PAWS Magazine


Issue 53, Winter 2002


PAWS Companion Animal Shelter goes the extra mile for animals

by Kay Joubert

If you were to look up "treatable" in most dictionaries, you'd be unsuccessful in your search. Yet at PAWS we use this word hundreds of times each week to describe the animals in our care. We do this because of our commitment to not euthanize animals we determine are healthy, behaviorally sound and adoptable into good homes.

This year PAWS celebrated its 100,000th adoption. For an organization that is only 35 years young, this is a remarkable accomplishment, yet it could not have been accomplished so quickly had we not been dedicated to "treatable" animals. So many animals are given a chance at life thanks to PAWS' commitment to this word left undefined by the usual sources, yet so well understood by our staff, volunteers and good Samaritans from the community who bring this word to life through their actions.

Like our busy partners at the PAWS Wildlife Center, the PAWS Companion Animal Shelter provides quality care and treatment to animals year-round. Since the public is allowed in our animal care and housing areas, we must prepare the shelter before we open our doors by feeding the dogs and cats, cleaning more than 130 cat cages and dog kennels, and performing other essential chores like laundry, dishes, walking dogs, cleaning litter pans, taking out garbage, sweeping, mopping and, of course, providing medical care to the "treatables."

While many cats and dogs are very healthy and adoptable when they arrive at PAWS, nearly 60 percent fall into the "treatable" category. This means they require medical care or handling beyond standard vaccinations, de-worming, flea treatments and spay or neuter surgery. Our veterinary staff correct problems with eyelids, pin broken legs, remove benign tumors, fix hernias, repair damaged skin, and shave animals so matted that you can barely see their eyes. In fact, 58 specialized surgeries were performed last year.

Many "treatables" require foster care before they are old enough to be spayed or neutered and found homes. In fact, more than 25 percent of the animals we see will benefit from some foster care. Most are kittens and puppies or mother cats and dogs with litters—more than 1,000 animals benefited from foster care this year alone.

Cats with upper respiratory infections (URI) and dogs with "kennel cough" are the most common "treatables" with medical conditions handled by the shelter. Both of these conditions are contagious to their species, so these animals are housed in isolation areas to prevent other cats and dogs from becoming sick.

Bonnie became very familiar with the cat isolation building during her stay at PAWS. This eight-year-old lady had thick gray fur reminiscent of a plush carpet and a funny cloud in one of her eyes that could not hide the twinkle behind it. Bonnie also had URI, showing the classic symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, and discharge in her eyes—a condition familiar to anyone who has ever had a cold.

Bonnie was quickly transferred to the isolation building, where she joined nearly 25 other cats undergoing care for URI, which is typically caused by a complex of viruses and treated with antibiotics and rest. Like humans with a bad cold, Bonnie felt listless and had no appetite. Most cats respond to standard treatment within 10 to 14 days, but the staff feared Bonnie might worsen if she continued to refuse food. So she was prescribed an appetite stimulant and offered strong-smelling food along with plenty of fresh water. While most people may lose a pound or two when they suffer from a cold or the flu, it can be dangerous for cats to stop eating as their liver may react seriously to this loss of nutrition.

There was also a concern that Bonnie's strain of URI was resistant to treatment and that her condition could diminish into pneumonia, requiring more aggressive measures such as steam treatments using humidifiers and a different course of antibiotics. And despite the excellent care provided by our medical team, a shelter setting is not the best place for animals as sick as Bonnie. Our veterinarian felt Bonnie would recover more quickly in foster care, away from the stress of a cage and activity of other animals.

After a short stay in foster care, Bonnie improved significantly. Her appetite returned, her breathing cleared, and she seemed more alert. Even though Bonnie spent nearly a month in isolation and foster care for her URI, happily she recovered and went to PAWS Cat City, where she was adopted by a first-time cat guardian. Her 20-something adopter said she wanted a senior cat to show her "the ropes" of life with a feline companion.

While Bonnie's story had a happy ending, the staff and volunteers busy preparing the shelter for opening each morning know her story will be repeated again and again. When those shelter doors open each morning, the flow of animals needing help, along with the parade of eager adopters looking for a new best friend, begins once again.

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