Olivia Barrett, Contributor

Every year, almost 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed in shelters. These animals are killed because they do not have a home and the shelters don’t have enough room and resources to provide housing for all of them.

Paul Steklenski never expected to save over a thousand dogs from kill shelters, but now he is running a non-profit dedicated to it.

In 2013, Steklenski’s family adopted a dog, and he was brought into a completely new world he had never known about before.

“You learn about this huge underground railroad of people who volunteer their time, money, and energy to get these animals out of kill shelters,” Steklenski said. “I became so aware and more compassionate to all animals,” said Steklenski in an interview with CNN.

Once he acquired his license, he learned that he could do more than fly just for fun. In 2015, he started the non-profit organization Flying Fur Animal Rescue. He pays out of his own pocket to fly these animals rescue groups in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut and has completed over 100 flights.

“There is a huge need to help get animals out of kill shelters. I learned that if they don’t get out of certain areas of this country, they don’t live. The further South you get, the worse it gets. And there are so many organizations up north that are no-kill that will take these animals. These animals are perfectly fine and healthy and adoptable — (they) just can’t get out of kill shelters to that freedom,” Steklenski said. “They are getting a private flight to save their lives”

Steklenski also has plans for the organization’s future that he thinks will allow them to help even more animals. He wants to upgrade their plane to something bigger so it can travel farther, and also wants to dedicate a farm in Pennsylvania that he can fly the animals to for adoption and rehab. He also has to juggle his full-time job with running the organization, but he doesn’t mind the sacrifice. He only flies twice and month but it is something he is very passionate about.

Who knew that a man interested in learning how to fly would end up using his skills to save the lives of thousands of innocent animals?