Charter to fly boonie dogs off-island
30 dogs will be headed to adopters in US, Canada
In an ongoing effort to reduce the number of stray dogs in the CNMI, the organization Boonie Flight Project from Guam, in collaboration with Boonie Babies Rescue Saipan, has secured a pet charter flight to relocate 30 dogs to adoptive families this Monday, Jan. 23.
Lisa Meador Schoppa-Animal Travel Agent LLC charters airplanes specifically for pet travel, and is a sponsor of the Boonie Flight Project, which makes the flights possible for dogs to reach their adoptive families safely in the United States.
For this Monday’s flight, the 30 dogs will be flown to either Washington, Texas, Oregon, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, or Canada, with more families elsewhere inquiring or willing to adopt.
Lauren Cabrera, co-founder of the Boonie Flight Project who now resides on Saipan, is working closely with the Boonie Babies to rehome dogs stateside because “there just are not enough homes for them all here.”
Boonie Flight Project is a dog rescue organization founded in Guam by Cabrera and Kelsey Graupner, which started in April 2021 and has since then shipped over 450 stray dogs to 26 different states.
Stray dogs in the CNMI and Guam are commonly referred to as “boonie” dogs, in reference to the word “boondocks.” Most are said to be the offspring of military dogs that were left on the islands after World War II.
Cabrera clarified that the Boonie Flight Project is not a licensed pet shipper. “We are just a non-profit dog rescue that sends dogs from the streets and shelter of Guam to adopters and rescues we find stateside.”
However, with Cabrera now living on Saipan, she is working closely with Boonie Babies to fly dogs to be housed elsewhere—with their large social media following, they have many people asking how to adopt them out.
Over the past years, pet shipping from the CNMI has become even more of a challenge. Families who relocate stateside have gone through the route of shipping them through the Lisa Meador-Schoppa Animal Travel Agent in Guam or resort to leaving their pets behind because there are no other low-cost or readily available pet shipping since the United Airlines PetSafe program was suspended indefinitely.
Cabrera hopes that United Airlines will soon open their program again, which is something they have been working on, but that there are no updates on it at this time.
Prior to 2018, pets could be shipped stateside using United’s program. Delta Airlines was also an option. Cabrera made use of the service back then and sent a boonie dog to her family back in 2012, who is still living in New Hampshire today. “It was a simple and affordable process,” Cabrera said.
So, with the only option for now in shipping out boonie dogs and helping families relocate their pets through Lisa Meador Schoppa-Animal Travel Agent, Cabrera said, “Lisa has been wonderful to work with, and we are always so grateful for her assistance. She truly cares about the animals.”
Along with no low-cost or readily available pet shipping service, there are other barriers to transporting pets out of the CNMI.
The World Health Organization has not officially recognized the CNMI as a rabies-free island, thus animals must pass through quarantine. The dogs flying out will be quarantined in Guam and Hawaii, which results in additional costs and logistical challenges.
Though the CNMI has no recorded rabies outbreak, certain criteria have to be met in order to be recognized as a rabies-free island. That includes a certain amount of rabies vaccines given to animals, rabies surveillance, and epidemiology.
Another challenge is that there are no veterinarians on island giving out rabies vaccines, which calls for the need for additional practicing vets in the CNMI. “The requirement for veterinarians administering rabies vaccines is regulated at the state level,” said Cabrera. “This is something we could change with updates to animal welfare legislation.”
Boonie Babies Rescue was founded in 2018 and has expanded dramatically in attempts to meet the needs of the CNMI. They hope to continue shipping dogs to off-island adopters in collaboration with the Boonie Flight Project.
For this upcoming flight, Boonie Babies co-founder Aria Keilbach said, “We have 30 dogs flying to adopters in Seattle, Canada, Texas, Florida, California, and Virginia, and more are asking us every day. We are just so excited to see this long-term goal of ours become a reality.”
All the challenges come at a high cost and to help cut it down, donate through money, donate used pet crates, old towels, puppy pads, or dog food.
To learn more about this event and make donations, contact Boonie Babies through Instagram @booniebabies, Boonie Babies Rescue on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out Boonie Flight Project on Instagram and Facebook as well.