Pilot saves the lives of 16,000 cats and dogs

Dr Peter Rork has saved the lives of 16,000 dogs and cats by flying them to shelters where they can be more successfully adopted and away from those shelters where they are more likely to be unwanted. It’s about redistributing dogs across America to places where they are in more demand. A great service and it clearly saves the lives of dogs and cats. It is the kind of service which is very much part of the American culture. You don’t see it in Europe or if you do see it, it is to a much lesser extent. I have never read an article about a pilot in the UK or in Germany flying cats and dogs from one rescue centre to another to save their lives but it is commonplace in the US. Great and impressive.

Picture: Facebook and the caption on Facebook is: Our Chief Pilot, Dr. Peter Rork having a chat with one of our passengers on yesterday’s rescue flight! This little guy (the pug!) is available for adoption at Idaho Humane Society! Thanks Summer Mae Photography Idaho for getting this shot after all the dogs arrived safely yesterday!

Peter Rork’s wife died suddenly in 2012. At the time he was an orthopaedic surgeon but he sank into despair and said that he was, “a broken man”. He said that he retreated for many months until somebody suggested that he could use his skills as a pilot to help rescue dogs and cats and as a consequence he founded a charity called Dog Is My CoPilot (DIMC).

His story is set out on his website and it starts off by saying, “Every day 2,000 healthy dogs and cats are euthanised in our nation’s shelters – the result of too many animals and too few homes”.

He says that he is working to reduce the euthanasia rates by transporting animals from places with overcrowded shelters to adoption centres in other places where loving families are waiting to adopt them. His description of his work is better than mine.

Dr Rork and dog in cockpit. Picture: RYAN DORGAN

DIMC has grown from saving a few hundred lives annually to more than 2,500. Its success is due to him, obviously, and in his words, “to its dedicated team of organisers and contributors”.

When asked the maximum number of animals that he has flown to a destination he replies 251! He said that it was an amazing “olfactory experience!”.

To date he has flown about 16,000 animals mostly dogs and a few cats to places where they are wanted. He claims he has made more of an impact on life in flying cats and dogs around the country than he did as an orthopaedic surgeon. And he says that it is more rewarding; much more rewarding in fact.

As mentioned, there is an army of volunteers to help load and unload the animals and get them to their homes. The coronavirus pandemic has increased interest in dog adoption. The executive director, Zuli Zagrans, of a Portland rescue organisation, One Trail at a Time, said that they had been inundated lately, “The last few months have been really busy with both foster homes and adoption interest.”

When Dr Rork was asked whether his charity had helped him find a purpose he responded:

“Yeah, it’s interesting, I know people say, ‘Well, you’re out saving dogs”. And I’m thinking, ‘I really think they saved me! They got me back out in the world again'”.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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