By Stephen Smoot
The Pendleton Animal Welfare Shelter gathered to celebrate the Christmas season and to hear about progress made throughout 2023. First, the official meeting was held, followed by a reception. Members brought homemade baked sweets and other goodies and had chances to win Christmas themed door prizes.
Thirteen members were present, as well as Roger Dahmer, county commissioner.
Amber Nesselrodt, president of the board of directors, opened with a discussion of updating the Pendleton County Commission on activities throughout the year, specifically those funded by commission support. One of the major accomplishments of the year lay in “acquiring a ‘new to us’ van” which became “significant in transporting animals back and forth.”
Financial support for PAWS came from a number of sources. Besides the funds from the county, they run a summer flea market, hold a spaghetti dinner, have a partnership with Swilled Dog, and receive a number of discounts and donated funds and supplies. They are, however, “looking at new ideas for fundraising.”
The Swilled Dog partnership helped to pay for a flight of 16 dogs to new homes in Michigan.
One innovative thought applied this year was a pet photo booth at the US Capitol Christmas Tree event.
PAWS also received a key state grant to support spay and neuter programs. Kristin Dingess, vice president of the PAWS board, stated that “if it wasn’t for donations, sponsors, and discounts, we’d never be able to make it.”
Nesselrodt introduced new members to the board. These included Lauren Hagman and also Constance Heavenrich, who also replaces Chelsey Simmons as organizational treasurer.
Jane Seegar, secretary for PAWS, reported that they had fostered 15 dogs and directly facilitated adoptions for 54 cats and two dogs, “but we know there were a lot more dogs than that.” She explained that many dogs taken in by PAWS do not get adopted directly from them. Seegar explained that “our pets are in demand in Northern Virginia because they’re fully vetted, socialized, and don’t have parasites.”
Shelters in Virginia and some as far away as Long Island in New York, Philadelphia, and Michigan have taken dogs from PAWS. While PAWS does not collect adoption fees for them, it also does not have to take back returns from households that decide to not keep their pets. PAWS has no space to handle returns.
Sue Prail, second vice president, noted, “A lot of rural counties send their pets to urban areas because there’s a demand for pets.”
Seegar described the impact of the work of PAWS and other such organizations around the country. Across the nation in 1980, animal welfare organizations euthanized 17 million pounds of animals. In 2022, that number dropped to under one million. Sterilization, more focus on adoption, and other measures have prevented millions of animals from facing death from welfare agency hands.
In Pendleton County alone, 374 cats were sterilized in the first 11 months of 2023.
The organization has also issued a call for volunteers. They need individuals who can transport animals, perform cleaning, work on fundraisers, help with the board, and more.
Seegar said at the end of the meeting, “Everyone is doing terrific work.”