We recently had the opportunity to interview Lauren Campagnini, an Adoption Center Counselor at PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society). She discussed her work with the PAWS organization and the challenge of finding loving homes for many stray animals currently living on the streets of Philly.
Q:How and when did you get involved with PAWS?
A: I have been working for PAWS for 3 years. I learned about the organization through a friend who started volunteering about a year prior and knew I wanted to be a part of this organization. Right around the time I was going to start volunteering, a position opened and I was lucky enough to be offered the job.
Q:What appeals to you most about the PAWS mission?
A: I am so passionate about the welfare of animals and PAWS is dedicated to saving lives—enabling Philadelphia to become a city where no animal loses their life because they don’t have a home. The staff and volunteers work so hard and are some of the most dedicated people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I love being a part of an organization dedicated to making sure that every animal goes to a loving home.
Q:What do you see as the greatest challenge in addressing the number of stray and feral cats in the city?
A: Successful TNR (trap, neuter, return) and community cat efforts—like free or low-cost spay/neuter availability—require coordinated efforts among enough skilled volunteers. While there are now a number of incredibly organized, effective, and committed groups doing the work, and there have been more spay/neuter programs available in recent years, it takes a sustained effort—over many years—to make an impact in a city as large as Philadelphia. There is also a tremendous need to educate the public about spay/neuter—why TNR programs are beneficial—and what help is available to them if they have a pet they cannot keep, so that it doesn’t end up on the street.
Q:Have you adopted from PAWS yourself?
A: I did adopt a cat from PAWS. I met on my very first day in the building, and four months later I took her home. She had been through a lot in the shelter and was extremely stressed out and would lash out. I could tell she just needed a space to relax and decompress. I’ve had her for almost three years, and she has come such a long way. Since rescuing her, I have fostered a few kittens and plan to continue fostering others.
Q:What is the approximate success rate of PAWS adoptions?
A: PAWS is a no-kill shelter, which means that every animal we rescue stays with us until we find it a home. We want to get our dogs and cats adopted as soon as possible, so that we can make room for others whose lives depend on it, but we also pride ourselves on great matchmaking. We get to know each animal’s needs and each adopter’s preferences, lifestyle, and experience, so that we are more likely to make matches that last a lifetime. Sometimes that happens very quickly—in just a day or two—and other times it can take weeks or even months.
We are really proud of our track record: only 4% of animals we adopt out are returned to us, which is much lower than average. Of course, we are dedicated to the animals we rescue for their entire lives, so if at any point, for any reason, they are unable to stay with their family and we can’t help their adopter find them a suitable new home, we are always here to take them back into our shelter.
Editor’s Note: Interested in adopting? Read these 5 steps for rescuing a shelter pet.
Q:What other organizations does PAWS partner with in the course of its work?
A: In our role as a no-kill shelter, we are the largest lifesaving partner to city’s animal control shelter, ACCT Philly. We began nearly 11 years ago as a volunteer-driven, lifesaving effort from within animal control, and our mission to save the lives of dogs and cats who land there has never wavered. PAWS staff and volunteers go to ACCT Philly nearly every day, rescuing as many animals as space allows.
In general, PAWS considers itself to be a partner to all animal welfare organizations in the city, in that we are all working in our respective ways to make Philadelphia a safer, more humane place for pets. Through our two low-cost clinics, we offer other rescue organizations and TNR groups affordable spay/neuter and basic veterinary care, enabling them to do as much for as many animals as possible with their limited budgets. All of these efforts are essential to our overall mission of leading Philadelphia to become a no-kill city.
Q:Are there any common misconceptions about pet adoption you’d like to see corrected?
A: There are a lot of misconceptions that shelter animals are damaged or they are “set in their ways” and can’t be trained. Seeing the hundreds of animals come through the shelter and seeing where they’ve come from, they all have one thing in common; they want to be loved and give love. Some of them have a harder time trusting new people or they are afraid of loud noises or maybe they have some weird quirks. However, they all want to be loved and give love in their own unique way.
Many of the animals that find themselves in a shelter are there not because of something they did, but instead due to unfortunate circumstances. Many animals are surrendered because their owner moves and doesn’t find pet friendly housing. Many strays lived in a home at some point but maybe got out of the yard or off their leash. Many animals are surrendered when they act out in a stressful situation like a new pet or the birth of a new child has not being introduced slowly. All shelter staff are available to provide assistance and counseling if pet owners need advice. A lot of the time people just don’t know what to do in situations and the pet loses their home. Animals that are in shelters are just as loving, trainable, and deserving of a home as any other animal.
Q:What have you learned while working with PAWS that you’d like the public to know?
A:We have worked incredibly hard over the years to provide excellent care to as many animals as possible, while also offering the people who step forward to adopt, foster, and volunteer a great experience with us. We are always trying to improve and do more, and create a safe, comfortable, healthy space for the animals we’ve rescued until we can find them great homes.
I’d also like the public to know how easy it is to help homeless animals, even if you already have a full house. You don’t have to adopt: you can foster, volunteer your time, donate supplies or money, or just spread the word to family and friends. The smallest effort can mean the difference between life and death for an animal who needs you, and it is rewarding beyond words to know that you’ve enabled even one to find the loving home it deserves.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.