On Saturday, August 6, Amelia Air conducted a pet rescue mission for multiple animal shelters, including the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter (KRRAS).
During the rescue, pilots Dean Heistad and Steve Wolfson transported dogs from various Kentucky shelters and groups and flew them to New Jersey for the Humane Society of Atlantic County.
The dogs rescued during the flight were from three Kentucky shelters and groups, project officials said. KRRAS was one of these organizations and reported that many of their service areas suffered flood damage.
“We serve four counties. Knott, Letcher, Perry — those county shelters suffered massive devastation from flooding. The fourth shelter in Wolfe County was flooded,” said Nikita Mullins, a KRRAS representative.
Amelia Air is a tax-exempt rescue organization staffed by volunteers dedicated to saving animals from high-mortality shelters and bringing them to rescue locations that have the resources to find them loving families. Pilot and founder Dean Heistad said Amelia Air came on board to help house animals in need, and they felt the recent flood disasters in Kentucky were a great way to help these animals.
“When this was reported, we immediately started talking about ways we could help and reached out to our partners in Kentucky for a helping hand,” Heistad said. “We found that all of our partner shelters were beginning to overflow due to families displaced by the floods unable to care for their family and animals, so animals were sent en masse to shelters. Certainly a heartbreaking situation, which is why we started working on ways to help the first weekend after the floods.”
During the week prior to the rescue flight, Amelia Air officials gathered more than 250 pounds of donated food, medicine, blankets, pads, towels and a variety of other needed items for shelters and loaded them into the 1979 Cessna 310 for transportation.
On the morning of the flight, August 6, the pilots departed from the Leesburg, Virginia (KJYO) airport, but the flight was delayed due to fog covering the airport.
“Once we took off, we were tracking storms around the Hazard airport of our chosen destination, and as we got closer during the two-hour flight, it became clear that we just couldn’t land at Hazard,” Heistad said. “So we decided to fly south to avoid the storms and then see if we could come in from the west side, hoping the storms would break through the atmosphere and allow us to land on Hazard. Unfortunately this wasn’t meant to be so we landed at the first airport that had cleared up enough and was somewhat close to the shelters. This was the London airport.
Once the flight landed, Heistad said, her logistics volunteer, Nicole Miranda, sprang into action, asking if the shelters would divert dogs from four different shelters in three different cars and vans to the London airport instead of meeting at the airport. Airport Hazard planned. The shelters settled in, she said, and two hours after they landed, they began the process of unloading the donated supplies and then loading the animals for their journey to freedom in Atlantic City.
Despite delays due to fog in the northeast and storms in Hazard, the pilots were able to rescue 11 dogs. Among the animals transported were Camdon, a one-year-old bloodhound mix, and Logan, a one-year-old black Labrador, both from KRRAS.
All of the rescued animals currently reside in New Jersey with the Humane Society of Atlantic County.