ANNA — PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) desperately needs a new facility. The current building is not well-suited for the task. It is on a busy stretch of road near the center of town and the area for walking dogs is small.

"A new building would be better for dogs, better for us, more efficient for volunteers and better for the community," Sweitzer said.  

PAWS owns property on the edge of the city on Dog Walk Road. The organization’s original plans were to build the building at that location that would meet all its needs for animal care, record keeping, adoption get acquainted rooms, meetings and education. Besides the fencing for play yards, the entire perimeter of the the lot would be fenced. The cost of the building was estimated at around $1.6 million.

Donations are trickling in, but Karee Sweitzer, president of PAWS, is rethinking the building plan.

Sweitzer is working with the architect to get pricing for building a new facility in two stages. The first phase would include the essentials, like dog runs, a meet and greet room and small office. The second phase would include the rest of the building as shown in the original plans.

The architect would like some assurance that the city will approve the new facility before finishing drawings for the two-stage building plan and talking to a contractor. Sweitzer was told the city did not approve projects until an application for a building permit is filed.

Sweitzer also believes more donations would come in if people could see some progress toward the building. Right now, the only visible signs are where Sweitzer has cleared the lot of Russian olives and other brush. She stresses that if the building plans fail, the organization is required to return donations made for that project. 

“It’s a vicious cycle. You can’t get a building to take it on if you don’t have a large portion of the funds. If you don’t have a large portion of the funds you can’t get a builder,” Sweitzer said.

On top of building woes, long time adoption facility manager Penny South died in April. Much like a family grieves, the PAWS organization is feeling the loss.

“Since Penny passed away, it has not been easy, but we are moving forward,” Sweitzer said. “Penny was PAWS.”

Sweitzer said South never wanted any praise or recognition for her contributions to PAWS, which included bottle feeding many puppies and kittens every two hours. She gave of her time, her finances and “every ounce of her life” for animals.

Volunteers have stepped in to take on the “jobs” South did at PAWS. Sweitzer will take over as adoption facility manager soon, and turn over day-to-day operations of PAWS Second Chance Resale to a staff of very capable volunteers.

“We have not missed a beat. We are a family and that’s what we do,” Sweitzer said. “But, it’s been hard to go in there.”

Sweitzer might not even be a part of the organization if not for South. Eleven years ago, a number of horses were rescued from a farm where they had been neglected and abused. A friend suggested Sweitzer, a horsewoman, go to the PAWS meeting to discuss what to do with the horses they planned to rescue. South was at that meeting. Sweitzer said they instantly became best friends.

“I said I had 20 acres. You can put them at my place,” Sweitzer said. “That’s how it all began.”

Although it’s been hard to keep taking steps forward, members of PAWS are focusing on their mission to save companion animals.

Sweitzer said the organization also brings value to the community. PAWS brings in between $200,00 and $250,000. They use those funds to purchase supplies, pay wages, for veterinarian bills and others. Besides the funding, they take a 300-400 strays off the streets each year. 

For now, PAWS volunteers will keep raising money and caring for animals. They still have pork butts available for purchase, with pick up between 2 and 6 p.m. June 30, July 1 or July 2 at the resale shop, 139 E. Vienna St. The cost is $35. Order by calling Sweitzer at 618-713-1709, Kim at 618-697-1588 or PAWS at 618-833-3647.



Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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