Chesterfield, MO-- A pilot and his father have a mission to save dogs that would be euthanized at overcrowded shelters and flying them to new owners around the country in a program called Pilots-N-Paws.
At Spirit Airport in Chesterfield, there are no boarding passes for the 1 p.m. flight to Kansas City. Especially since the passengers today are dogs.
"It's kind of a cool mission because we are full both ways," explained pilot Mike McGrath.
McGrath is not only a pilot, he's an animal lover.
"My third child is my little shihpoo at home and she's got me wrapped around her little paw," he laughed.
That's why McGrath got involved with Pilots-N-Paws. The organization is a squadron of private pilots and their planes that help rescue dogs and other animals from overcrowded so-called high-kill shelters.
McGrath's co-pilot on these missions is an ex-air force flyer. His dad.
"We just enjoy flying together Mike, it's just a total pleasure being together," said 83-year-old Sam McGrath.
For this trip, no need to worry if the seat backs and tray tables are in the full upright position, these adorable bulldogs will be in a comfortable crate. With Pilots-N- Paws, all dogs go to the heavens and in this case, an hour and half later, they land in Kansas City into loving arms.
"If not for Pilots-N-Paws, these dogs probably would have been euthanized at the shelter," explained Jamie Lydell who will be caring for the bulldogs on their way to a forever home.
McGrath has flown more than 40 missions for Pilots-N-Paws but the need is so great if he had the time, he could be doing this every day.
"There's so many animals that need to get to rescues, to get to adoptions to get out of high kill shelters," said McGrath.
Boarding the plane for the return trip is "Tippy," the Italian Greyhound. Rescue groups found her a forever home in St. Louis.
All told, Pilots-N-Paws has about 1,000 volunteer pilots who have transported over 1,000 dogs nationwide. At the end of every trip like this one for Tippy and her new owner, a happy ending.
"Oh I think it's great. Saving this little girls life is pretty amazing," said Tippy's new owner, Jeff Combs.
"It chokes you up. You give back, especially when you see the guy going home. How can you beat that," said McGrath.
Flying angels for dogs. Taking animal rescue to new heights.