Big hearts help furry friends

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P.A.W.R. co-founder Myriam Armstrong gets some puppy love from Marly, a two-year-old basset hound mix and Dakota, a young shepherd female who has been through a rough time and needs to heal, but who is really coming around. For details on these and other animals available for adoption, go to the group’s website at pawr.org.
P.A.W.R. co-founder Myriam Armstrong gets some puppy love from Marly, a two-year-old basset hound mix and Dakota, a young shepherd female who has been through a rough time and needs to heal, but who is really coming around. For details on these and other animals available for adoption, go to the group’s website at pawr.org.

A group in Chatham-Kent has joined the ranks of big-hearted people and organizations whose goal is to rescue stray, abandoned or injured animals and find them good homes.

Pet and Wildlife Rescue (P.A.W.R.), was launched in January of this year by co-founders Myriam Armstrong and Paula Ready, two area women who have been involved in animal rescue for many years.

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Part of the reason was the announcement of the disbandment of the Chatham-Kent Cat Advisory Team this March, according to Armstrong. This group was spaying, neutering and vaccinating colonies of stray cats in Chatham and educating the people feeding the cats in the neighbourhood. They will no longer be a committee of council in March, despite the fact the stray cat issue remains.

Armstrong said P.A.W.R. is joining forces with the volunteers from CKCAT, and is gearing up for the spring when their focus will be on trapping, neutering/spaying and releasing stray cats. On Feb. 26, World Spay Day, P.A.W.R. gave away three free spay/neuters to people who entered their name online to help families who want to have a pet fixed but often can’t afford it.

“About 3,000 cats per year are killed in Chatham and it is not helping bring down the stray cat population,” Armstrong said. “We need to educate people in each neighbourhood that just removing the cat doesn’t work.”

What the P.A.W.R. team will do is have each area with a cat colony in it register on the P.A.W.R. website at http://pawr.org/register-a-cat-colony/. The team will come and talk to the person who cares for and feeds the cats, then trap and fix the cats and release them, healthy, back to the same neighbourhood.

This process ensures other cats that are not fixed stay away, so that no more cats are produced and the caretaker can adjust the feeding schedule to a time when people can’t see them and be bothered.

Armstrong said it is a labour-intensive, two-week process, but in the end, is less costly than euthanizing the cats. The important part, she explained, is meeting with neighbours, explaining the process and why a healthy, fixed cat is better for the area. Once one colony is done, P.A.W.R. moves on to the next.

To help with the program, P.A.W.R. is looking for people in the area who have a heated garage or factory where cats could be kept in crates and looked after for about three days until their release. To help, go to the group’s website.

The group has 60-70 people involved and are always looking for more volunteers.

Despite being up and running for only a couple of months, P.A.W.R. has been successful in matching animals with adoptive families.

“In January alone, we adopted out 34 animals, which included a goldfish,” Armstrong laughed.

Dogs and cats aren’t the only clients the group has. Animals up for adoption include bunnies released to them from the OSPCA, and while P.A.W.R. doesn’t actually take in and treat wildlife, they can direct people to local groups that will rescue and rehabilitate wild turtles, birds, racoons, deer and many other species.

What Armstrong said her group really needs currently is people willing to foster until an adoptive family can be found. P.A.W.R. will also temporarily foster animals for situations such as a family fleeing an abusive situation. While a family is in a shelter, their pet can be fostered until new lodgings are found.

“We are hoping to get more fosters, especially for the big dogs. P.A.W.R. will pay for everything – food and supplies in most cases,” Armstrong said. “We are also looking for donations of food and supplies, even old sheets to cover traps. There is so much need with dogs that are in situations they can’t control. We are looking for people who can take a dog even for a little while.”

Volunteers can help with many things for the group as well. Transporting animals to the vet, picking up donations, helping with fundraisers and various other jobs that always need doing.

The group recently ran an online auction, which netted $2,222, and a Chip My Valentine event at PetValu in Chatham. There are many more events planned for the year, such as a Pet Jamboree on Father’s Day weekend in June and another Chip My Pet event planned for PetValu in London on March 29.

Armstrong said they would love to take all the animals that come their way, but sadly, they can only take as many animals as they have fosters for and they do the best they can with the resources they have.

One thing that she has noticed is that generally, the people with the biggest hearts sometimes have the smallest purses, but are willing to give whatever money and time they can afford.

“It’s so nice that people in this area understand a community effort – we need that community support,” Armstrong said.

Kids can get in on the volunteering with the group’s compassion ambassador program. The kids can do projects at school or fundraisers with P.A.W.R. help and get a certificate naming them a compassion ambassador. The details of the program, pets up for adoption and info on the group is available online or on the group’s Facebook page.

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