Become an International Flight Volunteer!
By Irene Skricki
Wouldn't it be exciting to know that you have played an essential part in saving a dog's life? Especially a dog who has known only hardship living on the street? You can do that by becoming a flight volunteer for a street dog from India!
We are always in need of people who can help transport dogs from India to the United States to adoptive homes. If you are already traveling to the United States from New Delhi for vacation or business, you may be able to take one or more dogs back with you as excess baggage. The dogs travel in crates in the cargo hold but are considered excess baggage, the same as if you were carrying an oversize package with you. You pay for your own travel, but all the logistics and costs for the dogs are covered by the two rescue organizations at either end -- Kannan Animal Welfare (KAW) in New Delhi and Operation Paw for Homes (OPH), in the Washington, DC area.
The process is easy -- once you have flight arrangements made, KAW will check to see if your flight is able to take pets. Not all airlines and not all planes can take pets. The main airlines we use between Delhi and the DC area are KLM, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Air France, and Aeroflot. If your flight can take pets, KAW will make the reservation and pay the excess baggage fee. OPH will apply for the permits necessary to bring dogs into the U.S.
Ideally, before leaving New Delhi, you'll have the chance to visit KAW and meet the dogs you'll be bringing. Traveling with a familiar person will help the dogs feel less scared about the trip.
Then, on the day of travel, you'll come to the airport in New Delhi. KAW staff will meet you there and give you all the paperwork you'll need to travel with the dogs. The dogs will be packed up in their crates, and when everything is ready, you'll head into the airport with porters hired by KAW to move the dog crates for you. You'll check-in at the airline counter and fill out some additional forms required by the airline. Then, airline staff will help move the crates to a special area where the crates will be x-rayed.
Here's the toughest part -- you'll have to take each dog out of its crate so the crate can go through an x-ray machine. The dogs may be scared and squirmy; the airline staff may be grumpy, and you will likely be tired because most international flights leave Delhi in the middle of the night. But be strong -- you and the dogs will get through it! After the crate is x-rayed, you put the dog back in the crate, and the airline takes the crates away to be loaded onto the plane.
Most likely your heart will be breaking at this moment because you know the dogs are scared and confused and face a long frightening flight ahead. But it's worth it because they will end up in a happy home at the other end!
When you arrive in the U.S., most likely in Dulles International Airport, the dogs will be taken off the plane and brought to the baggage claim area. As you go through immigration and customs, you'll tell the officials that you have dogs with you. They may ask to see the paperwork, but typically the process is quick and easy.
And then, you pick up your bags and find your dogs! Usually, at least one dog is barking, and that will guide you to where the crates are waiting to be picked up. You'll find a porter to help you if needed and head out to the arrivals area. OPH volunteers will be waiting to take the dogs from you and whisk them away to their foster homes. And you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you helped dogs who had known hunger and suffering on the street to start a new life with warm beds, full food bowls, and fun toys!
I have been a flight volunteer three times, bringing back a total of twelve dogs with me on these trips. It has been such a joy to see the twelve dogs that traveled with me go from huddling in their crates to becoming happy, playful, loved dogs in their new homes.
I'll share one touching experience I had my first time as a flight volunteer. When I took one of the puppies traveling with me out of the crate at the x-ray machine at Delhi airport, a female security agent came over and petted the puppy. Later, when I was going through the security checkpoint, I was pulled out of the line and taken for a private pat-down. I was worried that something was wrong, but when I came into the screening area, it was the same security agent — she had pulled me out of line just so she could talk to me about dogs! She said she was very happy that I was taking dogs to the U.S. and wanted to applaud the work of the rescue groups. She told me she loved street dogs and wanted to adopt one herself, but her current work schedule wouldn’t allow it. It was such a nice moment in an otherwise stressful time!