Rescue books flight for cats, dogs


August 30, 2018

Courtesy photo

Dog Is My Copilot founder Peter Rork loads up a plane with dogs and cats in Hobbs earlier this month.

CLOVIS - While several major airlines nationwide are placing restrictions on what animals can fly on their planes, a non-profit animal rescue group based out of Jackson, Wyoming, is catering flights exclusively for dogs and cats.

And it will be bringing its plane to Clovis for the first time on Monday.

Since its creation in 2012, founder Peter Rork said Dog Is My Copilot has rescued more than 10,000 animals from shelters where they would otherwise be euthanized; instead they are transported to areas of the country where they can be adopted.

"The facilities in southeast New Mexico and west Texas are completely overrun," Rork said. "The communities could exercise better responsibility when it comes to spay and neuter and sadly that message isn't carried out and they have a very high kill rate."

To counteract this, Rork's group coordinates with local animal rescue organizations like Forgotten to Forever Rescue and Transport to identify healthy dogs and cats and get them relocated to areas including Colorado and Utah where they are more likely to be adopted.

Jen O'Connor, who volunteers with Forgotten to Forever, said the group makes frequent visits to Clovis and Portales by van to pull adoptable animals and transport them elsewhere. But Labor Day will mark the first time the plane has actually touched down in Clovis.

Rork said the modified Cessna 208B Grand Caravan he flies routinely fits 100 to 150 dogs and can hold up to 250.

All of that space will be filled, as O'Connor said there is a huge need for this service in eastern New Mexico, with an estimated 1,000-plus animals rescued from the area alone since 2015.

"We never run out of dogs; it's crazy down there," O'Connor said. "When I started in 2014, I'm like 'we'll get this cleared up in no time.' Four years later and we're still not there yet."

Rork, a lifelong pilot and medical doctor, told The News that he lost the motivation to practice medicine following the sudden death of his wife. So now he is on the road about four days a week transporting dogs and cats.

Rork and O'Connor said only animals that are healthy and have somewhere to go are taken by Dog Is My Copilot to ensure they are not just shifting the dog overpopulation problem from one city to another.

"It's amazing, they can spend three months in Hobbs and up in Salt Lake City they're adopted in three days," Rork said. "The farther north you go the more responsible and dog friendly people are."

Ultimately the group's goal is to save as many healthy dogs from euthanasia as possible.

"You may not change the world but for each dog you rescue you certainly change their world," O'Connor said.

Want to foster a pet? Contact the From Forgotten to Forever Rescue and Transport Facebook page or Clovis volunteer Rhonda Apodaca at 575-309-4534.


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