I’ve been dreading the thought of writing this column as I don’t want to accept that it’s time to say, “goodbye”. Thank God for deadlines or I would never get around to it.

Halloween was my last day at Paws Humane Society. It was five years since I began as interim director in November of 2014 and a lot has happened since that time. Many times I thought of giving up. We do a whole lot of good for companion animals and the people who love them but we also see too much of what we’d rather not see, in the course of our daily work. It takes a toll on everyone at every level of our organization.

Paws Humane Society exists for the sole purpose of achieving a “no-kill” community. We consider ourselves a regional organization but our first job is to make Columbus no-kill. The definition of no-kill is essentially that no healthy, treatable, or otherwise adoptable animal is ever euthanized.

The statistics published monthly by Columbus Animal Care and Control (CACC) tell the story best. The euthanasia rate has been 10% or below every month since March, 2019 and no animal has been euthanized for space since January. This is nothing short of remarkable when you consider that in 2009, when Paws Humane Society opened our doors, the euthanasia rate was 90%. This equated to over 6,000 companion animals dying annually at CACC with no chance for a positive outcome.

It has taken a coalition of people and organizations working together to achieve this, from the individual who stepped up to foster a litter of neonatal kittens to the Columbus City Council which passed enabling legislation allowing our lifesaving programs to exist. This work doesn’t happen by accident. It takes a strategic approach, open dialog, hard work and the support of a community that sees and believes in what we’re doing. We are winning the battle against pet overpopulation in the south!

In September, the Paws Humane Society Clinic passed the 60,000 mark in free and low cost spay/neuter surgeries provided to CACC, local rescue groups and the public. We have shown that increased access to spay/neuter surgery works. Most people want to spay or neuter their pets. When they don’t it is due to lack of money, transportation or knowledge of what it is and how it will help them and their pets. Once these barriers are overcome it’s just simple mathematics. Fewer breeding pets result in fewer unwanted pets.

Columbus has been no-kill when it comes to cats for a few years now because of the Community Cat program started by the Best Friends Animal Society and carried forward by Paws Humane Society beginning October, 2017. In fact, these days when we run an adoption special we bring cats in from other counties so we can offer a larger selection of adoptable cats and don’t run out in the first hour.

Today, our high risk pets are medium to large breed dogs. Big dogs have big litters, 8-12 puppies at a time. At six months these puppies are producing their own litters. It’s no wonder we have acute pet overpopulation in this category.

The Paws Humane Society Pets for Life program helps to address this by sending our employees and volunteers into high poverty neighborhoods with the least access to veterinary care. Everything we offer there is free, from rabies vaccines, to flea treatment, to spay/neuter surgery. Regardless of income people love their pets. They are members of our families and we all want the best for them.

Our next frontier is to expand our foster care program to increase our capacity for holding medium to large breed dogs and place them on transports to northern states. The northeastern states have been doing the same things we’re doing but for a couple of decades. And guess what? They don’t have enough pets available for adoption so they take ours. It’s a win-win.

I’m going to miss this but I’m a firm believer in knowing when it’s time to leave. I know Paws will be in good hands and the work will go on for years to come.