Unwanted Dogs Take Flight 8

Fetch Fido a Flight Ships Dogs From Overcrowded Shelters to Areas That Need More Pets

Oklahoma animal shelters have an ongoing problem — they’re overwhelmed with the volume of pets coming in. There’s so many rescued from abusive situations or abandoned by owners, some shelters regularly resort to putting them down, even though they could be great companions for someone.

But that’s not the case everywhere. In fact, in the Pacific Northwest, animal shelters have a waitlist for adoptable pets.  The situation’s frustrating to animal lovers, but who would go to the trouble of sending dogs halfway across the country?

Vikki Smith has. The Edmond resident was saddened to learn of our state’s crowded shelters when she moved to Oklahoma from California, and decided to do something about it. Since starting up this year, Fetch Fido A Flight, has shipped over 210 dogs in four flights from Oklahoma City to Washington state, and they’re hoping to send many more.

“90 percent of the dogs we send are adopted within 24 hours,” she said.

The most recent group of 49 dogs, pulled from over a dozen shelters and rescues throughout Oklahoma, flew to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho in late July. Smith said the trip completely emptied a few of the shelters she worked with.

Of the dogs on July’s flight at least 16 were from the Tulsa area, including four fostered by Tulsa Animal Aid and five from Broken Arrow Animal Support.

Identifying dogs in need and shipping them out has been a big undertaking. To realize her dream, Smith reached out to the nonprofit organization Wings of Rescue, a California-based organization that’s flown over 19,000 dogs and cats to new homes since 2009. In December of last year, founder Yehuda Netanel responded saying they wanted to be involved in helping with the shelter overcrowding situation here in Oklahoma!  Wings of Rescue was able to fully fund the first two Oklahoma flights this year, but challenged Smith to find funding for subsequent flights.

Today, Wings of Rescue still manages the logistics of the flights themselves, but Fetch Fido A Flight is the Oklahoma branch and the contact for all shelters and Rescues within the state who wish to participate in the program.

“The shelters can shop the dogs we have and choose which ones they think will be adopted quickly,” Smith said.

Smith estimates it costs $15,000 per flight of 60 or so dogs and cats. However, she doesn’t want to pass any of the costs onto Oklahoma shelters or rescues, many of which are struggling as it is.

“Our program is free to all the shelters that want to put shelter pets on our flights,” she said. “All we ask is that they’re prepared with the inoculations they need and, if possible, they make a donation in any amount to help with funding a future flight.”

As a result, Fetch Fido a Flight depends on donations. The organization organizes a number of fundraising events, including a golf tournament at Coffee Creek Golf Course in Edmond, and is currently partnering with Liberty Mutual Insurance of Edmond, which has promised to donate $20 to Fetch Fido a Flight / Wings of Rescue Oklahoma for every person who calls them at 405.513.2645 for a quote on an insurance policy.

Smith said her organization could use some non-monetary assistance, as some dogs need to be fostered as Fetch Fido a Flight finalizes arrangements for the next flight.
The rescued dogs aren’t shoved in with luggage on a passenger flight — instead, they have a climate-controlled cargo airplane all to themselves. “All the dogs are in the belly of the plane with the pilot,” she said.

Smith’s eventual goal is to send out two flights of dogs per month, though she estimated the overcrowding situation at Oklahoma shelters could fill even more.
Donations can be made through their website, FetchFidoAFlight.com, or their Facebook page. Local fundraising events can also be scheduled to help more of the animals in the Tulsa Metro area.
Smith and her husband have three dogs of their own — Tucker, Callie and Lilly, who are all cockapoos.