The Danbury Animal Welfare Society: www.daws.org, is a no-kill shelter. It began in 1974 with Anne Tracey and Sherrie Delaney adopting pets out of their homes. 147 Grassy Plain Road in Bethel, CT was originally a veterinarian hospital. In 1993, DAWS receives a generous donation of that building and the acre parcel of land it sits on. They can house 30 dogs and 60 cats and consistently do so throughout the year. In addition, they have as many as 50 animals in foster care. Foster care families are always in demand. Most of the pets in foster care are injured or babies. They need the love, attention and nurturing that only a family can provide away from the stresses of shelter life.
There are three ways for a dog or cat to become a resident of DAWS.
1. The owner surrenders them to the shelter. This is usually due to financial hardship, relocation or death.
2. Dogs are transported from high-kill shelters or the save-a-sato foundation: www.saveasato.org. This program gives these dogs an opportunity to find a forever home. The only other option for these dogs is euthanasia. Upon arrival, the animal is sent to the on-site clinic. Here they’re evaluated and any medical needs attended to. Such needs could include neutering, vaccinations and any injury or illness addressed.
3. DAWS periodically rescues dogs from local pounds. In addition, if space allows, friendly cats from the Trap/Neuter/Return program are given the chance to find a forever home.
Last year, they placed 293 dogs and 169 cats. The return rate for dogs was 7%. This compared to a national average of 50%. Their low rate of return is due to their comprehensive Training and Evaluation Program. Bruce Caplan: www.10minutedog.com is the Training Director and has instituted a program that addresses behavior issues and properly matching dogs to family.
DAWS is a strong presence in the community. Last year, they performed 30 low cost spay/neuters at the on-site clinic. In addition, 66 cats were part of the Trap/Neuter/Return Program. These programs help to reduce unwanted pets and to control the feral cat population.
Volunteers from Danbury Animal Welfare Society also visit schools, youth organizations and businesses to educate people in the care of animals, importance of spay/neuter programs, responsible ownership, the prevention of cruelty and the importance of adopting and not shopping for companion animals. Their youth volunteers are organizing a mentoring program to educate young children about animal welfare.
Every June, they hold the Hound Hike. Alumni of the shelter meet at Tarrywile Park for a day of fun.
The Ani-meals program works with Meals-on-Wheels. Morgan Stanley has sponsored this program for the last two years. They deliver dog and cat food to housebound and senior families. For some owners, this is the only way they can keep their pets. They also help with home-to-home adoptions and finding lost pets.
The shelter operates on a bare-bone budget of $400,000. This is the absolute minimum needed to run the shelter. There are also the medical needs of the residents to consider. Though many area veterinarians offer reduced rates, it is still a formidable expense. In addition, there is food, electric, heat, telephone, office and shelter expenses, salaries and taxes and building maintenance. Last year, a roof, windows, doors and thermostats were NEEDED. This year, it is the perimeter fencing that NEEDS replacement. Then there are the “vetting or pulling fees”. Ironically, these are the fees DAWS must pay to rescue animals from high-kill shelters and local pounds. At first glance this seems hard to believe, that DAWS must pay to give dogs a second chance. These fees are one of the few revenue sources high-kill and local pounds have and they are critical to their ability to stay afloat. They do not have enough community support to survive on their own.
DAWS has a volunteer base of 182, a full-time Shelter Manager and a staff of 19. This staff and volunteer force work collaboratively to rescue, rehome and care for the animals that come to DAWS. A portion of the building maintenance labor is donated or billed at a reduced rate and volunteers perform all administration duties.
Through adoption fees, they raised $71,475 in 2008.That leaves a shortfall of $325,000. So, where do they come up with the rest of the money?
2. You can visit their ebay store at http://www.stores.ebay.com/dawsct. It is stocked with 100% community donated items.
3. Companies like Pitney Bowes, IBM and Cartus hold non-profit agency days.
4. Their marketing committee in conjunction with their clinic committee has spent untold hours applying for grants.
5. Their annual tag sale raised $6,800 last year.
6. The Mother’s Day Bake Sale raised $1,700.
7. Picture with Your Pet Day.
8. You can donate your car at www.donationline.com .
9. The annual Walk for Animals raised $53,000.
11. Last, but not least, personal donations, sponsorships and memberships. A revamped Membership Program in 2008 raised more than $30,000.
For the shelter that does so much for its community, its community also rallies for them.
Girl Scout and Brownie Troops have ongoing programs to raise money and collect much needed items. The items collected include bowls, food, toys and blankets. Many area children will ask for donations to DAWS instead of presents. In addition, many local wedding and anniversary celebrations also ask for donations to DAWS.
Last year, more than 2,000 DAWS supporters logged onto www.zootoo.com FIVE weeks before the end of the contest. They went from dead last to the #8 spot. When the Zootoo crew came to Danbury, many area businesses shut down to offer services, food, money and their support. Schools bussed interested children from grade school to high school for the event. While they did not win first place with Zootoo, they had already won first place in the hearts of Danbury.
From their humble beginnings in Anne’s and Sherrie’s kitchen, they now serve a vital need in the community. Their impact reaches much further than the Danbury border. As DAWS celebrates their 35th anniversary, let’s continue to give them the ability to help their and other shelters across the country to operate.