The last time I wrote about Wings of Rescue, I admit, I was irked with us.

Local people hadn't stepped up to help this vital player in our animal overpopulation puzzle and Wings was ready to put an end to the large cargo airlifts of local animals it had been funding for the past few years through donations from Los Angeles and other areas.

Someone, several someones, actually, stepped in and provided money for at least one more large flight on Friday taking more than 150 dogs to shelters in other states where they'll be adopted to eager families.

But more importantly, Wings has launched a new effort to keep the momentum going for Kern County animals.

It's called Operation Hightail Bakersfield.

"The plan is to create a sustaining amount of money for a monthly or twice-monthly trip," said Wings co-founder Yehuda Netenal.

That could mean more than 2,000 (mostly) dogs a year won't come to a bitter end in our overcrowded shelters.

It could mean taking our shelters out of constant crisis mode and allowing animal care workers the time and ability to focus on more programs to stem the tide of incoming animals. Things like spay/neuter events, helping reduce owner turn-ins by working with owners to find ways to keep the animals in their homes.

If Wings is successful, it means saving lives.

Even if you don't care about dogs maybe you care about your wallet.

It costs less than $100 per animal to fly a dog out using Wings. It's about $13,000 per flight, depending on destination, and the flights take about 150 to 170 dogs (some cats too).

Meanwhile, looking at annual operational budgets divided by animal intake, it costs $132 per animal to keep a dog in the Bakersfield shelter and a whopping $250 to keep an animal in the Kern County shelter.

Clearly, it's more cost effective to move animals out of Kern than spend more money on them to keep them in our shelters only to be euthanized when their time is up.

This only works, however, if you get involved.

By that I mean MONEY. Likes on Wings' Facebook page, good vibes and happy emoticons do not pay the bills.

You don't have to cash in your life savings. Skip Starbucks every few weeks and instead give that monthly $5 to Wings of Rescue. Hey, it adds up.

Lest you think this doesn't make a real difference locally since we have such a large overpopulation problem, it does.

"Since Wings started, it has taken almost 500 animals from the city shelter alone," said Julie Johnson director of the Bakersfield Animal Care Center shelter on Mount Vernon Avenue. "They flew out 1,700 dogs total last year."

Those kinds of numbers lower shelter populations so animals aren't crowded, which reduces disease and stress on the animals.

"It reduces stress on our staff who get to see animals go to forever homes instead of sitting in kennels unwanted," Johnson added.

And these animals do go to homes, Netenal said. They aren't being shuffled around the country only to die in another state's overcrowded shelter.

Part of the work Wings does is vetting the receiving shelters to make sure animals are needed and are being adopted out.

He said of the 100-plus dogs Wings flew to shelters in the Pacific Northwest in March, only one dog and her pups hadn't yet been adopted only because the puppies were still too young.

It's a good, cost-effective program that really helps

Let's keep the ball rolling.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lois Henry. Her column runs Wednesdays and Sundays. Comment at, call her at 395-7373 or email

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