Philadelphia PA July 25 2016 — Clark Kent doesn’t look like a superhero until he takes off and flies as Superman. It’s the same with Scott Messinger, who’s day job is CEO of Eyeland Optical, a chain of 14 family-owned optical centers in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania. To save travel time Messinger learned to fly and began traveling to work in a small, single-engine airplane. It was the Fall of 2010 when the transformation began:
… the dogs initially allowed him to lead them anywhere in the shelter, happy to have some attention. When the inevitable happened the dogs seemed to know. As soon as they crossed the threshold into the kill room they put on the brakes and clawed for their freedom, seemingly knowing that their life depended on getting away.
“I read an article written by a former animal control manager at a county animal shelter in the south.” said Messinger. “The dogs initially allowed him to lead them anywhere in the shelter, happy to have some attention. When the inevitable happened, the dogs seemed to know. As soon as they crossed the threshold into the kill room they put on the brakes and clawed for their freedom, seemingly knowing that their life depended on getting away. He soon quit because as he described it, the job was hurting his heart and killing his soul.” That article planted the seed that changed Messinger’s life, and saved the lives of an incomprehensible 6000 doomed shelter animals.
In the Fall of 2010, as a favor for a friend Scott flew from Philadelphia to a shelter in Louisiana to rescue some dogs that were about to be put down. Messinger recalls, “As I travelled through the southern states I saw the same thing time and again; people were losing their jobs and homes due to the economy. They brought their pets to the airport and sobbing, placed them lovingly in the airplane. They simply could not afford to feed them, and wanted to be sure they would end up in a safe and happy home.
It’s the kind of thing that once your eyes are opened and you really see what’s going on, you sort of can’t un-know what you’ve seen; you can never get it out of your head.
That very first day I learned that real love often means sacrifice. I learned that often, bringing a pet to a southern animal shelter is a death sentence. These shelters are often overflowing with dogs and cats that once knew the joys of a family and a warm bed, and are almost surely destined to be put down.”
The deal was sealed and the transformation to rescue hero quietly began. Messinger removed all five passenger seats and converted the airplane into a flying kennel, complete with floor-to-ceiling cages. In no time he was flying regular rescue runs to and from Louisiana, became a volunteer pilot for Pilots N Paws – an award-winning animal non-profit with over 4,300 volunteer pilots – and founded Eyeland Rescue, where he donates his time, plane and covers the costs associated with transporting rescued dogs to a new home solely through Eyeland Optical Centers, where a portion of every purchase goes to fund shelter rescue.
The past seven years have been chock-full of rescue stories that on their own are remarkable, such as that of “Miracle Dog” Daniel:
On a sunny morning in Alabama an animal control officer loaded five dogs into a steel box the size of a pickup-truck bed, locked the door and pushed the button that fed carbon monoxide into the sealed death chamber. When the door was opened 20 minutes later, a dazed and frightened 18-month-old Beagle mix lifted his head, stood up and walked out.
He was named Daniel, after the biblical figure who survived the lions’ den. Scott Messinger fell in love with Daniel, who was taken to Jackson Tennessee where he joined 11 other rescued dogs in Messinger’s airplane. Scott flew the dogs north, making several stops before arriving at the Essex County Airport in Fairfield New Jersey where he handed Daniel to Eleventh Hour Rescue and a forever home. Daniel was transformed from a near-statistic—one of the three to four million animals euthanized in shelters every year—to an ambassador for ending the use of gas-chamber killings. All in a day’s work for this super pilot.
Then there was the time Messinger transported 55 Dogs In 1 Weekend, a personal record. The trip stretched over 3 days and took Scott to Tennessee, South and North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and finally back to Scott’s home base in Philadelphia where they met the fosters and unloaded.
Most recently on July 19th 2016 Messinger marked his “6000 Rescues“ Milestone by flying seven abandoned dogs from flood-ravaged Charleston West Virginia, facilitated by B.A.R.C. Boone Animal Rescue of Danville West Virginia to Northeast Philadelphia Airport, where they were met by staff from Providence Animal Center in Media PA who transported the precious cargo to safety and groomed the dogs for forever homes.
This happy saga of shelter animals and their rescue is far from over. Messinger has his eyes set on 10,000 rescues and beyond. He credits his wonderful Eyeland patients whom he calls “rescue partners,” saying their loyalty is what keeps the Eyeland Rescue plane in the air.
Media Contact: Nancy Bragin email firstname.lastname@example.org
Eyeland Optical/Eyeland Rescue website: eyelandoptical.com
Pilots N Paws website: www.pilotsnpaws.org
Eleventh Hour Rescue: www.ehrdogs.org
B.A.R.C. Boone Animal Rescue: www.booneanimalwv.com
Providence Animal Center (formerly Delaware County SPCA): providence.org