In these tough economic times, donating to nonprofits and charitable organizations seems like the last thing on people’s minds. Yet, sometimes just your presence is enough to make a difference. This year, instead of wasting your day buying frivolous crap at the mall, help make life a little easier for those in need by donating your money or time to a worthy organization.
PAWS for a Cause
By Tara Murtha
It’s raining cats and dogs as I rush into the PAWS Spay/Neuter & Wellness Clinic on Grays Ferry Avenue, where Melissa Levy, director of PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society), waits for me inside.
After years of soul-searching, I finally took the plunge: I’m finally going to be a foster mom.
As a reporter covering local animal welfare issues, I’m well aware that the only thing our city’s shelter and rescue groups need more than money—we’re chronically under-funded—are foster volunteers.
This is corny, but the reason I didn’t foster earlier is because I was afraid of becoming attached and then having to say goodbye. But then I had my Nora Ephron moment: Fear is no good reason not to love.
We enter the maternity ward and I feel like Augustus Gloop shoving his greedy fat face into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. Kittens everywhere! I spot three tiny, black orphan kittens found abandoned in the shelter parking lot. Things go fuzzy. Next thing, I’m pouring kibble into a bowl and setting up blankets in my guest room.
Their cage at PAWS will only be empty for as long as it takes to clean it out and fill it up with another litter of homeless kittens.
It doesn’t take all that much to foster. Time, mostly, and a little money for food. It’s not just kittens that need foster homes, it’s dogs and the endless stream of adult cats.
“We can almost always find a foster animal that’s a right fit for [anyone],” says Levy.
Most animal lovers seem to be unaware of the dire need and scope of the problem. And in Philadelphia, homeless animals are a really big problem.
Every year, more than 30,000 of them—mostly strays, cast-offs and babies of unfixed pets—land on the doorstep of the animal control shelter (ACCT) on Hunting Park Avenue in North Philly.
It’s the function of animal control, currently run by the PSPCA but being taken over by a new city agency soon, to take them in, provide medical care, then either find them a new home or euthanize them.
Harsh, but true. There is only so much space and so many cages.
Experts estimate between three and five million animals are euthanized in “kill cities” like Philadelphia every year. Last year, more than 10,000 dogs and cats were euthanized in Philly.
But there’s good news, too: In the last few years, we’ve come out of the relative dark ages thanks in large part to PAWS, the city’s only no-kill animal shelter.
The way it works is that PAWS combs the shelter, pulls some animals out—often the ones no one seems to want, like mixed-breed dogs and cats with easily treatable illnesses—and houses them at their adoption center in Old City, where the animals stay until they’re fostered or adopted.
Without any government funding and run entirely on donations, PAWS saves approximately 2,000 animals a year.
It’s hard to comprehend how much PAWS has done with so little without some historical context. Back in 2004, Philadelphia animal control was a disgusting, mismanaged mess. Eighty-nine percent of the animals that came through the front door went out the back in body bags. Cages were hosed out while animals were still in them. Run by a city agency stacked with nepotism hires, unspeakable acts of cruelty were regular practice.
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