Since January, the non-profit has re-homed over 100 shelter dogs
A WALK IN THE PARK - Be Paws We Care volunteers take shelter dogs out for a stroll earlier this year for their Doggy Day Out initiative. All of the dogs in this photo have been re-homed, which is one of the local non-profit’s missions.
It had been a long night the day before the interview for this article – the Be Paws We Care volunteers arrived at the Progress office on just a few hours of sleep. They had spent the wee hours of the morning completing transport for two foster dogs who went to a rescue in New York.
Kelly Ingram, the group’s volunteer heavy-weight who puts in at least 40 hours a week trying to re-home dogs from the Pickens County Animal Shelter, said transports (where dogs are driven from Pickens to their new home or rescue facility) are tricky and often come together last minute.
“Things fall through with transports,” she said. “You’ll have the whole trip planned, but won’t have one leg of travel covered so it doesn’t work out. It’s trying to organize a lot of people and it all has to come together.”
Ingram, Be Paws vice president; Julie Raming, president; and Suzie Champitto, fundraising coordinator, are part of the larger group of volunteers with Be Paws We Care, a local non-profit founded in 2014 dedicated to re-housing Pickens’ shelter dogs and raising money to help with medical needs not covered by the county. Since January, the non-profit has re-homed over 100 shelter dogs. Half of those went to private homes; The other half went to no-kill rescue groups.
“Right now, there are only 15 dogs at the shelter,” said Ingram, who has developed 100-plus contacts with rescue groups and other contacts across the country since she came on board. “At the beginning of this year, there were 62 dogs there.”
The volunteer group now has dogs from Pickens in rescues in 14 states.
Shelter by the numbers, foster families wanted
The county shelter holds up to 62 dogs at a time. Shelter numbers show that since January, they have taken in 426 animals total – of those, 144 were owner surrender; 20 were animals who were returned by adopters; 22 were seized animals; 240 were strays. During that same time, 278 animals were adopted; seven died while in custody; six were euthanized; 63 returned to owner; 82 were transferred out.
“If I had 15 foster homes, the shelter wouldn’t have any dogs right now,” Ingram said confidently.
Apparently laws have changed recently about how shelter dogs must be handled before they are transported to rescues – they have to be fostered for two weeks in a private home. A change from shelter life to a home environment helps socialize the animals and lets rescuers see how they transition into home life.
“Their personality comes out and they are totally different dogs,” Champitto said. “The shelter is a stressful environment – some dogs can get kennel rage and that can keep them from being adopted.”
This idea was behind a popular initiative of the group, “Doggy Day Out,” where Be Paws volunteers would take shelter dogs to Lee Newton Park to walk. The program helped them dog test to see if the animals were good with people, and do other temperament evaluations.
“We had a lot of people becoming interested in Be Paws because of Doggy Day Out,” Raming said.
Despite popularity, just recently they had to stop the program because of perceived liability issues - but they are still looking for more foster homes locally. Champitto said fostering is a good experience, and noted that most times animals only stay with their foster family a couple weeks, occasionally up to a month.
Fundraising for medical costs, future goals
The non-profit also provides medical care costs not covered by the shelter, such as heartworm treatment, some spay and neuter costs for animals sent to rescues, and other costs. This year alone, they have paid for heartworm treatment for seven dogs, which have all been adopted. The animals they re-home are also fully-vetted and spayed/neutered by Dr. Craig Chester.
“Be Paws is an entity to help us raise money so we can do what we need to do,” said Raming, who was asked to take over the non-profit this year along with Dave Patrick after founder Donna DeBerardinis came down with health problems. “But there are other great organizations in this community who all do wonderful things, too. We want to do our part.”
Looking ahead, the group wants to spearhead a microchipping program, ensure all shelter dogs are spayed and neutered before they leave the facility (adopters are currently given a certificate to take their animal to be spayed/neutered); have pre-adoption vetting to make sure the animal and owner are a good fit to reduce the high return rate; and increase public education.
“We want to help these animals and just want people to open their hearts,” Ingram said.