A puppy becomes a co-pilot on a Wings of Rescue flight. A puppy becomes a co-pilot on a Wings of Rescue flight. A puppy becomes a co-pilot on a Wings of Rescue flight. (Photo: Facebook)

Israeli volunteer pilot and friends working overtime to rescue pets after U.S. hurricanes

Wings of Rescue has rescued about 1,500 dogs and cats after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, where some parts of Puerto Rico are still without power, humanitarian aid groups like IsraAid as well as influential celebrities have been assisting with recovery efforts in the devastated region. But it's not just the island's human residents that are being helped out. Several pet rescue organizations have been flying Puerto Rico's displaced pet population to the United States to be adopted.

Dogs and cats are loaded onto a Wings of Rescue plane at the San Juan airport. Dogs and cats are loaded onto a Wings of Rescue plane at the San Juan airport. (Photo: Facebook)

One such group is California-based Wings of Rescue. Yehuda Netanel, a dog lover from Israel, founded the group and is one of its volunteer pilots. They recently chartered a plane down to Puerto Rico and brought back 194 dogs and cats to the Worcester Regional Airport in Massachusetts. The furry friends were taken to local area shelters, including the Sterling Animal Shelter, where they are now up for adoption.

One of those volunteer pilots on the Puerto Rico mission was Derek Harbaugh. Among the cargo on his flight was a pit bull named Pinky. “I put her on the truck and as soon as I did I realized that’s my dog,” said Harbaugh. After being fostered for a week, Harbaugh adopted the pooch.

Pinky is adjusting well to his new home. As seen in this update video posted to Facebook, it looks like Pinky gets the bed and Harbaugh gets the floor:

This was not the first Puerto Rico flight organized by Wings of Rescue. The group has flown others, including one to Morristown, N.J., right after the storm hit.

Pilot Holden Aven getting a kiss of gratitude from Hurricane, a grateful passenger flown to safety from Puerto Rico to New Jersey, where he was quickly adopted. Pilot Holden Aven getting a kiss of gratitude from Hurricane, a grateful passenger flown to safety from Puerto Rico to New Jersey, where he was quickly adopted. (Photo: Wings of Rescue)

Each time they fly down to Puerto Rico, they fill the empty planes with much-needed supplies as well.

Ric Browde of Wings of Rescue stocks up on diapers to send down to Puerto Rico. Ric Browde of Wings of Rescue stocks up on baby supplies to send down to Puerto Rico. (Photo: Facebook)

The Puerto Rico flights are part of a more extensive campaign by Wings of Rescue to help displaced animals that were affected by the three major hurricanes that hit the U.S. this fall – Harvey, Irma and Maria. The group says they saved more than 1,500 cats and dogs in the past month. And their work continues: this Wednesday, they will fly 100 pets from Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Texas to Seattle where they will get adopted.

There are a little more than two dozen pilots who volunteer their time, but Netanel wants to recruit 100 more. Once a pilot joins Wings of Rescue, he said, “It’s so addictive. It feels so good, they want to stay.”

This dog is getting a bird's eye view thanks to Wings of Rescue. This dog is getting a bird's eye view thanks to Wings of Rescue. (Photo: Wings of Rescue)

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