The Capital Area Animal Welfare Society (CAAWS) is a private, all volunteer 501(c)3 nonprofit organization devoted to the prevention of animal suffering and animal overpopulation. Our primary function is to assist the public with low cost spay/neuter coupons and provide low income spay surgeries when available in an effort to reduce pet overpopulation. We also provide educational programs and circulate information to the general public about the benefits of Spay/Neuter, and to place animals in our care into permanent, responsible, loving homes.
Recently we had a dog, since dubbed by our volunteers Jimmy, abandoned at our facility. This dog was tossed violently over our fence (which was unlocked and could easily have been opened) in the middle of the day by a man in a white pickup truck who apparently didn’t know we had surveillance cameras. Unfortunately this is not the first–nor will it be the last I’m sure–of the animals “dumped” at our facility.
It is incredibly heartbreaking that it comes down to the numbers, that it comes down to the finances, but until America wakes up, starts spaying and neutering their animals, and stops abusing and abandoning our four-legged friends there is simply a finite amount of resources to facilitate taking care of these abused and abandoned animals.
How CAAWS operates is through a combination of a base of about 60 active volunteers who help take care of the dogs and cats we have housed at our building and through foster parents’ homes. Our volunteers and fosters are not paid: this is 100% out of the kindness of their hearts. We do not have a paid staff; our volunteers are our staff. They take care of the abandoned, unwanted or discarded animals by loving them, feeding them, bathing them, cleaning up after them, providing medical care for them and playing with them. Sometimes their touch is the only loving contact they have ever received. Our Volunteers make sure their physical and emotional needs are being met on a day to day basis. CAAWS, through our donations, covers all expenses.
While our desire to help pets is limitless, our capabilities are limited. We only have a certain space within the confines of the building for housing our dogs and cats in a humane, comfortable, healthy, ethical manner. We also have only a certain amount of foster homes available. We have limited space, and we only bring animals into our program when we have an opening. We are a no kill facility, meaning once the animal is in our program they will remain in our program until they have found their forever home. If this takes five days, five weeks, or five years makes no difference: They are with us until they have a permanent, loving family to call their own.
We are full. We are always full. We will always be full. Why? Because if we adopt one animal out, we are then able to take one animal in. There is never a time where an empty kennel sits waiting for its next inhabitant, nor is there is ever a time when an empty foster home waits for its new foster baby, for more than a week. One goes out, two go out, three go out: One comes in, two come in, three come in.
Since we are not a public, city-funded facility like Animal Control, we do not have the space for unexpected drop offs, because we never have space to spare. At this time we are actually over our normal capacity for dogs by 4 dogs at our building. This puts a stress on our volunteers and it stresses out the other dogs at the shelter from the overcrowding. Our fosters are full. Our cat program is full. And as always. we are not only full, but have a waiting list of dogs and cats waiting for that one space to open up.
So when someone is either misguided and thinks that dumping a cat or a dog at our facility when we are not there is the right thing to do, or simply does not care that it is not the right thing to do, it creates a huge problem for our organization and our volunteers, as well as for the cat or dog that was dumped. Dumped animals are rarely dumped with their shot records or vet histories. Many are sick with diseases we cannot afford to spread into our facility or bring into our foster homes. It also means that dog or cat we have on hold with a local animal control will probably die because the next space that opens up won’t be available for it. Or the next person who has arranged to surrender an animal by following the proper format will now have to wait even longer, being “punished” for doing the right thing.
We do understand that the majority of the people who dump their dogs and cats do so because they believe they are doing the right thing for that dog or cat. These misguided people believe that rather than dumping it on the side of the road it is better to drop it off at CAAWS because at least someone will be looking after it.
However, we ask that you consider that those actions have repercussions, not only for the dumper– as it is illegal to abandon an animal in East Baton Rouge Parish– but for that animal, for the animals currently at our facility, for the animals that remain on the waiting list because the abandoned dog has now taken their spot, for the animals that remain in kill shelters that will no longer have an opportunity to be pulled for our facility. There are repercussions for our volunteers in their heartbreak for the abandoned animal, in hours spent extra due to the extra work, in money spent on vet expenses for the abandoned animal. There are also safety risks for our volunteers, for possible attack from a dog that is terrified and lost everything that it has known. There are safety risks to the dog itself if it escapes before we find it or dies from dehydration because it is left out in the heat of summer without a care for its safety. The risk of an abandoned animal bringing diseases into our shelter is extremely high. We have a responsibility to protect our current animals first and foremost.
There are alternatives. Please reach out to us. Please call us at 225-752-5801, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have spay and neuter programs that can assist you in getting your animals spayed and neutered to stop producing unwanted puppies and kittens, the very same puppies and kittens that will very likely get dumped or abandoned at our shelter or at Animal Control. In our Public Assistance Program you can bring the animal up to CAAWS for our Adoption Days and we will screen potential homes for you. We have resources and knowledge. We will help you as much as we possibly can, that’s what we’re here for.
In the meantime, to best help us we need two things to keep CAAWS going: money and volunteers, both in-house and as fosters, and we can always use more of both. If you’d like to volunteer we have several ways you can help so you’re sure to find something that’s right for you. If you would like to support CAAWS with a financial donation we have several options available including becoming a member of CAAWS.
– Article contributed by CAAWS volunteer Kelly H, with input from Julie A & Glenda P