When you live in an area with high rates of pet overpopulation, pet euthanasia, and little to no funding for Animal Control organizations or rescues, what do you do? Most likely, you live in the Southern United States. Unfortunately, many Southern states simply do not have the resources to help abandoned, abused and neglected dogs. This fact, although sad, has been highly motivating for three women: Traci Wood, Kelly Parker and Joanne Hutchinson. After being heartbroken for these dogs, these three women, meeting through adoption forums, founded PAWS New England. The goal of this great organization is to work with Southern Animal Rescues to rehabilitate, foster locally and then adopt dogs out to families in the Northeast. To read more about this amazing rescue, read our conversation with Joanne Hutchinson below!

When & Why did you start?
Approx 7 years ago, Kelly and I met through a third party who was doing small rescues (one dog at a time) taking a dog from the Tipton County Shelter in TN, having the vetting done and then sending the dog to New England.  We wanted a more formal and organization group and Paws New England was born.  Once we obtained our 501c3 status, we were off to the races.  Since that time we have rescued and placed approximately 5,000 dogs both from the Tipton County Animal Shelter and from Julie Adams who is a one woman rescue in Oran Missouri – there is no ACO in her area and thus people have decided that when they want to give up their dog rather than shoot them, they bring them to her house and leave them, whether she’s there or not; it’s nothing for her to come home and find dogs tied to her mail post or in boxes in her driveway.

What’s different about your rescue?
Kelly and I decided early on that we would veer away from the practices of most rescues at the time—adopting to families without a fenced in yard and/or who had children of any age under 10 was the common practice.  We have proven them wrong time and time again in this respect as most of our adoptions are to people such as this; no fence but can give tons of exercise, children who are respectful and loving.  We’ve always felt that children should grow up with dogs plain and simple; not every dog for every child of course but for the most part, it’s typically a match made in heaven.

We also decided that our rescue would not be a “puppy” rescue, which can be a fairly profitable venture.  We never take puppies without also taking the mother; we refuse to take owner surrender puppies unless the mother comes with them or we are allowed to spay the mom and dad if they are on site. 

My favorite policy of Paws New England – no dog left behind – if we pull one dog from a run at the shelter, we take everyone in the run, whether it be one or five.  Not always easy but our consciences would let us do otherwise.

Tipton is a very high kill shelter, thus those dogs that come in injured or with disease are the first euthanized – we have always made it our mission to take the trauma victims and the dogs who are covered in mange, have heartworm among other various diseases; we are the first rescue the shelter staff contacts us when such a dog comes in.   We have worked very closely in establishing a local rescue group whose soul purpose is to get as many dogs out of the Tipton shelter as possible through social media, in particular a Facebook account wherein they post the shelter dogs with photos done by a professional photographer – the difference that this group has made is amazing – the euthanization rate at Tipton has at times dropped to 50% of the prior numbers; currently we believe they are at the 60-70% range but we and Paws-N-Claws continue to work tirelessly to hopefully by mid-year 2014 have Tipton become a no kill shelter – it’s quite a goal but we can do it. 

We are also not afraid of pit bulls like many rescues are – they are the first dogs to get euthanized and we could not stand by and let this happen – we have built a network of bully breed volunteers and trainers which allows us to provide these dogs with loving homes with people who understand them and their truly gentle nature.

What is the greatest success story or “win” that your rescue has had?
So many honestly it’s hard – we have had numerous dogs that came to us severely malnourished or injured including broken limbs, head trauma etc. 

Recently in addition to those injured dogs, we have taken on the very fearful dogs who pose extreme flight risks and are very difficult to rehabilitate.  Several of our volunteers are now learning the method by which these dogs can be made to trust those around them and rejoin society.   

I believe for both Kelly and I the return of two dogs who went missing from their owners, one the day after arriving who was missing for 7 months; a foster of mine who let his dog off leash the first day on the 4th of July who of course fled the second the fireworks began who was missing for 8 months and a third from her owner on two occasions in Boston missing each time for a month or more.   I spent countless hours traveling from Cape Cod to Rhode Island every weekend practically looking for Bentley – we knew what area he was in but could not capture him – his potential adopter who decided he wanted to rescue him and keep him was on site constantly; finally on Valentine’s day he was caught – it was truly the best day for me in rescue.  Kelly will tell you the same story for Lilly – her adopter gave up after a short time yet Kelly constantly keep her name out there with posters and phone calls – she too finally was seen and after an elaborate plan, is now living comfortably with her new owner.

What’s the most rewarding thing about working at your rescue?
For me, the most rewarding “moment” that I have over and over is when you see a dog in the very beginning of their journey – sad, defeated, sick, injured and thrown away.  We follow them through their foster care in Tennessee or Missouri and you can see the change almost immediately.  They then come to New England via paid transport and the best day of the week for all of us is Saturday as that is when they arrive to either their new families or new foster’s home.  Watching those dogs come out of that truck is so emotional that to this day it makes us cry.  Then the best, when you get photos of this dog who once was on a shelter floor lying in bed with his/her “child” or lying on a comfy bed with their canine siblings – gets us every time.

The camaraderie we have built in our rescue I think is amazing – we have what we feel are the most dedicated of volunteers and support staff – always willing to help in small and big ways. 

What can people do to help your rescue?
Obviously, financial support is always the main factor we deal with.  A second is our need for more foster homes – the more dogs we can move from foster homes in the South the more room there is for dogs in the shelter “on the list.”  We have many volunteer positions we can still use help with and we of course love to have new volunteers joint us who quickly become family.

PAWS New England was recently featured in an HBO Documentary “One Nation Under Dog.Watch the heart wrenching trailer to the right.

A HUGE thank you to PAWS New England for all the amazing work they do! Visit PAWS New England’s Facebook or website to learn more about this amazing rescue!