By Carol Vaughn — Two dogs from the Eastern Shore Regional Animal Control Facility in Melfa are on their way to a new life, after a volunteer pilot Saturday flew the dogs from the Melfa airport to an animal rescue organization in New Jersey.
Gia, a young beagle, and Tasha, a more mature corgi mix found living outside a Melfa gas station, were headed to Ark of Promise Rescue in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
Pilot Andy Chen, of Bucks County, Penn., touched down at the Accomack County Airport shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday.
A few minutes later, ESRACF Facility Manager Mel Mcshane and volunteer Meghann Traxler met Chen in the airport parking lot with the dogs they had driven over from the nearby facility.
Gia and Tasha wagged their approval as they were lifted from crates in the back of the vehicle.
Chen volunteers with the non-profit Pilots N Paws organization, but this trip was arranged directly by Sharon Padulo, of Ark of Promise.
Pilots pay all the costs for animal rescue flights out of their own pockets.
Chen, whose wife is a veterinarian, is an active-duty service member in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
The USPHS Commissioned Corps is one of the nation’s uniformed services. Its officers advance the nation’s public health, serving in agencies across the government as physicians, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, scientists, engineers, and other professionals.
A retired Air Force officer friend, who knew Chen was working to obtain his private pilot’s license a few years ago, introduced him to the concept of animal rescue flights.
“She always said when you get your pilot’s license, I’m going to have you start flying rescue dogs,” he said.
His first animal rescue flight, in November 2014, actually was for a cat. That flight came the day after he earned his pilot’s license.
Since then, Chen has piloted rescue flights for two cats, 22 dogs, and 12 puppies — he keeps a record of the animals he has flown.
“We try and do it, A, because we want to try and help. B, for many of us private pilots, we simply don’t otherwise fly enough to maintain proficiency, so this is one way to help with that,” he said.
Saturday’s trip was Chen’s first to the Melfa airport. He has driven through the Eastern Shore on Route 13 before, but hasn’t spent time in the region.
He wouldn’t get to do that on this trip, either.
In minutes, the two dogs were loaded into the Diamond DA40 aircraft, ready to take off for the approximately hour-long flight to the Ocean City, N.J. airport.
Another volunteer, Tim Beakley, would meet them at the airport and transport the dogs to the rescue.
Gia looked out from a crate in the back.
Tasha, secured, rode shotgun as the plane taxied away.
“She’s been ready for this her whole life,” said Traxler.
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The Eastern Shore Regional Animal Control Facility (ESRACF) with 14 kennels and 60 cat cages, provides care for impounded animals, coordinates information for missing animals, and provides for adoption of unwanted animals, among other functions its staff perform for both Accomack and Northampton counties.
ESRACF houses all animals brought in from Northampton and Accomack counties, either through animal control sheriff’s deputies or the public.
ESRACF is at 28167 Beacon Road, Melfa. Phone 757-787-7091.
Hours are: Closed Sunday and Monday. Open Tuesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.
ESRACF is not a no-kill facility, but its staff do their best to give all animals a chance to go to rescue organizations or be adopted.
Friends of Animal Control Eastern Shore (FACES) is a non-profit organization of volunteers that raise funds to increase the quality of life for the animals at the ESRACF. FACES recently raised more than $11,000 to install fencing at the ESRACF. Email [email protected]
Both ESRACF and FACES are on Facebook.