Street Paws needs a shelter!
Let me start at the beginning of why Street Paws was created. This is Kristi, I am the founder of Street Paws.
I have always had a passion for animals since a young age. I grew up with many cats and dogs in our family. We lived a modest life. We never had much but family. When I was a teenager my parents divorced and after the divorce, we had to move to the country in a small trailer which is all that my mom could afford. I started working when I was 14 in a stable that housed Clydesdale horses to help my mom. Little did I know at the time is that started me on the path that I am following today.
When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I went to the county dump in Cataula, GA (Harris County-where I lived) with my boyfriend Doyle Ledbetter to drop off some trash. This was a very country area and we did not have an animal control. The only option was to call the Sheriff to shoot a dog that was a problem. While at the dump I saw a litter of puppies that were deformed. I did not have any resources to help them back then or the knowledge of how to help them other than to feed them. My boyfriend was driving my truck back to town (Columbus, GA) and I told him to stop at the feed store so I could buy some food. He drove past the feed store. Of course, I was pretty angry at this point. He realized about halfway back to town that I was very serious. He asked me if I planned to break up with him when I got into town. I told him yes! He turned my truck around and went back to the feed store. I then went back to the dump and left a large bag of food on the ground for them. I went by and dropped off a bag weekly until I never saw them again. I vowed that day that I would help animals one day somehow. I planned to start a shelter in Harris County. I even told my Mom that if anything ever happened to me I wanted my measly life insurance from my job to go towards a shelter in that county.
I ended up moving to Metro Atlanta. When I started working in the Pratt & Whitney building for UPS in a very bad neighborhood. I came across many dogs in an area where homeless people lived, and trash was dumped. I found several dogs, many of them pits and bait dogs, some of them I was able to get into rescue but there was a Great Dane that I found that I thought was dead but when I got up close it was still alive. I have never seen a dog in such bad shape. It was skin and bones only and had maggots all over it. I will never forget that day. It still brings me to tears thinking about it. I called Animal Control and stayed there with him until they could come get him. I am sure they had to put him to sleep but they told me the vet at Fulton County would examine him and see if they could help him.
I think over 2 years I helped 50 dogs into rescue or homes. My own 2 personal dogs Emma and Pup came from this area. They were in the woods living next to a homeless man. Emma had made a nest under a large tree that had fallen and had a mattress thrown over it. She pulled the stuffing out to keep Pup warm.
My last year at UPS I came across a few pits and pit mixes that I became very attached to. I fed them in the parking lot while I called every rescue I could find and begged them to take them in. I finally found rescue for them and then soon after I left my job at UPS. I did receive calls from time to time to help others there.
When my daughter was 14, she had a project for Ag Science, and we chose to work with animals. Right before the project, I had filled out volunteer paperwork to help out at Noah’s Ark because I wanted to work with horses again, but we decided at the last minute to contact our local Humane Society to help. We started out doing PetSmart adoptions and then eventually worked the shelter. We gained valuable knowledge while doing this from 2006-2012 that made it possible to start Street Paws.
I worked for 6 years at a local Humane Society. When I left there, I noticed a need I had never seen before. I was directed down this path in life. I began seeing street animals in places I had never noticed before. It all started with the famous Rio. I was leaving a restaurant one night and thought I heard a slight growl near my vehicle only to see this large 125 lb. dog with a black face staring at me in the dark. I was at first fearful, but I fed him and went back daily for 18 months to do so before his capture. I used to promise him (especially during rainstorms while I held an umbrella over his head) that I would find a way to help animals like him. During that course of helping him I found many stray and needy cats in the Eagles Landing area that I started to feed, trap, spay/neuter and vaccinate. Little did I know at the time Rio would never enter Street Paws. I adopted him as my personal pet.
Fast forward a few weeks and I was leaving work getting on I75 at Mt Zion. Through all the trees and businesses, I saw a limping and injured black dog. I drove down the interstate and back up to check on him, this dog ended up being a dog we called Hobo Jr. When I arrived, there were 7 other dogs there. I started feeding them and realized someone else was feeding them too. I left a note in the bushes and met Patrick who had also been taking care of them. We tried hard to catch them and do what we could to keep them safe and fed. This is what we now call the Pack and our beloved Ears was one of them. One day while I was waiting for them to show up for dinner, I saw another colony of cats across the street. There I met Buff Kitty. Soo, I started helping an elderly couple care for them. I would sit after work and promise them all I would find a way to help them. I started coming across more and more animals in need during that journey. I realized a need for these neglected animals that live in an in between world. That led me to 8 more colonies in the area that I now feed daily. I felt I was meant to see the unwanted that no one else noticed. It felt this was truly the path in life I was supposed to take.
A diagnosis of cardiomyopathy in 2009 for myself and the successful rescue of Rio made me realize I needed to do more. I wanted to leave a legacy. I wanted to make a difference before I died. Helping animals and finally having a shelter/sanctuary is the main thing on my bucket list. I truly believe helping at the street level will in turn reduce the overpopulation that has gotten out of control and sadly leads to an unnecessary death for these animals. I felt like what I had previously been doing was only a band-aid to the bigger problem. That was the day the idea of Street Paws started to form.
All of this led me to start Street Paws. I spent a year planning and researching feral animals and how to open a 501c3 and obtain my Dept. of Ag license. During that time, we encountered a significant number of cats in the Mt Zion area and as well as feeding the dogs we starting taking care of and TNR’ing about 60 cats. My goal since has been to get them into homes and to build a future shelter/sanctuary for them. I didn’t just sit back and expect someone else to do something. I WAS that someone. I DID something. I am not perfect, but my team and I have made a significant impact in this area reducing the numbers of cats and dogs on the streets just in a 5-mile area. We captured a pack of feral dogs, we rescued 60 feral puppies and tamed them and found wonderful homes. We educate the public, we help where we can, but we all work, we all have families, we all have foster pets as well as our personal pets. We spend every extra minute doing paperwork, meeting families, attending adoption events, in the woods doing field work, trapping cats and taking them to Lifeline or Jazzy Paws, picking up food, loading and unloading trucks, among so many other things that it takes to run a rescue.
I want to point out that we are a very small rescue. We are foster home only. We do not have a facility. We rely on others to help any animal and we take in the tough cases which are not always appealing to the public to adopt quickly. We have about 10 dedicated volunteers that do the majority of the work in Street Paws.
Street Paws formally became a 501(c) 3 on December 13, 2012 and has been slowly growing since. I however could not do this alone; we have an amazing team of volunteers past and present, and that make Street Paws what it is and continues to be! I am very proud of my team and appreciate all that they do to help a mission I started in 2012. I could not do all of this alone and we DO make a difference every day. We need more help, there are far too many in need. We need fosters, we need people to hold events/fundraisers, we need land and a shelter. We cannot help them all, but we help as many as we are able to. We help the unwanted and I am proud to call this my legacy.
As a non-profit organization, we are seeking help with our cause. Street Paws is a licensed 501c3 rescue organization who strives to help animals left to fend for themselves on the streets of Clayton and Henry Counties. We would love to spread this help further, but due to our current size and support we must limit the range of assistance.
Street Paws’ mission statement is:
Any animal we come across who finds themselves without a home will not go hungry or unloved. When funds and space allow, Street Paws will take the homeless animal under our wing, notify the proper authorities, network them and try to find them a new home. We will care for and provide comfort and aid to homeless pets in a variety of ways. If the animal is tame, we will network to find a home for them. If the animal is feral, we will feed and care for the animal in their own environment. Every action will be taken to provide the animal(s) with a proper diet and bedding. Spaying and neutering these ferals is of great importance to us. We will do what we can to ensure the feral population will be kept to a minimum. We also seek to educate pet owners about the importance of spaying and neutering, annual vaccinations and the importance of a true commitment to their pet as a family member to help ensure their pet does not become another homeless statistic as well.
We are reaching out for help from local communities with a need for land. Our goal is to ultimately build a sanctuary and shelter for the homeless animals who are struggling on the streets. Currently, we feed about 60 cats at about 13 different colonies in and around the Clayton and Henry County area. We also aid a feral dog pack from which we have pulled 60 puppies from over the last five years. Most of our colonies of cats have at least been TNVR’d (trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned) although there are a few stragglers who refuse to be caught. We have 1 feral dog and 1 semi-feral dog in a kennel waiting on a fenced area to run again like the free spirits they were meant to be. Currently, there are about 5 feral dogs at a junkyard, three of which produce puppies twice a year. It is illegal to trap a dog, neuter or spay it and return it to where it was caught, hence our only option to control the population currently is to pull the puppies once they are old enough.
Street Paws has raised enough funds to place a secure fence in the ground which would safely hold these feral dogs and we have the ability to secure feral cats in buildings called “catios”. We are just in need of property Street Paws can call their own to sink that kind of significant investment in.
Street Paws is prepared to help make an important difference in the community by aiding many homeless animals who found themselves in a very dire situation through no fault of their own. We just need the community’s help in doing so.
Street Paws is looking for a minimum of ideally 5+ acres, to build a shelter for these homeless animals. We are committed to making a difference and are confident, if given the opportunity, could do so very quickly.
Street Paws prides itself on its contributions to the community. From the humane education programs teaching children the importance of proper pet care in local schools and through a local 4H program, to families seeking homes through Habitat for Humanity, we strive to spread our knowledge regarding cats and dogs as a true commitment.
As a volunteer based rescue, with no one receiving a pay check for any of the work they do, we also encourage a family atmosphere. Street Paws has many volunteers with families. We always encourage the family as a whole to be involved. We know, leading by example is always the best way to raise the children in the world today. Please consider helping this cause, if your organization is in a position to do so. Our board can assure you, your generous contribution will make a difference for many who are even today out there struggling to survive