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February 6, 2014

Pilots-N-Paws: Group takes animal rescue to new heights

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A mother beagle named Lucy and her litter of seven got a new lease on life Monday afternoon, braving ice, snow and rain via the last thing one would expect — a charter airplane.

The eight dogs are the latest four-legged friends to benefit from Pilots-N-Paws, a 501c3 non-profit that links willing pilots to eager animal rescue groups. The Monday flight marked the first — but hopefully not the last — flight out of London in effort to put shelter animals into loving, welcoming homes.

Jim Jeffries, a resident of Crystal Lake, Ill., along with his flight student, Luke Meisner, 17, flew into London-Corbin Airport at about 3 p.m. after extending their flight time an extra hour and a half due to inclement weather.

“I don’t mind flying in the cold at all,” Jeffries said. “The cold weather is good for planes. The air is heavier.”

The flight on Monday linked Friends of Laurel County Animal Shelter — a hustling and bustling volunteer group in Laurel County — with AHeinz 57 Pet Rescue and Transportation, an equally passionate foster-based organization in De Soto, Iowa. The organization has been doing whatever it can to help cats and dogs find a home since its inception in October of last year.

Lana Smith, the volunteer coordinator for the Laurel County Animal Shelter, is one of the many who have made Lucy’s journey a reality. Her commitment played a major role in leading her to contact such a faraway foster program.  Those who know her best are quick to mention her seemingly nonstop efforts and drive.

“Lana has helped drop our euthanasia rate drastically,” said Tom Baker, director of the  local animal shelter. “The Friends of the Laurel County Animal Shelter stop in once a day — usually on their lunch breaks — to snap pictures and post them on Facebook.”

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South Laurel’s Tucker Martin (7) slides safely into second just ahead of the ball as Whitley County’s Michael Harris gets ready to catch the ball. The Cardinals downed the Colonels, 4-1.

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