Douglas Thron is helping save countless cats using drones all over the world.
We love sharing stories about heroic cat rescuers, and this one is spectacular. At 52, former Los Angeles resident Douglas Thron saves animals using the latest technology. The leading aerial cinematographer realized drone technology could help save animals after filming the devastation of the California wildfires of 2018.
The $40,000 drones are outfitted with infrared heat sensors that detect animals’ body heat. Then, a 180x zoom lens and spotlight allow Thron to verify the animal’s location. That way, rescuers can save them much faster. It’s like an “emergency SWAT team from the sky,” as he described it.
Thron Helped Film the Fire Cats Documentary
In a related post, we shared the story of the Fire Cats documentary. It’s a finalist at the Cannes World Film Festival. Thron worked on the film about the heroic cat rescuers after the California wildfires. It was then that Thron observed rescuer Shannon Jay who used an infrared heat scope to find cats. After that experience, Thron was inspired to combine the heat sensing tech with drones.
Later, Thron joined efforts to save animals such as koala bears after fires in Australia. You may be familiar with him from the show “Doug to the Rescue” on Curiosity Stream, now in a second season.
So far, his efforts have helped animals in:
- The Bahamas
- Puerto Rico
- The Dominican Republic
Now, he’s in Ukraine helping animals lost in the war zone.
Here is Thron describing his experiences with CBS Los Angeles in 2021:
Saving Cats and Other Animals In Ukraine
More recently, Douglas Thron, who now lives on a houseboat in Miami, has teamed up with nonprofit Paws of War and Ryan Okrain of ASSERT Drone Animal Rescue in Ukraine. Whereas his previous experiences involved natural disasters, this one involves finding cats and dogs in bombed-out buildings inside cities like Kyiv.
“So many people had to flee so quickly that they weren’t able to take their animals,” Thron said. “They basically gave them a kiss on the head and said, ‘Sorry, we’ve got to go.'”
After the invasion began, people were forced to flee, leaving behind pets to fend for themselves. To get to them, rescuers put themselves at great risk as they try to avoid dangers like grenades and landmines. Military security and local veterinarians help them with the incredibly heroic mission.
“This is my scariest mission so far,” Thron told PEOPLE. “It’s mind-boggling. These towns look like they’ve been ripped apart by a combination of a hurricane and a wildfire.”
Due to the scale of the devastation, finding animals would take days without drone technology. Thanks to the drones, they can locate cats and dogs in minutes instead. However, the rescue relies on donations.
“My infrared scope can pick up the heat signatures of animals through any amount of debris, forest cover, or other visibility hazards, and by connecting it to the DJI Matrice drone, I can search vast areas in minutes that would take days to cover by foot,” he says on GoFundMe.
So far, he’s raised over $58K with a $125K goal, hoping to rescue animals full-time. But the drones are extremely expensive and as we cat lovers know, so is veterinary care for animals in need.
Thron Hopes to Inspire Other Rescuers
With so many animals needing rescue, Thron hopes to inspire others to use the powerful new tools to locate animals needing emergency help.
On Instagram, Thron shares updates about the ongoing efforts to save countless cats and dogs. Recently, he helped a baby kitten and its mom from a bombed apartment building. Eight stories up, they were living off pigeons.
“Not sure how this baby kitten and it’s mom survived this massive bomb but so thankful we were able to rescue them. We got them from a destroyed apartment building 8 stories up. They somehow didn’t get burned up and were living off of pigeons,” Thron shared on Instagram.
With all the animals needing rescue, many will be up for adoption.
“We will have lots of animals needing adoption soon so please reach out if you can give a cat or dog a loving home. Thanks for everyone’s kind words and support 🐈🐶💕.”