Pet Care Blends With People Care at PAWS/LA
When Nadia Sutton founded PAWS/LA 20 years ago, she had a specific goal in mind: helping people suffering from HIV and AIDS to care for their pets. For Sutton, the goal was personal. She had recently watched as a close friend suffering from AIDS was forced to give up his two cats. He quickly became depressed, saying that losing his cats was like losing a main reason to live. Sutton knew she had to help him keep his pets and, in doing so, she watched him gain a reason to fight.
This experience was the birth of PAWS/LA, a facility that has since expanded its scope to assist low-income and homebound seniors and those living with chronic or life-threatening illnesses. Today, PAWS/LA serves more than 1,800 disenfranchised animal guardians and over 3,000 companion animals.
The Power of Pets
People form incredibly strong bonds with their animal companions — but often, times when people are most in need of the love and comfort they receive from their pets are the most difficult times for them to keep and care for an animal. When people are suffering from illness, are homebound, or are disenfranchised by low incomes, they are often unable to provide the care their pets need. Losing a pet, especially during trying times, can add to existing stress and, in some cases, can even mean the difference between life and death.
But the companionship and love a pet offers can keep people going during trying and dark times. For this reason, PAWS/LA is dedicated to preserving this bond between owner and pet. When people are suffering and losing control of so much, PAWS/LA makes sure they do not have to worry about losing their beloved pets as well.
Founder Nadia Sutton put it best while talking about why she started PAWS/LA back in 1989. “You can take all the medicine in the world," she said, "but if your heart is broken, how can you survive?” PAWS/LA makes sure that hearts — both pet and human — are kept intact and beating.
Pet Care With a Heart in the Heart of Hollywood
A visit to the organization's spacious headquarters in downtown LA offers a glimpse into the true scope of the operation. Stacks of dog food are piled on pallets floor to ceiling — enough to feed 3,000 pets per month, most of it loaded and delivered by volunteers to those most in need.
The offices are run by a small, full-time staff of only five people. With people constantly dropping in to pick up food, volunteer deliveries to be set up, clients' phone calls and vet appointments to be made, and fundraising events to be planned, the entire space hums with activity.
“We handle everything from flea care to sending volunteers out to our homebound clients to clean, feed, water, and walk pets that are in need of care,” says Pamela Magette, PAWS/LA's Executive Director. “With the economy the way it is right now, we’re busier than ever.”
The principle of PAWS/LA is to make sure that people and their animals are treated like individuals, not numbers. So the organization goes above and beyond, providing vaccinations and pet food. If you are a client, PAWS/LA can help with your dog, cat, or bird. Providing pet food is the main form of help. But the PAWS/LA warehouse also stocks leashes, pet carriers, flea care products and other necessities.
Keeping Pets Healthy
Veterinary care is another primary function of PAWS/LA. Treating a pet can get expensive, especially when emergency care takes you by surprise. PAWS/LA can help with routine and emergency care for pets by working with a number of local vets, helping clients set up veterinary visits, and paying for visits.
The organization also offers foster care to pets that need care when an owner is forced to be away for an extended time. PAWS/LA maintains a network of volunteers that will take pets into their home and care for them while a client is away. But the cost of going to great lengths to keep people together with their pets can be very expensive.
Volunteering and Donating
“We always need volunteers of all types,” Magette says. “We welcome any level of involvement from those looking to help out.” PAWS/LA makes up the rest of their funding from various grants, fundraisers and individual donors.
Keeping the Love Alive
At the end of the day, pets improve the quality of people’s lives. They can keep the elderly engaged, help the sick fighting to get better, and give those who are down on their luck the courage to stand back up again. Pets provide companionship and unconditional love. And PAWS/LA exists to make sure the gifts of a pet stay where the heart is: at home.
If you're interested in donating or volunteering, or if you want more information on PAWS/LA or similar organizations in your area, visit www.pawsla.org.
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