Doctor-pilot rescues pets

Dr. Allen, director of bariatric surgery at Norton Weight Management Services, has combined a lifelong love for animals with a passion for flying.

When he’s not in the operating room or meeting with patients before or after weight loss surgery, Jeff W. Allen, M.D., might be heading to the airport on a rescue mission. Dr. Allen, director of bariatric surgery at Norton Weight Management Services, has combined a lifelong love for animals with a passion for flying. He’s a volunteer for Pilots N Paws, a nonprofit group that links willing pilots with animal rescue groups, and The Arrow Fund, which provides medical treatment to animals that have been victims of extreme torture, abuse or neglect. At least 10 times in the past two years, Dr. Allen has flown thousands of miles to pick up animals in need of a home or emergency medical care.

The Louisville native said he always had dogs while he was growing up. He rescued his first dog, a greyhound named Jack, after completing medical school at the University of Louisville. He now has six rescue dogs, including two dachshund mixes, a German shepherd and a pit bull.

While Dr. Allen has always loved animals, he hasn’t always been keen on flying. In 1987, a DC-10 he was riding in lost an engine, requiring Dr. Allen and his fellow passengers to make a harrowing emergency landing in Dallas, Texas. He didn’t step foot on an airplane for several years afterward.

One day, a friend convinced him to tackle his fear head-on by taking flying lessons. Dr. Allen spent 100 hours in a rented plane and ultimately got his pilot’s license in 1993. Two years ago he bought his own plane and has been rescuing dogs ever since.

According to Dr. Allen, people aren’t as likely to rescue an animal if they have to drive very far to get it. That’s why he doesn’t mind getting in his plane to help make the match between a potential pet owner and a homeless animal that may be hundreds of miles away.

Most of Dr. Allen’s trips involve flying to Ohio, Indiana or Tennessee to bring dogs to Louisville. Sometimes he flies just one leg of a much longer trip to pick up a dog that’s been adopted several states away. He enjoys seeing the faces of new owners light up when he gets off the plane with his four-legged passenger, and he stays connected with the animals and owners through Facebook.

“It makes you feel good when you see these dogs nobody wants — with matted fur and perhaps blind in one eye — find a home,” Dr. Allen said. “I have no regrets or second guesses about what I do.”


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