BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – In this season of giving, the P.A.W. animal shelter is asking that you keep them, and the animals in its care, in your sights.
P.A.W., the no-kill Protectors of Animal Welfare has had a busy and productive year, but Director Sandy Brown is asking area residents to keep in mind just how far the PAW animal shelter goes in providing services to Fort Madison and Lee County.
The City of Keokuk has its own animal control office, but Fort Madison does not, so PAW works closely with city and county officials to help mitigate animal welfare issues as well as housing animals until they are adopted, or what Brown calls “forever homes”, or die from disease or age.
Brown said so many people in Fort Madison are still unaware of what goes on 24/7 at the shelter.
“I think people just really think of us as the shelter that it used to be 10 years ago where we had 30 cats and 30 dogs and they stayed here until they died,” Brown said. “We are so much more than what people think we are. We take the bullied breeds, the puppy mill dogs, the welfare dogs.”
She said many people don’t realize the shelter works with rescues and puppy mill dogs.
“Iowa is 3rd in the country in puppy mills, which is basically a confinement for breeding dogs and they take the puppies and ship them all over to pet stores across the United States.”
She said what’s left behind is the parents who are now 13 and have no teeth or hair and have tumors but can still make puppies for sale. When those animals are done producing or get sick, Brown said they are killed and not euthanized properly because it comes off the bottom line of the breeders.
She said now rescuers go to the mills and offer to take the adult puppies to a rescue. Brown said PAW has taken in more than 400 puppy mill dogs over the past five years. When the breeders make up their mind to give the animals up, you have to go get them right away because the breeders will either change their mind or kill the animal.
Brown said those dogs have to have blood work done, dental work, and other veterinary services that cost about $500 to be ready to be adopted for $180.
“People are upset with us because we have to charge to adopt and we have to deal with that,” Brown said. “But they don’t realize all the costs we have associated with just that one animal.”
Lee County Sheriff’s Department and the Fort Madison Police rely on PAW when they encounter neglect. Brown and her staff have been known to go into Burlington, Illinois, Missouri and other places. She currently has four full-time staffers that make close to minimum wage, and then volunteer workers.
“Sometimes people think all we do here is pet kittens and walk dogs. They do not understand what kind of needs we have. I don’t even want anything from any of my kids for Christmas. If they all gave $10 to the shelter that would be just fine with me.” Brown said.
She said PAW has about 15,000 followers and said if everyone gave just $10 for the holidays that would mean $150,000 for the shelter. A shelter that spends more than $200,000 annually just on veterinarian services. Brown said those costs don’t include the costs of medicine and internal needs for the animals. She said the shelter has regular donors and benefits regularly from memorials and other contributions and the shelter pays their bills every month, but each month gets tighter and tighter.
Brown said the veterinarian costs should actually be about double, but the veterinarian the shelter uses in Hamilton works very well with the shelter as far as costs.
In July, the shelter was able to negotiate a land purchase with Hoenig Dairy Farm to the north. The Shelter has always leased the property from the Hoenigs, but are now close to starting to pay on the land. Brown said the PAW board wants to build a new shelter on land to the north and then convert the other buildings into usable space for the shelter.
Brown said the shelter is in decent shape with money coming in for the building fund at Connection Bank, but that money can’t be used for operations. The shelter has to begin paying the $127,500 on the new property in January under terms reached with the Hoenig family.
“They have been absolutely wonderful to us. They come down and plow our driveway and they just have been wonderful to work with,” Brown said.
“I just want somehow for people to be aware that even though we’re tucked way back here in the middle of nowhere, we still need the communities’ help. You’d think that everyone would know what we do here, but they don’t. They just know I’m the nasty lady in the “WOOF” hat,” Brown laughed. “We’re more a service to the community than people realize and these efforts carry costs. I’m a firm believer that to this point God has taken care of this shelter, and me, and these dogs out here.”
But in lieu of God’s intervention, she’s asking the community to find a couple bucks this year to donate to the shelter as they continue to grow and provide services. Donations can be made through the PAW facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PAW-Fort-Madison-Animal-Shelter-179648212052707.