Precious puppy cargo fly from Louisiana to NJ to get a leg up on a new life

Forty-seven rescue dogs from the southern United States have arrived by plane in Morristown, New Jersey where they will get medical treatment and be placed in new forever homes in the Garden State.

Besides the many obvious advantages to living in New Jersey that every resident knows, one might wonder why they would leave the south and come here. The answer is NOT because dogs don’t pay property taxes.

Ironically, it’s because of overcrowding. There are too many rescue dogs below the Mason-Dixon line.

“That’s generally because of spay and neuter,” said Colleen Harrington, who is the Way Station Program Director at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center. “We’re really good at spaying and neutering up here (in the northeast).

“There’s lots of wonderful animal loving people, and there’s lots of great adopters in the South but there’s just too many animals for them to find homes,” she said while waiting for the chartered plane to arrive at Morristown Airport on Tuesday morning.

The whole initiative happens via the Greater Good Charities Good Flights Program (celebrating its one-year anniversary) which has transported 1,600 at-risk shelter dogs from Louisiana to new homes on the East Coast.

Their Save A Heart Program moves asymptomatic heartworm-positive dogs from overcrowded, under-resourced shelters in the south up to shelters in the northeast where there are more resources. The heartworm treatment is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022 – A Chihuahua is among the 47 shelter dogs and puppies airlifted from New Orleans to Morristown Airport and then driven to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Morristown, where they can receive medical treatment and be placed in homes.Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

According to Diane Ashton, St. Hubert’s director of communications, destination partners return a portion of the adoption fee for every relocated dog back to the source shelter. These funds are designated for programs and services that help reduce the number of homeless puppies entering their shelters.

More than $450,000 from St. Hubert’s and WayStation destination partners has been invested in spay/neuter in source shelter communities, with the goal of addressing the root cause of overpopulation in their regions.

Additionally, more than $280,000 has been provided to shelter partners to cover medical preparation costs such as vaccinations, testing and preventative medications.

At the airport, once the turboprop aircraft touched down and taxied to a stop, a caravan of vehicles moved into place. Erin Robbins, VP of Pet Programs for Greater Good Charities, began handing off crated dogs to St. Hubert’s staffers and volunteers for the next leg of the animals’ journey, a short ride to St. Hubert’s, which serves as the hub for numerous shelters on the eastern seaboard.

Dogs airlifted to NJ

Erin Robbins, top, VP of Pet Programs for Greater Good Charities hands off Max to St. Hubert’s staffer Andrew Hyer, right and volunteer Mark Lovretin.

Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Dogs airlifted to NJ

From left, St. Hubert’s staffer Lynn Garcia and Transport Volunteer Debbie DeBiasse carry “Popeye” from the plane to a waiting van.Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Dogs airlifted to NJ

Ameriflight Captain Colton Miller (pictured) and First Officer Tyler Speck piloted the plane.Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The pilot of the plane, Ameriflight Captain Colton Miller and First Officer Tyler Speck are both animal lovers, according to Miller.

“Yeah, so, the animals, you know, obviously, they’re very precious cargo,” Miller said.

“We always make sure we load first thing in the morning so everything is as cool as it possibly can be. So, it’s nice to have an airplane that was designed as a regional airliner, so that animals share the same cabins we do.”

Although there are no flight attendants to distribute drinks and snacks, each dog’s travel container has a cup of water attached to keep the dogs hydrated during the flight.

Colleen Harrington said she has taken the flight which this day took about 3 ½ hours due to avoiding some weather to keep the ride as smooth as possible. She said compared to a twenty-hour van ride, “It’s actually pretty easy… All the dogs sort of go to sleep as soon as you get up in the air. And then they land here in three and a half hours and then they’re back in the shelter in 5 minutes.”

They may have started the day early, but by lunchtime the dogs and puppies arrived safely at St. Hubert’s and most were energetic when freed from the confines of their travel containers, attached to a lead and walked to the shelter. Some shook off their stiffness, some meticulously sniffed dandelions and grass and one, big black dog preferred to be carried.

Dogs airlifted to NJ

At the shelter, St. Hubert’s volunteer Debbie DeBiasse carries a dog from the van.Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Dogs airlifted to NJ

Erin Robbins, left, VP of Pet Programs for Greater Good Charities holds Max at St. Hubert’s after the ride from the airport. St Hubert’s volunteer Mark Lovretin, right, gets a photo.Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

St. Hubert’s receives transports by air about twice a month and typically gets ground transports weekly.

St. Hubert’s operates three animal welfare campuses: Madison, North Branch and Noah’s Ark branch in Lakewood, and provides progressive animal control services in 18 municipalities in New Jersey.

The Madison center is open for adoptions daily, 1:30 pm to 6 pm and Thursdays 3 to 6 pm Adoption appointments are no longer required. Before visiting, prospective parents can check out all the adoptable animals online.

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Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com

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