Creegan Canine Rescue gives dogs and puppies from Orange County and beyond a safe haven to heal and find new homes.
Most Saturdays, a small plane with precious cargo onboard hits the runway at Orlando Apopka Airport.
As soon as that plane rolls to a stop, volunteers flank each side, opening the doors and revealing the treasures inside — rescued puppies.
On Saturday, May 16, Justin Scire, of Windermere-based Creegan Canine Rescue, watched from a distance as puppies were gently lifted out of the plane. One by one, each of the nearly 30 puppies onboard was taken over to a fenced-off grassy area and given food and water.
Eight of them now are in safe hands at Creegan Canine Rescue, where they are being raised by fosters and the Scire family until they are old enough to be adopted.
The puppies aboard that flight came from Alabama, a state that sees an abundance of dogs and puppies and not enough adopters. Many organizations band together to arrange rescue missions in which pups from overpopulated, high-kill shelters are placed on flights to places such as Central Florida. Here, rescues such as Creegan give them a second chance at life.
“All these puppies are scheduled to be euthanized if no one steps up to rescue,” Justin Scire said. “That’s why (pilot Mike Young) is there pretty much every week, weather permitting, to pick up as many dogs as he can.”
Creegan Canine Rescue has its roots in the memory of Melissa Scire’s mother, Diane Creegan, an avid animal lover.
“She loved animals and just really wanted to help out,” Justin Scire said of Diane Creegan. “We’ve been doing it since 2013, on and off. Over the years, we’ve rescued, I’d say, (more than) 1,000 animals.”
Along with taking in puppies from rescue flights, Creegan Canine Rescue has partnered with Orange County Animal Services. It has been an especially invaluable partnership since COVID-19 shut down the shelter for a few weeks.
Creegan Canine Rescue has experienced significant growth in the last three years, Justin Scire said. As with most rescues, the operation is dependent on fosters, volunteers and donations. The family also is thankful for the support it receives from Windermere High’s FFA program, in which their daughter, Ashley Scire, is involved.
“We work in the Horizon West and Windermere areas,” Justin Scire said. “Our fosters are mostly in that area, but there are some that are over in Orlando and down in Kissimmee. We don’t go out too far, because it’s hard to coordinate with vet visits and stuff like that.
“We can only have so many dogs, and each person usually cares for one dog (at a time),” he said. “We’re always asking for more fosters and volunteers. We always need more dog and puppy food, and then towels and blankets are always helpful.”
Creegan Canine Rescue currently has a handful of fosters. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Scires received a large response in the call for fosters because so many people were home.
“(COVID-19) has really changed the way we operate, because we used to be able to go and do a full-on meet-and-greet with potential adopters, bring the dog, meet them in their home and walk through the home and everything,” Justin Scire said. “Now … we’ll do a foster-to-adopt program, where potential adopters commit to a week of fostering first and decide if it’s a good fit. Usually, we’ll start with a FaceTime or some kind of video chat and try to talk as face-to-face with a person as we can. We’ll have them walk us through their house and see how the dog interacts in the house while the dog is there.
“Our goal, really, is just to help as many dogs as we can, whether they’re puppies or adult dogs,” he said. “We just want to make sure that every dog has a chance at a happy home.”