If you’ve ever wanted to save the world’s animals, while carrying on with your day-to-day life, I have good news for you! Animal-welfare charities are now calling on Canadians to do their bit for Canada’s rescue animals by allowing puppies and dogs to accompany them on their next flight within Canada. Sounds amazing, right?!
The weekly rescue mission is conducted by self-proclaimed “crazy lady” Karen George, who is a one-woman-show when it comes to getting the rescue dogs transported across Canada. Speaking to the Toronto Sun, George explained that most of the dogs that are rescued by her charitable partners come from northern Manitoba, where many communities organize dog culls to control the stray dog population.
Once rescued, the dogs are taken to Winnipeg, where they are assessed, spayed or neutered, and given all of their necessary shots. It is from here that they must get to Ottawa, where one of George’s partner organizations will take them in and start the process of finding them a forever home!
Because George is unable to take daily flights between Winnipeg and Ottawa to transport the dogs herself, she is now recruiting volunteers who are already on that flight path, to simply take a puppy with them! If a traveller is happy to take a rescue dog along with them, George simply adds a dog, or two, or three, onto the passengers boarding pass (all expenses paid!) and off they all go!
The process is quite straight forward. All that is required of the traveller is to agree to have the puppies added onto their boarding pass, and to look after the dogs prior to boarding. Specifically, George told Narcity that "in order to escort dogs from Winnipeg to Ottawa I would need the booking code for the person's flight. With the code, I call WestJet and book the kennels to the flyers ticket."
While George admitted that WestJet is the best air carrier for the dogs to travel with, due to their temperature controls inside the cargo, Air Canada is also an acceptable airline for the dogs to fly with.
"On the day of the flight, the escort will meet the volunteer from Manitoba Animal Alliance at the airport 2 hours before the flight so the dogs can check in with the escort." George said. That's when you get to enjoy all the puppy cuddles. George explained to Narcity that "the escort can interact with the dogs at this point as they are generally out of the crates."
The final step before boarding is check-in and security. "Once they are checked in the dogs will go through security. The escort will be given the veterinary paperwork to give to me in Ottawa when they land." Then the flight is business as usual.
Once passengers and puppies have touched down in Ottawa, volunteers from the Freedom Dog Rescue will be on-hand to pick up the dogs and will ensure they are taken to a safe and secure partner organization within Ontario. With their adventure still far from over, the pups will then begin their journey to find their ‘furever’ family.
George’s mission began in 2017, after she came across two German Shepherd puppies in northern Manitoba, who were in need of rescuing. After learning all about the process of transporting dogs across Canada, George established country-wide connections and was able to rescue the two puppies.
Since then, George has successfully rescued hundreds of stray dogs and puppies from northern communities, where there is a significant population of homeless dogs. In 2018, George was able to rescue and transport more than 150 animals, and has even bigger goals for the end of 2019.
George told Narcity that dogs arrive in Winnipeg weekly, so she is always in need of volunteers. If you are flying from Winnipeg to Ottawa and are interested in taking a furry friend with you, George said you can contact the Sash-Mar Paws Helping Northern Dogs Facebook page.
If you aren't traveling through Winnipeg to Ottawa but think the idea of cuddling adorable dogs makes flying sound so much nicer, a number of Canadian airports also have programs with dogs to put travellers at ease.
For example, at Toronto's Pearson Airport they recently brought on 15 therapy dogs to help keep passengers calm before their flights. Similar programs with airport therapy dogs exist in Montreal and Vancouver as well, however, this newest mission in Winnipeg is the only one where you don't have to say goodbye to the dogs before you board.