SAN DIEGO — It was a different kind of roar than usual when Southwest Airlines chief pilot Bert Seither eased the throttle forward and took off from Newark, N.J., Saturday with a unique group of passengers — 30 dogs and 30 cats displaced by Superstorm Sandy.
“It sounded like you were in a dog kennel. They were unsure, and they started yelping when we took off, but once we started leveling off, they calmed down,” Seither said, standing happily on the tarmac at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field more than five hours after leaving the East Coast.
The Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe approached Southwest, SeaWorld and BP Global to make the cross-country flight happen. Flight attendants, pilots and other airline personnel donated their time, SeaWorld provided expert animal handlers to ride with the pets and BP footed the gas bill.
Woodward spokeswoman Jessica Gercke said the dogs and cats were in animal shelters in New York and New Jersey when Sandy arrived and were facing euthanasia because their shelters were without power. The Woodward Center hopes to get the animals vaccinated and spayed or neutered before offering them for adoption as early as Wednesday.
“These animals were going to be put down if they weren’t moved,” Seither said. “This is the only chance these animals had.”