When aviator Michael Schneider embarked on his first mission to rescue a litter of puppies slated to be euthanized, he likely never envisioned how far the journey would take him. Eight years later, the non-profit he founded, Pilots to the Rescue (PTTR), has saved more than 1,000 animals from certain death.
“I’d been looking for a sense of purpose and fulfillment for a very long time,” Schneider reflects. “It only took COVID-19 and 44 years to realize what I wanted to do when I grow up.”
While Michael formally launched PTTR in 2015, he upped his commitment during the pandemic, turning his side project into a full-time crusade. Today, the non-profit’s volunteer pilots travel the country, transporting animals in need. Already this year, the organization has coordinated 32 rescue flights that have connected 371 dogs, cats and the occasional turtle with new forever homes.
“Most of the animals come from precarious situations – hoarding, abuse and neglect, or other unhealthy environments,” Schneider explains. “But all you really need to do is love the animal, and it will come back to you tenfold.”
Schneider, PTTR’s self-described “Top Dog,” says the animals with the biggest needs are the ones he remembers best. He quickly rattles off a few names: Hopper born with cerebral palsy, Surf born blind, Cye the one-eyed cat who was a victim of gun violence, and Maynard, a three-legged lab mix. Schneider adds, “The thing that amazes adopters of these animals is they are unaware the animals are different. Their resilience is admirable and a learning lesson for humans – be happy with your health and respect those who are less fortunate.”