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April 1, 2013


FLORIDA LAWYER LARRY PLOUCHA helped rescue Labrador puppies with Pilots N Paws.

Lawyer pilot: Puppy mission accomplished

By Jan Pudlow
Senior Editor

Ft. Lauderdale lawyer Larry Ploucha’s longtime passion to fly has taken on a warm, fuzzy, face-licking new purpose.

Folding down the back seat of his four-seater Mooney airplane, he made room to hold a litter of four Labrador retriever puppies (the fifth one was so cute it got adopted by a flying buddy before he made it out of the airport).

The eight-week-old pups needed to be flown from Miami to Tampa in order to save their lives and find adoptive homes, all coordinated through a nonprofit organization called Pilots N Paws.

“The thought of them getting the needle does not sit well,” says Ploucha, a self-described cat man who loves all animals.

Piloting the plane with his good friend Lloyd Zand, a retired radiologist, Ploucha looked back at his precious cargo with floppy ears and big brown eyes, and said the droning of the engine stopped their whining, and they settled in for the ride of their lives.

The puppy mission was transporting them from the Kendall Tamiami Executive Airport in Southwest Miami to the Tampa Executive Airport.

“The arrangements were well coordinated. We offloaded the puppies and were on our way,” Ploucha said.

It was Zand who first got Ploucha involved in Pilots N Paws about two years ago, a South Carolina-based nonprofit organization founded in 2008 to help transport animals to no-kill shelters that otherwise would be euthanized.

Pilotsnpaws.org, the organization’s website, is how 3,168 pilot volunteers coordinate where their flying services are needed to move dogs, cats, and even pigs, reptiles, and rabbits.

Happy endings are plentiful.

There’s the story about Radar, a pit bull left for dead on the side of the road in Philadelphia and believed to have been forced into dog fighting, flown to Cleveland for rehabilitation.

Another account details how a deaf puppy was flown from Midland, Texas, to a special rescue facility for animals with special needs in Katy, Texas, where the dog is learning sign language.

As Ploucha describes, there are special mass movements a couple of times a year, such as when pilots flew in from all over to Charleston, S.C., and helped transport 300 dogs.

“One case was a shelter that had gotten a bad reputation because it was not killing animals in a humane fashion. The goal is to get them into foster homes or in no-kill shelters,” Ploucha said.

Ploucha earns his paycheck at Fowler White Boggs in Ft. Lauderdale helping clients with tax law, estate planning, employee benefits, and other business issues.

When it’s time for fun, Ploucha says his favorite way of “disposing of hard-earned cash” is climbing into his plane and seeing the world from the sky.

“It gives me a sense of freedom in all three dimensions,” Ploucha describes.

“I have the ability to see the world from a slightly different perspective and realize how pretty things are: the water, the Keys, the Everglades, the cities. It’s a constantly changing perspective.”

Ploucha has had his pilot’s license since he was 18, is a licensed aircraft mechanic, loves to restore World War II aircraft, and is co-founder of the Wings Over Miami Air Museum.

Instead of golfing on the weekends, Ploucha said he and Zand love to head to the airport for a day of flying, eating at the airport of their destination, and then flying home the same day.

Now, Pilots N Paws “gives some purpose to the flying that we otherwise would be doing for fun,” Ploucha said.

It will really make his day, he said, when he gets the chance to take flight with a rescued cat.


[Revised: 06-25-2014]