Dear Editor,

As 2021 comes to a close, the Pauls Valley Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is being impacted by a national problem which is hindering our ability to move high quality animals from our shelter into transport and rescue organizations.

Because of the large numbers of homeless dogs and cats, it is getting harder to place animals in foster homes and find transport and rescue organizations that will take them; the system is overloaded.

The cause is not really known. It could partially be due to people relinquishing animals they acquired during COVID and have now decided they don’t have time to care for that pet.

It most likely is due to the failure of people to be responsible pet owners and have their pets spayed or neutered. California is limiting rescues to only small dogs and puppies while other states have shut their doors to transport and rescue completely.

This issue has trickled down to the rescue efforts at PAWS resulting in holding animals longer at our shelter and therefore keeping the shelter fuller than desired.

In 2021, we have only had to euthanize 48 animals! This is the lowest annual number in the history of our shelter. Those euthanized were either court ordered due to aggression issues, were severely injured, or succumb to a disease process despite treatment.

As of November 2021, we have found rescues for 383 dogs and 381 cats.

This has only been made possible because of our wonderful volunteers who work diligently and timelessly to find places for these wonderful fur babies and keep them healthy and well cared for until they leave our facility.

Sherry Carter works to find rescues for our cats and Shar Meyhew works with rescues for our dogs. Timmie Clark volunteers hours of endless labor to make sure they stay clean, well fed, and loved. One of our newest volunteers, Camryn Carroll, has also been helping with these endeavors.

Timmie, Margie Little, and Mae Bowden man our food pantry program. Marilyn Goodban, Billie Hayes and Margie Little take turns staffing the phones and office. Margie also orders our medical supplies and handles the finances. Sherry Carter and Mae Bowden work diligently weekly on the trap and release cat program in our community. Many of these ladies also help with the monthly spay/neuter program.

I would also want to give a shout out to my staff Dr. Katie Ervay, who performs all the shelter spays/neuters, registered veterinary technicians, Suprina Green and Jennifer Johnson, veterinary assistant Camryn Carroll, and office staff, Lavonda Baker, Jessica Miller, and Jodie Reynolds.

These ladies also help in treating shelter animals, keeping track of donations, and answering calls we receive concerning shelter programs and policies.

Without these volunteers and the generous donations of our supporters, the shelter could not exist and handle the volume of animals we currently house.

The human animal bond is strong. When that bond is broken due to a pet being lost, abandoned or surrendered to a shelter we have to ask ourselves who becomes responsible for that animal’s care and welfare.

Most people say it becomes the local animal shelter’s responsibility and problem. The public perception is that animal shelters should accept that responsibility and expense.

The Pauls Valley Animal Welfare Society DOES accept this role in speaking for the voiceless animals in our community and upholding the moral status of these members in our community.

However, the truth is, this responsibility actually falls on the community as a whole.

PAWS relies on community funding, homes, and volunteer help. We graciously thank all of our members and volunteers who already do so much. Most importantly we need people to care for their animals properly and not contribute to the problem.

I think the next step is to educate people about responsible pet ownership in our community starting with the youngest members of society. We can all help with this endeavor.

Because of these issues, we are reminded of the principles on which PAWS was founded.

Our shelter was established to provide a safe haven for the lost, stray, abandoned, and injured animals in our community to stay until they can be treated, rehomed, or reclaimed.

We are not a dumping ground or drop off facility for pets whose owners decide they do not have the resources to care for them or no longer want them.

The shelter is not a place for animals with behavioral issues due to a pet owner failing to provide proper training nor is it a relief organization for a litter of puppies or kittens because an owner was irresponsible by not having their pet spayed or neutered.

A pet is a privilege and a lifetime commitment that comes with a huge responsibility.

Responsibilities of a pet are many and can be expensive. A new puppy or kitten requires an investment of time and money.

Financially, they will need preventative health care, spaying or neutering, and a monthly budget for feeding, toys, treats and supplies like litter for cats and even boarding expenses if you travel away from home. A new pet may also require an investment in fencing for the yard.

Proper identification and licensing may be required depending on the city ordinances in that community.

Proper training is needed for dogs so that they are welcomed members of the community and not a nuisance or danger.

All these factors should be carefully considered prior to committing to pet ownership.

A pet is a gift, but not one you can exchange, return, or throw away if you decide you don’t like it or can’t care for it.

If circumstances arise to where you cannot keep that family member, it is your responsibility to find a new home for that pet where it will be properly loved and cared for.

Euthanasia at the owner’s expense might also have to be considered for an aggressive dog that cannot be reformed or an elderly pet at the end of its life.

Taking a pet to a shelter or dumping it somewhere displays a lack of responsibility and compassion. This action is not acceptable and definitely not the answer to the problem as it only burdens a system already at its breaking point in our community.

Provers 12:10 tells us that a good man is concerned for the welfare of his animals. If you truly want to know a person’s character and the goodness is his/her heart, just look at how they treat an animal!

Carolyn J. Williams D.V.M.

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