Rescue
Retired pilot flies rescue dogs to new homes for free and has transported more than 300 so far
He also foots the bill for the costs of transporting his four-legged friends. ❤️
D.G. Sciortino
06.14.22

While the southern states boast about their “Southern Hospitality,” sometimes that kindness is only reserved for some.

“There are just some terrible stories out there [about] how cruel people can be to animals, especially down south. The abandonments are horrible,” retired pilot David Tan told Madison Magazine.

Tan regularly hears of dogs and cats that are discarded “like a piece of old furniture or something.”

And that just doesn’t sit well with Tan.

That’s why he volunteers his plane and time to transport animals from the south to different destinations where they will be loved unconditionally by new families.

Tan, who spent 40 years flying in the U.S. Air Force, has transported more than 360 dogs over the last 10 years.

His plane is an Aermacchi SF-260, a two-person Italian plane that was used for aerobatics and smaller air forces, according to Bored Panda.

Tan started his animal rescue missions in 2012 and has flown about 360 dogs, 23 cats, goats, pigs, and a bat named Bruce.

Tan works with a non-profit organization called Pilots N Paws.

They find pilots who can transport pets to shelters and rescues like Underdog Pet Rescue who find the pets forever homes.

“Most of our transports do come via van, but we do have cases where there’s a pregnant mom dog or cat where time is of the essence and we don’t want to add to the stress,” Lauren Brinkman, executive director of Underdog Pet Rescue, said. “It’s just amazing, the guys and gals who do this. I’ve met them at the Dane County Airport before and there were like 10 different animals that came within a few hours. They just magically arrived, as far as we were concerned. These people are just really kindhearted.”

Tan averages about one rescue flight per week and says that the demand for pilots is high.

“There’s never enough. There’s just a lot of dogs that need to be moved,” he said.

Tan says that his favorite part of being involved in Pilots N Paws is getting to meet the new owners and seeing these animals be placed in loving homes.

“You sort of say, ‘Hope you have a great rest of your life,’ you know?” Tan said. “‘Hope these people love you forever.’”

Families will often offer Tan money for his services which he refuses to keep.

He instead donates it to the rescues so they can pay for medical bills for the animals.

“The people who really pull the weight are the rescues. They’re always short [on money], especially when it comes to medical care for the animals,” David said. “It just costs so much nowadays.”

Tan also foots the bill for his costs to transport his four-legged friends.

But flying frequently helps him to keep up his practice anyway.

“If you fly, it’s a perishable skill and you must keep current,” said Tan. “So rather than take a flight and go somewhere for what we call the proverbial $200 hamburger, I’d rather be flying dogs.”

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By D.G. Sciortino
hi@sbly.com
D.G. is a contributing writer in Shareably. She's based in Connecticut and can be reached at hi@shareably.net.
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