By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
When Rachel Herman, founder and president of PAWS NY, would pass by homeless people, her heart would ache. When she saw people and their pets with no place to go, she wanted to do more than share some of the small change in her pocket.
“I asked myself ‘Are there other people in New York that have pets but struggle to provide adequate care for them?’” she says. “And how can I provide more meaningful assistance? After some research, I recognized that there was a huge need and no organization in New York City to provide for that need. So, I formed a Board of Directors and I founded PAWS NY in 2008.”
Making an Impact
Many of PAWS NY’s clients are homebound and can no longer care for their pets. A client named Joan with stage 4 lung cancer was receiving at-home hospice care and had a dog and cat. “Due to her deteriorating health, Joan was unable to take care of her pets,” says Rachel. “For Joan, her pets were her sole source of companionship and they provided her with so much love and support throughout her life. The most important thing to Joan was knowing that her pets would be taken care of after she was gone. We assured her that we would do everything in our power to find them loving, forever homes when the time came. Our assistance made it possible for Joan to keep her pets during her very difficult time, and then after she passed away, we did find a wonderful new home for her pets.”
For Marge, who suffers from dementia, caring for her elderly dog became impossible once she was hospitalized. A PAWS NY volunteer visits Marge in the hospital and has been fostering her dog for the entire time.
Many of PAWS NY volunteers are young professionals who are looking to do something meaningful in their free time. All love animals but can’t have them, either because their buildings don’t allow pets or they don’t feel they are home enough to have a pet. “We are flexible with the time commitment of our volunteers because the needs of our clients vary so much,” says Rachel. “Some clients need sporadic care, such as transportation to and from the vet; while others need more regular and consistent assistance, such as daily dog walking. The most important thing is to find the best possible match between client and volunteer. The most typical time commitment is a 30 minute dog walking assignment once or twice per week.”
PAWS NY currently has 120 trained volunteers in New York City’s five boroughs, and is in need of more. Volunteers must be at least 18, love animals, and have a desire to help people in need. “All we ask is that volunteers think carefully about their involvement beforehand as consistency for our clients is very important,” says Rachel.
Volunteers must attend orientation and fill out a volunteer application. To learn more or to register for an upcoming orientation, click here.
Contact PAWS NY at 917-733-2170 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about services. A preliminary phone interview determines whether the individual qualifies for services. If they qualify, a home visit is arranged. “This provides us with an opportunity to meet the client and their pet, and see the environment in which they are living,” says Rachel. “We will not send a volunteer into a situation that we are not comfortable with. At this assessment, the client is required to fill out paperwork.”
PAWS NY relies on the generosity of the public. “As a start-up and all volunteer organization, we have not had the ability to concentrate a lot of our time on fundraising,” says Rachel. “Almost all of our time is dedicated to ensuring our clients are receiving the care they need. Additional funding will allow us to grow and enhance the assistance we are able to provide our clients. To date, we have held a couple of fundraising events, and the rest of our money has been raised through our website and word of mouth.”