If you are flying home from a vacation abroad, consider giving a rescue dog a lift to a new life. Animal-welfare organizations around the world seek travelers to help transport pups to North America for adoption. The groups handle all of the arrangements; you just have to show up at the airport, present some documents at your final destination and then call it a good-deed day. Here are some tips on volunteering as a flight escort.
●As soon as you book your flight, contact the organization with your itinerary details. The center needs time to prep the dog, compile the paperwork and arrange the pickup at journey’s end.
●If you can’t find a nonprofit organization actively seeking volunteers, reach out to a local animal-welfare group. Such groups might not have formal programs, but may rely on escorts in special instances. Also check the Facebook pages of area rescue centers.
●Rescue centers often send dogs to specific international airports in the United States, such as John F. Kennedy in New York City or Chicago O’Hare. If you are flying into a different city, still reach out. The organization works with a network of people on the ground, who could possibly pick up and drive the dog to its final destination. In addition, if you have a long layover in the States (enough time to exit security and re-enter to catch your flight), you could hand off the dog to an adoption center or family based in the connecting city.
[That rescue dog doesn’t need a home. He needs a flight companion to get there.]
●Some airlines are more amenable to transporting dogs than others. Bangkok-based Rescue Paws recommends China Airlines, EVA Air, KLM, Korean Air, Air France, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Air and Lufthansa. Airlines that don’t permit pets or prove too costly include China Eastern, China Southern, Air China, Norwegian Air, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, Jet Star, ANA, Quantas, Gulf Air, Air India and Thai Airways. Humane Society of Cozumel Island in Mexico says American Airlines is their carrier of choice, but they also use Delta, United and West Jet. Save Elephant Foundation (it helps all kinds of animals) favors China Airlines, Qatar, EVA and Korean Air. Soi Dog Foundation prefers Thai Airways, Qatar, Korean Air, Japan Air Lines, EVA, Lufthansa, KLM, Swiss Air, Austrian Airlines, All Nippon Airways and China Airlines.
●Pick the quickest and most direct route home. Some groups or airlines might not transport dogs on flights with multiple connections or lengthy layovers.
●The majority of organizations prepare the pet travel documents. However, a few groups, such as Cartagena Paws, might need you to run over to the customs or agriculture office, because the plane reservation is in your name. Double-check the information you receive from the officer; you don’t want to arrive at the airport with a missing sheet of paper. The traveler might also be responsible for booking the reservation for the pet, though the organization will pay the additional fee.
● Airlines only permit two carry-on bags. If you are bringing an animal onboard, the pet carrier counts as one item. Be prepared to consolidate your original two carry-ons.
●To navigate security with an in-cabin dog, place the empty carrier on the belt and carry the pup through the X-ray machine. If you plan to visit the pet-relief area, you probably will have to pass through security again.
●If the dog is traveling as checked luggage, the airline will send the crate through to the destination. You don’t need to check on the dog during the connection.
•After immigration and before customs, you will retrieve the animals from the baggage claim area. Flag down a porter to help with the crates. Tip $3 to $5 per item. Keep track of your expenses for reimbursement.
•At customs, collect all of the documents from the officer and don’t forget to relinquish the documents to the next owner. (Guilty!)
•Here is a sampling of rescue groups with active flight volunteer programs:
Anguilla Animal Rescue Foundation and I Love My Island Dog, Caribbean: The groups transport dogs from Anguilla and St. Martin to JFK and sometimes Newark and Philadelphia. The shelters recruit volunteers through their websites and Facebook pages. They also post notices around the islands. Info: www.aarf.ai and www.ilovemyislanddog.org.
Guanica Animal Rescue Project and Barks of Hope, Puerto Rico: Both groups work out of the Aquadilla and San Juan airports. Final destination depends on the adoptive families. Info: www.facebook.com/GuanicaAnimalRescueProject/?ref=page_internal and www.barksofhope.org.
Potcake Place, Turks and Caicos. The center operates out of the Providenciales airport. Info: www.potcakeplace.com.
Paws from Paradise, St. Croix: St. Croix Animal Welfare Center and Healing Paws Sanctuary fly dogs to partners in 20 states and the District. Arlington-based Lost Dog Rescue picks up island pups from all three Washington area airports. Info: www.stcroixawc.org/programs-2/pets-from-paradise.
Playa Animal Rescue, Playa del Carmen, Mexico: The group flies animals out of Cancun. Info: playaanimalrescue.org.
Humane Society of Cozumel Island, Mexico: The society posts volunteering needs in local hotels. The dogs depart from the Cozumel and Cancun airports. Info: www.humanecozumel.org.
Cartagena Paws, Colombia: Flight volunteers transport in-cabin pups from Cartagena to destinations around the States and Canada, including Buffalo and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Info: www.cartagenapaws.com.
Save a Friend Dog Rescue, Colombia: The pups travel from the Bogota airport to Canadian cities Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. Info: www.saveafrienddogrescue.org.
Kyra’s Rescue, Turkey: The rescue dogs (many golden retrievers) fly from Istanbul to Washington Dulles or JFK. Info: www.kyrasrescue.com/our-dogs.
Rescue Paws, Thailand: The center transports dogs from Bangkok to various U.S. airports. Info: rescuepawsasia.org.
Save Elephant Foundation, Thailand: The group uses the Chiang Mai and Bangkok airports and currently needs flight volunteers traveling to Los Angeles, Denver, Vancouver, Seattle, Toronto, Atlanta, San Francisco, Paris, Amsterdam and Boston. Info: www.saveelephant.org/dogproject/usa-canada.
Soi Dog Foundation, Thailand: Volunteers transport dogs rescued from the illegal meat trade and the streets. Travel is from Bangkok to JFK. Info: www.soidog.org.
Humane Society International, South Korea: Volunteers should email the society at least three weeks before their return trip from Seoul Info: www.hsi.org.
Korean Dogs Sanctuary, South Korea: The organization works with travelers flying from Seoul to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, Vancouver, New York, Washington, Toronto, Chicago, Atlanta or Dallas. Info: www.koreandogssanctuary.org.
Laika Fund for Street Dogs, Multiple Countries: The group needs escorts traveling from Thailand, India, Romania, Kosovo or Belize to Toronto. Info: www.thelaikafund.com.
International Street Dog Foundation, Multiple Countries: The foundation recruits flight volunteers flying from India, Malaysia, China, Thailand, Turkey, Oman or Romania and returning to Chicago O’Hare. Info: www.istreetdog.com.
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