation-based charity moved almost 10,000 pets (including more than 1,500 cats and 70 rabbits) to safety. The organization has transported more than 23,000 pets since its inception.
“We worked with the logistics coordinator for Wings of Rescue, and they brought a team to take 90 pets and transport them to rescues in the North and West,” Allred said. “These animals will be going to shelters that are no-kill, are not overcrowded and perform more thorough adoption processes. Any help we can get to move these animals to those places can go a long way.”
TLHS is a high intake animal shelter founded in December 1979 that cares for the 6,000 animals who enter the facility each year.
Wings of Rescue reaches out to high-kill or high-intake animal shelters and offers financial support to take adoptable pets from these shelters and move them to safer and healthier environments.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 31 percent of dogs and 41 percent of cats entering shelters in the United States are euthanized. This high rate is due to overcrowding, while turning unwanted animals away would possibly put them in harsher environments in the streets.
Kerry Facello is the director of West Memphis Animal Services and the Midsouth coordinator for Wings of Rescue. Volunteers, including Facello and Allred, loaded four planes with animals from TLHS. The pets were tagged with their destinations and moved to shelters throughout the United States.
“The pets that are transported are more than likely to have remained in shelters or possibly euthanized,” Facello said. “Without the help of donors and volunteer help, this could not have been done.”
Allred says the problem with TLHS is that, while the shelter takes in a large amount of pets, the adoption rate is very low, leading to an overcrowding problem. TLHS managed to keep their euthanasia rate well under 10 percent in 2016, Allred said.
TLHS has partnered with other organizations similar to Wings of Rescue in the past, and those partnerships have helped reduce the shelter’s euthanasia rate.
While Wings of Rescue transports the adoptable animals, the no-kill shelters choose which animals they wish to take in.
TLHS provided the no- kill shelters with a database of all available animals. The shelters could choose any adoptable animal, but the animals had to pass tests that cleared them of heartworms and parasites. In order to prevent the spread of animal diseases across state lines, pets must have a health certificate approved by a veterinarian.
Allred said she is proud of her staff and the volunteers who assisted TLHS with the transportation.
“We fight overcrowding constantly and want to provide these animals with a safe, healthy environment,” she said. “Wings of Rescue gives us the opportunity to provide a much better life for these animals.”