Jeff Bennett, a self-proclaimed animal lover and do-gooder, has spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours rescuing animals of all types as a private pilot.
By day, Bennett, 53, owns and operates three businesses that distribute dive equipment, scuba gear, snorkel equipment and fishing tackle. In his spare time, he looked for ways to be flying his Cirrus SR22 airplane. In the past, he’d fire it up and fly somewhere to have lunch just so he could be up in the air. Today, he gets his flying time in by helping animals in need.
The Florida Keys resident who tries to avoid reading disturbing news pieces gets really worked up over the mistreatment of animals. About three and a half years ago, he made the decision to get involved. He began using his plane to transport animal victims of cruelty, abuse and neglect to safer quarters and on Friday, he reached his 1000th animal, a dog.
The animal activist never thought he’d be moving this many animals but knowing that approximately 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized annually, Bennett realizes his efforts are minimal. He just does what he can.
His efforts are in collaboration with Pilots N Paws, an organization that brings together plane owners, pilots and animal rescue organizations to save “death row” cats, dogs and other animals. Founded in 2008, the South Carolina organization has used more than 2,700 pilots to transport thousands of animals all over the country.
Bennett makes the most of his flights, transporting 25 or more animals on each trip. His record is 51 animals. And his passengers are from a variety of species. He’s carried rabbits, rats, snakes, guinea pigs, potbellied pigs, iguanas, chickens, monitor lizards, tortoises, falcons, hawks, cats and of course, dogs.
When Bennett made his milestone flight, he needed 20 animals to hit his target. The flight took off with 23 animals on board. Debi Boies, co-founder and executive director of Pilots N Paws, says Bennett has an unwavering passion for helping animals. They can always count on Jeff Bennett to fly them to safety.