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Sanibel pet rescue needs helping paw to stay open

By Staff | Aug 21, 2009

Helping one animal may not change the world, but will make a world of difference to that one animal. – PAWS motto

A 20-year non-profit organization devoted to helping the islands stray and abandoned pets find homes and get medical care if needed faces closing its doors if more volunteers are not recruited.

PAWS Rescue of Sanibel might be forced to disband and stop its services if the man-power strapped organization does not get some more people to help run the operation, said PAWS president Kathy Boone during an interview from her home in upstate N.Y.

Boone who has run PAWS for nearly a decade said volunteers and donations are needed to run the island rescue.

The long-time volunteer and leader said she lives five months out of the year in upstate, N.Y. and the rest of the time in Fort Myers. She said at this point she needs someone who lives close by to replace her position.

“I need people who can respond more quickly than me,” Boone said.

The no-kill organization takes has a basic holding facility for stray pets on Sanibel. They use this facility until pets are taken for a medical exam at the Coral Veterinary Clinic on Sanibel and then placed in nearby foster homes. Boone said PAWS takes in about 30 animals a year – mostly stray cats. Dogs which they find now and then are usually returned back to their owners, Boone said. But cats are often found with out any microchip or other identification. Often owners have moved and the cat becomes homeless.

While they are awaiting permanent homes the under five-member organization fosters the pets or in some cases nurses them back to health.

In August PAWS received four stray animals including two needing major surgery.

“I never know when were going to get a call,” Boone said.

Boone often gets call from the Sanibel Police Department when people have died and their pets remain in the home. For this reason Boone urges pet owners to make provisions for their pets in wills.

“They’re an important part of the family,” she said. “It’s the least we can do for our pets.”

But whether it’s do to an unexpected death, moving, foreclosure or allergies, some pets on the islands are winding up homeless and dependent on the one local rescue.

The agency subsists on donations from the community. The donations help care for the pets and pay for medical treatments. In some cases these medical needs are dire. Recently a dog named Red was found wandering the streets of Sanibel. When found, Red immediately endeared herself to the volunteers with her friendly, sweet disposition that never wavered despite the fact she was suffering from a tumor pressing on her ear canal. PAWS paid for Red to get surgery on her ear. She is still recuperating in the hospital but staff are hoping to have a home for to go to after he heals. PAWS is also hoping to collect donations for her vital but pricey surgery.

Donations, foster homes and pet transporters are needed to keep PAWS in operation.

Volunteers are the lifeline for the pets.

Diane Barr, a local realtor and resident volunteers for PAWS. She said its the pets that keep the busy business and family woman volunteering. She recalls a Shiba Inu/shepherd mix found tied to a tree.

“It broke my heart,” Barr said.

But Barr’s voice softened when she recalled “Sanibel’s” happy ending.

“She went to a nice home with another dog,” she said.

Barr does PR, advertising and whatever else is needed for PAWS.

“I wish I could do more,” she said.

Boone has her own stories. She can’t forget the kitten tossed out of a moving car on Periwinkle Way. He survived. And she can’t shake the image of a cat left by their owners in a trailer with the toilet open for water and some food nearby.

But at least these stray, abused and homeless pets have PAWS – for now.

“If I don’t get help we have to make a hard decision,” Boone said.

To volunteer or donate, call Boone at 839-5215.