Spotlight on Paws in the City

Dogtime salutes Dallas’s Paws in the City.

How did your organization get started?
Tara Harper and Becky Haisma wanted to make a difference at the Dallas City Shelter. They wanted to decrease the number of dogs and cats that were being euthanized by the city (roughly 30,000 at that shelter alone a year). So they created the nonprofit, Paws in the City. Then they met with the Dallas Animal Services director and made a unique arrangement to have the city dogs and cats attend weekly adoption events on Saturdays in hopes of creating more adoptions. They also started taking in the animals scheduled for euthanizia at the city due to medical issues or space issues.

They thought Easter wouldn’t make it

This was at the same time that Hurricane Katrina hit and Paws took in 30 dogs and 10 cats from a no-kill shelter in New Olreans and teamed up with a pilot to take dogs from Mississippi. So right from the start of our organization, we had our hands full. We then decided we needed to raise more funds by having fun and unique fundraising events, and today we are proud of our annual Top Hat & Tails sit-down dinner and celebrity dance contest as well as our four smaller events throughout the year like Martinis for Mutts. Our organization now has over 150 active volunteers.

What is your mission?
Paws In The City is an all-volunteer nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization committed to ending the abuse, neglect, and overpopulation of Dallas area dogs and cats. Our goal is that every adoptable dog and cat get a loving home. By providing money for spay/neuter and increasing the adoption rate, we take the first step in making Dallas a no-kill city.

How do most of your animals find their way to you?
The majority come from the City of Dallas shelter. We take in the ones that will not make the city’s adoption program because they have minor medical issues that can be treated such as heartworms or mange. We also take in the ones that have been there too long and will be euthanized for space. Others usually come to us because an active volunteer found a stray.

What happens to the animals once they are in your care?
They are initially seen by a vet, receive vaccinations, are neutered, tested for heartworms and treated if necessary for any illness. They are then placed in a foster home if available or at one of the boarding facilities that give us special rates. If a dog has any behavioral issues, they work with one of our trainers. They are posted on our website and attend weekly adoption events to find a forever home.

Tell us about a particularly compelling animal or inspiring rescue.
Here a story about Easter weekend 2009. It is not typical but shows the lengths we go to help our furry friends: One week we rescued six dogs from the Dallas city shelter who were going to be “put to sleep” because of heartworms, an eye issue, and a hernia. No other rescue group would take them due to their “issues.” They went to our vet and were put in isolation. They began treatment and were doing fine.

Hudson, now in a happy home

Truman was adopted on the day the vet cleared them for foster care. A few days later, Melissa, who was fostering Pirate, called to say Pirate was sick. The vet suspected distemper. The next day, we got a call from Percy’s foster that he was sick. It was Saturday before Easter and he was brought to an emergency vet. Then Truman’s new dad called and said Truman was sick. In the meantime, a volunteer called us and said she met a family who wanted to give up their six-week-old puppy. She knew if it went in the city shelter it would be euthanized as it was so young. She brought it to our vet and the puppy tested positive for Parvo. Then another foster parent called; Duffy was throwing up and lethargic. He went to the emergency vet on Easter day.

Parker, now in a happy home

While Bethany was at the emergency vet with Percy, a couple came in with a bloody dog they found on the side of the road. They said the shelter had turned them away. The vet would not help this dog unless the couple paid for services. They could not afford to do so, so they asked the vet to euthanize her to put her out of her misery. The vet said, yes, but it will cost to do that too. The woman fell to her knees crying. Bethany offered to pay. Then, the doctor said he felt the dog could be saved if anyone wanted to pay for it. Bethany called Paws in the City. Long story short, the dog we named Easter was a bait dog from a dog fighting ring and had bite wounds that were infected. She was probably thrown out of a car and had road rash. She was also badly infected with heartworms. She had lots of dead tissue and we did not know if she would survive, but she made a full recovery and was adopted by her foster parents.

We took the six city dogs to a specialist on distemper. We are very sorry to report that we lost Pirate and Truman. They were puppies who had not been vaccinated while at the city shelter and had yet to build up an immune system. At least they lived in a home in their final days eating “people food” and sleeping in a bed. They died knowing they were loved as they left this world. Cookie, Percy, Hudson, and Parker recovered and all are adopted. The puppy with Parvo recovered and is living in a loving home. Duffy had an intestinal infection, recovered and is living in a forever home. All of these dogs would have died if not for Paws in the City: we take in dogs most rescue groups would avoid.