'All Paws on Deck' Approach Helps Local Animal Shelter to Thrive

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Just as lost, abandoned and abused dogs and cats rely on Dorchester Paws to provide them with food, necessary medical care, a roof over their head, compassion and the hope of finding a permanent home, the Summerville-based shelter depends on its monthly donors and its volunteers for support when they are needed the most.

Interim Director Maddie Moore points out that emergencies are common in the shelter's aging building but adds that regular donors - more than 100 people and organizations who collectively contribute between $3,500 and $4,000 a month - help take the sting out of unexpected expenses.

"We know we can rely on them when food is running low or the air conditioning stops working in the hottest month of the year," she says. "They are our community of hope. We have an old building, and, when pipes burst, toilets are not working or internet wires need to be replaced, those things are not in the budget. We like most of our donations to go to our animals and their care."

Dorchester Paws, which can house 80 dogs and 101 cats on its campus, is financially responsible for taking care of around 300 animals - including those in foster care - at a cost of approximately $25 a day. However, Moore notes that without the organization's monthly donors, emergency expenses would make it difficult to make ends meet. For example, she says that during a 10-day stretch in May, the shelter was hit with nearly $2,000 in bills to repair its internet system and two computer towers and replace a worn out water pump.

"We needed that emergency rainy day fund," she says.

Regular financial contributions are critical to the success of the shelter, but the volunteers who donate their time and talent are just as important, according to Moore. They handle a variety of tasks, from washing dishes and collecting and crushing aluminum cans - which earns $400 to $600 a month for Dorchester Paws - to assisting in the spay and neuter clinic, where up to 40 animals a day are treated. And, of course, they also help the dogs get the exercise they need.

"We like to get every dog out of the kennel at least once a day, and, with only four kennel techs, that's not feasible," Moore says. "Our volunteers walk them and take them out and give them toys and the love and affection they need to make their time here a little better."

Volunteers even have the opportunity to participate in Dorchester Paws' "Date with a Dog" program. They can take a dog off campus for an afternoon of fun, and, in addition to providing the animal with exercise, one-on-one companionship and a taste of the outside world, the program provides valuable information to Moore and her staff of 25.

"You can tell us if the dog likes the beach or whether he does well in the car," she points out, adding that all volunteers receive training before they are permitted to donate their time to the shelter.

A look at a typical week will explain why monthly donors and volunteers are critical to the shelter's mission. During a seven-day period in May, Dorchester Paws took in 115 animals, set up 61 adoptions, used 300 pounds of food, administered 245 vaccinations, placed 85 animals in foster homes, helped re-unite nine animals with their owners and transported three animals out of the shelter.