Local Pilot Delivers Doomed Pets to Safety

A Mission of Mercy

It’s not too many years ago that if you sought out Scott Messinger you would likely find him visiting one of his Eyeland Optical stores in Northeastern and Central PA. The stores stretched from Stroudsburg to Williamsport to Berwick to the Reading area– nearly a dozen locations. Messinger could be found in several of them every day!

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To save travel time, he learned to fly, and soon he was traveling to work in a small, single-engine airplane. While he puts in the same number of hours every week, the focus has changed. Eyeland has now moved into the next generation. Messinger still helps his two sons (Todd and Brad) with the business, which has now grown to 14 offices. However, in recent years, most of Messinger’s time has gone to the dogs!
He is a proud animal owner and volunteer pilot for Pilots N Paws.   The award-winning animal charity boasts over 3,000 volunteer pilots coast to coast. They are animal lovers who pay their own costs for flying shelter dogs to safety. In order to carry more dogs, Messinger removed all five passenger seats and converted his airplane into a flying kennel– complete with floor-to-ceiling cages. Recently, he was featured on Fox News in Philadelphia, when one of their reporters flew along on a West Virginia rescue.

He beams with pride as much as he laments the sorrow when he speaks of his rescue flights.  What has become a mission for him began as an experiment nearly four years ago. As a favor for a friend, he flew from Philadelphia to an animal shelter in Louisiana to rescue a group of dogs that were about to be put down.  In no time, Messinger was flying regular rescue runs to and from Louisiana (10 hours each way).

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“As I travelled through the southern states, I saw the same thing again and again. People were losing their jobs and homes due to the economy. They would bring their pets to the airport, and while sobbing, they would place them lovingly in the airplane. They simply could not afford to feed them, and they wanted to be sure they would end up in a safe and happy home. That very first day I learned that real love often means sacrifice. I learned that often times bringing a pet to a southern animal shelter is a death sentence for that animal. Shelters are often overflowing with dogs that once knew the joys of a family and warm bed but now were almost surely destined to be put down.”

Messinger continues, “I read an article written by a former Animal Control Manager at small town county animal shelter in the South. He was forced to quit his position, because as he described it, ‘The dogs would initially allow me to lead them anywhere in the shelter so happy to have some attention, but when the inevitable happened, the dogs seemed to know what was about to befall them, and as soon as they crossed the threshold into the kill room, they all put on the brakes, and clawed for their freedom- seemingly knowing that their life depended on getting away.’ Jobs were scarce in his small town, but he resigned none-the-less, because as he described it, ‘That job was hurting my heart and killing my soul.’”

To date, Messinger has carried over 4,000 dogs, and he has flown enough air miles to have criss-crossed the country from PA to California more than seven times. He credits, “our wonderful Eyeland patients who really are responsible for our animal rescue efforts.” He says their loyalty is what funds Eyeland’s rescue efforts.

–Thom Welby