How many times have you heard the story of a cute little dog with no collar for identification following a child home? “Can we keep him?” asks the child.
But not all dogs are as lucky.
Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters such as PawSafe Animal Rescue in Ellington, CT, every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats. The good news is that 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year. However, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year, a number which has been declining over time thanks to an increase in the percentage of animals adopted and an increase in the number of strays successfully returned to their owners.
PawSafe Animal Rescue – based out of Patterson, NY – officially opened in Ellington on May 15, 2019, but has been saving dogs, and sometimes cats, as a foster-based rescue since 1995.
“We are currently leasing the new shelter space at 110 Sandy Beach Road in Ellington, and feverishly trying to raise the funds needed to purchase the property and officially make it our own. We’ve placed thousands of dogs in forever homes, but finding a forever home for PawSafe Rescue so we can continue with this mission has always been our dream,” said Chrissy Preste, marketing coordinator for PawSafe Animal Rescue.
Preste noted that some of their adoptable animals are surrendered to them locally, but most are saved from high-kill shelters down South, where the homeless pet populations are “staggering.”
“Most come to us with names given to them by the shelter or by the veterinarian preparing them for transport, but we do name some of them ourselves. No one goes home without a name. We don’t believe in giving dogs ‘numbers.’ Then, most adoptive families give their pet a new name to start their new lives with,” Preste said.
The shelter typically has an average of 25-30 pets in their care, but can have upwards of double that amount at any given time based on the time of year and how many foster homes they have available to help.
“Fostering truly saves lives,” Preste said.
When a foster home is available to care for a litter of puppies or an adult dog, that frees a spot in the shelter for them to save another life. The experience that the dogs get in a foster home – attention, training, routine, exposure to new people and other pets and public outings – prepares them for their new lives as a family member and pet, not a shelter animal.
The shelter provides supplies for their fosters, so it only costs them their time and love. Volunteers are allowed to foster for just a day by taking a pup on what they call a “Snout and About” trip. For example, it could be a field trip to the volunteer’s home to play for the day, a hike, or a walk to practice their leash training.
Our longest foster periods are for those who open their homes to an expecting or nursing mama dog. If we have the opportunity to save not just one life, but the life of a mama and her litter of puppies, we line up a foster home that is committed to caring for them for around 8-9 weeks until the pups are ready to wean from their mother. We cannot save nearly as many dogs as we do without fostering and it is an imperative part of our success,” Preste said.
“The added value to fostering is that it can be a great way to decide if adding a puppy or adult dog is a good idea at all for your family, since it has a shorter-term commitment than adopting,” Preste said.
The volunteer and a foster for PawSafe tried to explain why someone would abandon their pet.
“I think people abandon their animals on the side of the road because they are either ashamed or just plain don’t care enough to surrender them to a shelter. I honestly don’t know how to answer this because I can’t imagine ever dumping an innocent animal,” she said.
Preste noted it’s true what you often hear, that rescue animals make great pets.
“All pets are very special. Rescues are said to spend their lives devoted to showing their owners just how appreciative they are for having saved them. We think they are extra special because they truly got a second chance at life,” she said.
Preste noted it is their goal to place homeless dogs in a permanent home as soon as they are ready to go home and have a perfect match, which usually takes under a month. However, we will care for all dogs as long as needed. During the adoption process, it is important to make the right match, puppy to home and new home to puppy.
“We have an adoption application that asks very specific questions about the type of home the applicant is able to provide their new pet, as well as to give us an idea of what traits they’re looking for in their new rescue,” Preste said.
Once an application is reviewed and approved, the family is invited to meet not just the dog that they are interested in from their picture and bio on the website, but all of their available dogs.
“Nearly 75% of the time we find that their new family member chooses them, and they do not end up leaving the shelter with the dog that they originally anticipated adopting. Meeting the dogs in person is required by PawSafe because we want to ensure that it is a true match. We would never allow an adoption to take place without a proper meeting,” Preste said.
Once a dog is matched and brought home, support is available for those adopting.
“We want all pets to be successful in their new homes once adopted and provide ample support to our adoptive families. There’s actually a clause in the signed adoption contract that if a family is unable to keep their rescue, it must be returned to us so we can ensure that it is safe and placed in a new, appropriate home. Our favorite way to stay in touch with families is in our wildly popular PawSafe Alumni Facebook group. Here adopters post updated pics of their growing pups, connect with the adoptive families of their dog’s siblings, and with their pup’s volunteer fosters. We absolutely love to get updates and seeing these dogs thrive in their new homes helps remind us why we do the work we do every day,” Preste said.
The Ellington shelter has open adoption hours on most Mondays and Wednesdays. However, they encourage people to submit an adoption application online prior to visiting to speed up the interview process.
“We are absolutely open for those who want to stop in, see what we are about, discuss whether they are ready to add a new furry family member to their home, and meet the adoptable pets in our care,” Preste said.
Preste has a message for those considering abandoning their pets.
“I encourage them to reach out to their local animal control or shelter for assistance, and remind them that abandoning your pet to fend for itself is illegal and punishable by law,” Preste said.
“I have two rescue dogs and two rescue cats in my home. Gizmo is a five-year-old poodle mix and Ming Ming is a two-year-old blind and deaf poodle mix. I work full time at a local animal hospital when I’m not volunteering, so yes, I am passionate and committed to helping animals in need,” she added.
For more information on PawSafe Animal Rescue, or to learn more about the adoption or foster process, visit pawsafe.org.
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