Hope For PAWS is a nonprofit organization that started ten years ago in order to fix the animal control problems here in Hope.
Hope for PAWS Vice President Kelly Bass says that before they started the organization, the animal shelter center here in Hope was a “high kill shelter.”
“It was about 95 or 98 percent kill,” Bass said. “Adoptions were not high and rescues were nonexistent at the time. We tried to make something bigger and better out of what was going on here. Our mission was strictly to become an advocate for these animals here because these animals were going to die and we needed to stop that.”
Bass helped start Hope For PAWS ten years ago while she was working with Rainbow of Challenges.
“In June a dog walked up to the day service center that I was at,” she said. “Myself, my supervisor, and a couple of clients were all outside and we went to pet the dog and left. A few moments later the animal control truck comes up and my supervisor tells them ‘now don’t you go putting that dog down when you get back.'”
Bass says that the animal control men told them that they had 53 dogs at the shelter with a shelter that could only house 20 so the dogs were basically stacked on top of each other.
“When he left, I looked at my boss and said ‘we need to do a Rainbow of Challenges animal adoption drive,'” Bass said. “So we started to plan this animal adoption drive with Rainbow of Challenges and we adopted out nine dogs and four cats that day.”
During this adoption drive, Rainbow of Challenges received an anonymous donor that helped pay for the spay and neuter of every single animal that was adopted that day, but that still didn’t fix the all the problems.
“Even though we were here and had a donor that was willing to pay for spay and neuter, adoptions were still hard,” Hope for PAWS President Carol Robinson said.
So the Hope Animal Shelter started sending their dogs up north starting with Minnesota and going to even more places like Rhode Island.
“We take our dogs to Benton every two weeks and they have a transport that takes them to Rhode Island,” Robinson said. “It’s been amazing that the North wants our dogs. Everybody we talk to are amazed. ‘This dog’s going to Rhode Island?’ ‘This dog’s going New Jersey?’ ‘NEW YORK?! What are you talking about?!'”
While the dogs wait to be sent up North to hopefully find better homes, Hope for PAWS tries to find people in the area willing to foster.
“We try to keep fosters local because they do have to come in for vetting and we don’t want them too far out because it will be inconvenient at that point,” Bass said.
Hope for PAWS has about 12 current fosters families for the dogs ranging from towns like Stamps, Fulton, Nashville, and Prescott, but Bass and Robinson say that they still don’t have enough.
“The biggest reason that people say they don’t want to foster is that they’ll get attached,” Bass said. “It’s okay to love that dog that you have coming in, but you’ve got to let that one go on to better things and bring another one in that’s not going to make it. Ultimately it’s going to save a life, it’s going to save multiple lives.”
Fosters have to go through an application process and if they have dogs of their own, those dogs must be up to date on vaccinations to prevent transmitting anything to the foster dogs.
“Fostering is kind of like babysitting,” Robinson said. “You know in your mind that that baby is going to go to its own home eventually.”
Hope for PAWS is always looking to increase their foster numbers and anyone willing to adopt locally and both Bass and Robinson say that they love what they are able to do.
“This shelter is our life,” Bass said. “We are just a small group of people that work for these dogs.”