PAWS Magazine

Issue 37, Spring 1998

Evolutionary Measures to Serve Companion Animals

My cat had kittens before I could get her spayed...can I bring them to PAWS?" "I have to move and I can’t take my dog...will PAWS take him?" "My dog has way more energy than I can handle...will PAWS find her a new home?" We hear these questions every day. A hundred times a day.

Every day we try to serve the animals who need us the most and help the most we can. It’s not always easy to decide who to take in when we have limited space.

For 30 years, PAWS served as the South Snohomish animal control shelter. We took in every animal that was brought to us which put us in the untenable position of choosing which cat or dog to euthanize so we could make room for the new arrivals. Plus, we found we were unwittingly sending the wrong message to the human public whose very behavior we wanted to change. We were telling them that animals deserve a life, that they aren’t "disposable". Yet we were helping them dispose of their animals with very little pain on their part, therefore very little incentive to act responsibly on their animal’s behalf in the future.

In 1995, the PAWS Board of Directors decided that we would no longer kill healthy, adoptable animals simply because they are homeless. We rededicated ourselves to the preventive efforts of animal overpopulation. We redoubled our efforts in education and companion animal services—such as the pet-friendly apartment guide and the animal behavior hotline.

We developed a foster care program that expanded our capacity tremendously. We converted our thrift store into a satellite adoption center and we placed adoptable cats in offsite facilities around the community.

We reviewed all aspects of our sheltering work to make sure we are meeting the challenge of serving the animals most in need and serving as many as we can. This included reviewing our intake policy to clarify these priorities:

l) PAWS will always take in animals that are being abused, or are in danger of being abused. The reason for this is obvious—to end or prevent suffering.

2) PAWS will work to persuade people to take responsibility for their animals and support them in making good on their commitment to the animal.

3) PAWS will not kill healthy, adoptable animals.

4) PAWS will serve as many animals as possible.

5) We will give priority to accepting animals in cases where we can have the greatest impact on deterring surplus population of cats and dogs. We will always accept litters of puppies and kittens, animals under 3 months old, and pregnant animals. We will take animals that others will not alter (prepubescent animals) and we will consider an unaltered animal over an already altered animal.

6) We will do the best we can within the resources available to us at the time. We will continue to improve our effectiveness, expand our capacity, and be creative in our methods of service to companion animals and their humans.

Coupled with our efforts to provide sheltering services to those who need us today, we will continue to use preventive measures, such as education and legislative strategies, to reduce future demand for our sheltering services.

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