Teen pilot flying across New Mexico to help rescue animals from crowding shelters

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(Footage courtesy of SAMS Academy Aviation in Albuquerque)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — A 17-year-old student who recently received his pilot’s license is flying animals from New Mexico shelters to areas where they may have a better chance of being adopted.

Cody Anderson, a pilot and student at SAMS Academy Aviation, recently helped transport nearly two dozen dogs from Las Cruces to Albuquerque. From there, another pilot took the animals to Aurora, Colorado.

The academy, which helps high school students get their piloting licenses, is partnering with nonprofit Barkhouse in Las Cruces. The effort brings animals to places where there are plenty of adopters, but not enough pets, NewsNation affiliate KRQE reported.

In New Mexico, many shelters are facing overcrowding in addition to low staffing during the pandemic.

“In our region, we have a major pet overpopulation issue,” said Koko Dean, executive director of Barkhouse. “What that means is when they go to the shelter, any animal that goes there is at risk of being possible [sic] euthanized just due to lack of space.”

The nonprofit connected with the aviation academy after their go-to pilot had an engine issue. Their collaboration transporting animals to loving homes also helps students complete their training to obtain their piloting licenses.

“We realized we have this perfect opportunity where we have students who need cross-country flight time,” said Lauren Chavez, chief flight instructor at SAMS Academy Aviation. “They have dogs that need to be transported from one city in New Mexico to another.”

In addition to helping complete his necessary flight time, Anderson called transporting animals to new families “a great opportunity.”

“It was amazing to think I could change the lives of 22 other families just in one flight,” he said.

Barkhouse hopes other piloting programs can join the effort.

“We have so many animals here that are in need that we can do once-a-week flights,” Dean said.

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