2012 Pet Hero Award Winner - Debi Boies, Pilots N Paws

Rescue Organization of the Year


Amazing how a South Carolina retired nurse’s determination to adopt a rescue dog led to the formation of Pilots N Paws, an organization of over 2,600 pilots that volunteer their time, airplanes and fuel expenses to transport tens of thousands of shelter animals from certain death to safety. Amazing, that is, unless you know Debi Boies, Co-Founder.

Debi Boies, a long-time animal rescue advocate, wanted to save a Doberman Pinscher destined for “death row”. She was aware of an existing organization of volunteers that coordinated a caravan of drivers, changing pets from vehicle to vehicle to reach their new homes, but realized the stress this caused to the pets. Discussing this dilemma with her friend, a private pilot Jon Wehrenberg, she thought for a moment. The light bulb went off. Flying! “Pilots look for reasons to fly," he told her, and as a result, Pilots N Paws was born.


Since their inception in 2008, Pilots N Paws continues to make a difference in the lives of innocent animals having flown thousands of rescue animals, among them military working dogs, animals with medical needs, and service dogs. The animals are almost always remarkably calm about the adventure. The pilots report, "It's almost as if they understand that this is their chance for life."


Pilots N Paws volunteer pilots have also assisted with dogs who have been adopted by our soldiers in war zones by transporting them to the soldiers’ hometowns once the dogs arrive in the states.

This remarkable organization has grown in appreciation, trust and demand. Their pilots were involved with flying a Steppe eagle from Afghanistan, whom our Navy Seals rescued and saved after the eagle was shot. That eagle is now sharing space at Berkshire Bird Paradise with an American eagle.

Debi Boies and Pilots N Paws have received honors and awards from all over the country. Broadway Barks Award/Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore, the American Dog Magazine’s 1st Annual Humanitarian Award, the Augusta Humane Society's Casie Ritchhart Memorial Award, The Humane Society of Naples Animaltarian Award, the Dog Rescue and Relief Award, and the Pets and Heroes award from the Amazing Grace Foundation.  She is listed as one of the top "25 Pet People of 2010" at Petside.com.


We commend Debi Boies and Jon Wehrenberg for your dedication to animal rescue. Keep on flying high!





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