As Americans last week prepared to face the historic Hurricane Dorian — which tore through the Bahamas and Florida’s Atlantic coast — a Chicago-based animal welfare organization rushed to save dozens of dogs and cats from pre-storm euthanasia.
PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) Chicago spent a frantic week clearing high-kill shelters for evacuation ahead of the powerful storm and focused efforts on pets that had already been in the shelter before Dorian hit.
High kill shelters are those which do not have time limits and euthanize otherwise healthy, adoptable animals to make space for newcomers.
In an official statement, the organization said that animals saved from natural disasters require immediate and particular medical attention.
“Animals rescued from natural disasters are often traumatized, sometimes injured and all need immediate medical care,” PAWS said. “We know several of the Florida rescues have heartworm, which requires months of medicine and foster care. We suspect ringworm will also arrive with the pets.”
The organization was founded in 1997 by Paula Fasseas and her daughter Alexis after their family adopted a stray dog that appeared out of nowhere during their vacation in Greece.
“We were visiting Crete. It was after my father had passed away and we wanted to pay tribute to his heritage and share it with the children and out of nowhere, this gorgeous animal appeared and began following us everywhere,” Paula told The Pappas Post. “I swear he resembled my father in so many ways — his mannerisms, his look.”
They named the little white terrier Pippen and fell in love immediately, returning to their native Chicago and getting more involved in the animal rights movement. Alexis, who was in high school at the time, volunteered at the city pound and learned about the fate of tens of thousands of helpless animals.
Since then, PAWS has become a highly reputable, nationally supported charity in a city that once euthanized nearly 50,000 dogs and cats per year in the city pound.
Although not completely “no-kill” yet, thanks to PAWS’ efforts Chicago’s numbers have been reduced to just over 10,000 animals euthanized annually.
PAWS Chicago volunteers have also traveled into the eye of storms — literally — rescuing animals that were displaced during tornadoes or storms throughout the United States. Their efforts after Hurricane Katrina to rescue hundreds of dogs and cats received international news coverage.
At its 16th Chicago Fur Ball black tie gala in November 2017, the organization raised $1.3 million, and more than 800 people and 200 dogs attended.
The Fur Ball is PAWS’ annual fundraising event that showcases rescue cats and dogs for adoption. The gala includes a number of activities for the pets to participate in, such as buffets and “paw-dicures” while the humans engage in live auctions and raffles.
PAWS also hosts an annual Holiday Adopt-A-Thon — a two-day adoption marathon intended to help homeless pets find a home in time for the holidays. The marathon aims to minimize the number of homeless pets being euthanized in animal shelters during a season when shelters tend to remain short-staffed.
In 2017, PAWS found homes for more than 100 homeless pets during the annual event.
In the video below, co-founders Paula and Alexis Fasseas tell the story of how and why the founded the organization — while highlighting its mission and work.
See the video
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