On Saturday August 6, Amelia Air conducted an animal rescue mission for several animal shelters, including the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter (KRRAS).
During the rescue, pilots Dean Heistad and Steve Wolfson transported dogs from various Kentucky shelters and groups, taking them to New Jersey for the Humane Society of Atlantic County.
The dogs rescued during the flight were from three Kentucky shelters and groups, project officials said. KRRAS was one such organization and reported that many of their service areas suffered flood damage.
“We serve four counties. Knott, Letcher, Perry – these county shelters suffered massive flood devastation. The fourth shelter in Wolfe County was flooded,” said Nikita Mullins, a representative for KRRAS.
Amelia Air is a tax-exempt, volunteer-based rescue organization dedicated to rescuing animals from high-mortality shelters and transporting them to shelters that have the resources to find them loving families. Pilot and founder Dean Heistad said Amelia Air is formed to help shelter animals in need, and they felt the recent flooding in Kentucky was a great way to serve those animals.
“When this was reported, we immediately began discussing ways to help and reached out to our partners in Kentucky to lend a hand,” Heistad said. “We saw that all of our partner shelters were starting to overflow due to families displaced by the floods who couldn’t care for their families and animals, so animals were sent to shelters en masse. A heartbreaking situation for sure, so we started working on ways to help the first weekend after the floods.
In the week leading up to the rescue flight, Amelia Air officials gathered more than 250 pounds of food, medicine, blankets, towels, napkins and needed shelter items and loaded them into the 1979 Cessna 310 to be transported.
On the morning of the flight, August 6, the pilots took off from Leesburg, Virginia Airport (KJYO), but the flight was delayed due to fog over the airport.
“Once we launched, we were following the storms around Hazard Airport from our chosen destination, and as we got closer during the two-hour flight, it became clear that we simply couldn’t land at Hazard,” Heistad said. “So we decided to fly south to avoid the storms and then see if we could come in from the west side – hoping the storms would move through the atmosphere and let us land at Hazard. Alas it wasn’t meant to be so we landed at the first airport that had enough clearance and was a bit close to the shelters. It was London airport.
Once the flight landed, Heistad said, their logistics volunteer, Nicole Mirando, sprang into action and asked if the shelters would divert the dogs from four different shelters in three different cars and vans to London Airport instead. to meet at Hazard’s scheduled airport. The shelters were housed, he said, and two hours after landing they began the process of unloading donated supplies and then loading the animals for their journey to freedom in Atlantic City.
Despite delays due to fog in the northeast and storms in Hazard, pilots were still able to rescue 11 dogs. Among the animals transported were Camdon, a one-year-old mixed-breed dog, and Logan, a one-year-old black Labrador, both from KRRAS.
All rescued animals currently reside in New Jersey with the Humane Society of Atlantic County.