“Pete’s here with the puppies,” Tammy VanMeter said, as a small white airplane landed and taxied down the runway Wednesday afternoon at Gettysburg Regional Airport.
VanMeter, assistant manager of the Adams County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ACSPCA), along with a small group of volunteers awaited Pittsburgh Aviation Animals Rescue Team (PAART) Pilot Pete Lehmann and 13 rescued dogs. The dogs were transported from Pulaski Animal Care and Control in Dublin, Virginia, to Gettysburg.
Some of the dogs were rescued from hoarding and neglect situations, including five chihuahua mixes. Others, like Bailey a boxer mix, were surrendered by their owners; all of the dogs ended up at Pulaski Animal Care and Control. VanMeter said she often talks with the operators of Pulaski and wanted to help them place the animals.
“When we have empty kennels, we want to do all we can to help,” she said.
The volunteer-run initiative PAART, Pulaski Animal Care and Control and the ACSPCA worked together to transport the dogs from Virginia to Pennsylvania.
PAART is “a group of animal lovers, pilots and volunteers providing free air and ground transportation for at-risk animals,” VanMeter said.
PAART was founded in 2009 by pilots and friends Brad Childs and Jon Plesset, according to the group’s website. The initiative is completely funded by donations and relies on volunteers to help transport the animals it rescues.
It recently purchased the rescue aircraft used in Wednesday’s transport with financial help from the Rachael Ray Foundation, according to PAART’s website.
PAART has rescued over 10,000 animals, Lehmann said. PAART rescues all types of animals, but mostly transports dogs.
Volunteers unloaded the crates from the Rachael Ray Airvan, carrying the smaller dogs and leading the larger dogs by leash to volunteers’ cars for the final leg of their journey to the ACSPCA.
“These lovely dogs might have wound up dead. It’s not their fault that they lived in that area,” Lehmann said.
The two-hour flight went as planned, although Lehmann said some of the passengers were a little anxious.
“The chihuahuas were a little loud at times,” he said with a smile.
Lehmann has been flying for 18 years. Piloting for the organization fulfills both his love of flying and animals. Lehmann has traveled as far as San Antonio, Texas, to help PAART transport animals.
“It’s an opportunity to fly, but I like the animals,” said Lehmann.
Lehmann said he enjoys seeing the interactions among the volunteers, new owners and the dogs.
“Very rarely, we will transport to specific owners. It really warms your heart seeing their reactions when they see the dogs for the first time,” he said.
The dogs shuttled in Wednesday will be available for adoption at the ACSPCA. For more information about PAART, visit nodogleftbehind.com.