By Karen Hall
Animal-lovers are being encouraged to apply to work as volunteers at the Lewisburg Animal Shelter, and a volunteer has already saved a dog who was due to be euthanized this week.
Jazmine, a jet black, smiling pit bull mix, was able to be adopted Tuesday evening because a volunteer stayed late at the shelter to complete the transaction.
Wednesday, Dr. Tresha Grissom told Lewisburg Rotary Club members about Jazmine's adoption, and said she had just done a wellness exam for the dog and her new owner.
Aided by Grissom, PAWS Now board member Tisha Poling made a presentation to Rotary members, illustrating with pie charts how the balance at the shelter has changed since 2009, when most of the dogs were euthanized, to 2011, when most of the dogs left the shelter bound for new homes.
The difference was made by a group called LASA (Lewisburg Animal Shelter Adoptions), which formed with the mission to raise community awareness about the dogs in the shelter. LASA worked tirelessly to bring the pictures and descriptions of adoptable shelter dogs to the community through widely distributed flyers, and through the group's Facebook page. The group also worked with rescues all over the country to get dogs placed in homes, sometimes hundreds of miles away.
"We spent a year fighting the battle," Poling said. Then, she said, some group members came to realize, "This is a Band-Aid," and what was really needed was a way to control the exploding population of dogs in Marshall County. So they formed PAWS Now (Promoting Animal Welfare in the South Now) to promote community education and the development of low-cost spay and neuter programs.
LASA continues under the umbrella of PAWS Now.
"We'll be working together to keep dogs from going into the shelter, as well as get dogs adopted from the shelter," Poling said.
"I can't say enough about PAWS Now," said Lewisburg City Manager Tommy Engram, who was also a guest of the Rotary. "Government is a strange thing. It's actually about doing things people don't want to do themselves; lots of mundane, routine, hard jobs, and this (running an animal shelter) is one of them."
Engram is glad to have volunteers, and says even more are needed. Poling agreed with him, and pointed out even if you can't work at the shelter, there are other ways to help, like fostering a dog at your home, transporting dogs to their new homes, foster homes, or vet appointments, or posting and sharing pictures of adoptable dogs online and in the community.
"We'd like to save all the animals all the time," Engram said, while acknowledging this won't always be possible.
The city is ready to work with PAWS Now on plans for improving the animal shelter, either on its current site or somewhere else.
Volunteer applications are available at the animal shelter on Woodside Avenue, and at City Hall. The volunteer coordinator is Sarah Settles. With more volunteers, Saturday-morning adoptions will be possible, giving families who can't get to the shelter during the workweek a chance to adopt a dog.
The city is also working with PAWS Now and LASA to write a set of standard operating procedures, to be followed by everyone at the shelter. Also in progress is raising the adoption fee. This will allow administration of vaccines on intake, which will facilitate the adoption of dogs by other rescue organizations, and also ensure the dogs will be spayed or neutered (because some of the fee will be refunded when proof of the operation is brought back to the shelter).