COVER STORY | By Patti Parish-Kaminski –
Our furry friends are really more than just friends; they are our family, some of the most important individuals in our lives. And this sentiment is nothing new. It is claimed that as far back as the mid-1700s, King Frederick of Prussia referred to one of his Italian Greyhounds as his best friend. That is certainly the sentiment shared by Fort Bend County Precinct 1 Commissioner Vincent Morales and the dedicated board members of Fort Bend Pets Are Worth Saving or Fort Bend PAWS.
Defining the Need
Each year more than 4,700 homeless pets are taken in by Fort Bend County Animal Services (FBCAS) in Rosenberg. That equates to nearly 13 dogs or cats every day, and as the county facility responsible for preventing pet overpopulation, providing compassionate enforcement of laws relating to the treatment of animals and placing them with loving, responsible families, FBCAS’s task is a daunting one and growing every day.
The responsibility of housing this many animals alone – much less providing food, shelter, medical care and grooming all while trying to place pets in new forever homes – is a full-time endeavor. But FBCAS has also gone above and beyond by achieving a lifesaving rate of over 90% since August of 2018 functioning as a life-saving facility expanding its programs to the next level. That success takes an even greater commitment and resources, and that’s where Fort Bend PAWS comes in.
Providing a Paw Up
Pat Hebert and Socks
“Working with PAWS is my way of giving back to the animal kingdom the love and loyalty they show us every day in multiple ways. I get reminded by them that they appreciate my efforts, and although it’s usually just a wet tongue or a friendly paw, it’s truly marvelous.
– Fort Bend PAWS Board Member Pat Hebert
In September 2017, Best Friends Animal Society conducted a shelter assessment for FBCAS, and their assessment gleaned an important recommendation to assist the shelter with reaching their goals: form a “friends of” non-profit organization to both support the shelter’s fundraising efforts and to provide necessary items not covered under the shelter budget.
Then Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert and Commissioner Vincent Morales took FBCAS’s needs and this recommendation to heart. “The Best Friends Animal Society assessment concluded that a non-profit could provide valuable financial assistance in the shelter’s effort to improve the save rate for the county’s homeless pets,” said Morales. “Working with Judge Hebert and county staff, I was asked to take the lead on achieving that effort.”
FBCAS Director Rene Vasquez and Kitty
“Fort Bend PAWS has been an amazing resource to Fort Bend County Animal Services,” said FBCAS Director Rene Vasquez. “In my 26 years at the shelter, we would have never been able to purchase much needed items, such as garage doors to keep the animals warm in the winter and all of the essential medical supplies without Fort Bend PAWS. The partnership between the County, the shelter and PAWS has afforded so many advantages and necessities for our shelter pets – things they desperately needed that our budget simply could not provide. Fort Bend PAWS is a tremendous asset to FBCAS, our staff and most importantly, our animals.”
– FBCAS Director Rene Vasquez
On July 5, 2018, Morales headed up a this new “friends of” organization as president. Fort Bend Pets Are Worth Saving (PAWS) was born as a non-profit to support FBCAS with an initial Board of Directors that included Pat Hebert, Elaine Dietz and FBCAS Director Rene Vasquez as a non-voting board member.
The small but mighty group was established with Commissioner Morales at the helm, Hebert as treasurer and Dietz as secretary. Together, they embarked on a fundraising and awareness-building campaign that to date has purchased items for FBCAS that total over $100,000. Some of the larger funded projects for FBCAS include:
- Vaccines and Medical Supplies
- ProHeart 6
- Porta-a-Cools for the Kennels
- Garage Doors on the Kennels
- Heating Units for the Outdoor Kennels
- Vaccine Refrigerator
- X-ray Fund at Rose Rich Veterinary
- FBCAS Marketing and Events, including a
- Van Wrap
- Transport Costs with Rescued Pets Movement
- Royal Canin Mama/Baby Food to support the
- Neonatal Foster Program and Kittens in Shelter
Long-time FBCAS staff member and current Assistant Director and Lifesaving Programs Manager Barbara Vass has seen firsthand what a difference Fort Bend PAWS has made to the shelter. “When I came to FBCAS as a volunteer in late 2014, it was a very different place with a very low save rate,” she recalled. “In 2015, shelter leadership changed, we developed new programs and the culture changed towards becoming a lifesaving facility. With the formation of Fort Bend PAWS, we have been able to improve and save the lives of so many pets that come through our shelter. Whether it is through funding ProHeart 6, raising funds to keep our pets warm in the winter and cool in the summer or providing the means to purchase medication in emergent circumstances, PAWS is always there for our shelter. As a Katy resident, I am proud to be a new constituent of Commissioner Morales and excited to bring the Katy community into the FBCAS and PAWS family.”
“Fort Bend Pets Are Worth Savings (PAWS) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization founded by a dedicated group of Fort Bend County citizens. Fort Bend PAWS was created with the goal of raising funds and awareness for Fort Bend County Animal Services (FBCAS), the shelter animals housed at FBCAS and the Community Cat Program at FBCAS to achieve our goal. For more information, visit www.FortBendPaws.org.”
Continued Support for Our Furry Family
Today with Commissioner Morales continuing in his role as president, Fort Bend PAWS has expanded both its board and its efforts to support FBCAS. Fort Bend native and veterinarian Tracey Deiss became a board member to lend her industry expertise to the organization while serving her community. “Serving on the Fort Bend PAWS board is important to me because it allows me to serve my community and industry of Veterinary Medicine in a unique, multi-faceted manner,” shared Deiss. “I am able to provide veterinary insights and lend a voice to the voiceless, displaced and homeless pets of Fort Bend County, as well as provide assistance to the incredible FBCAS team who dedicate their lives to the cause. It is truly a PAWsome honor.”
In addition to expanding the board and providing the capital improvements and initiatives over the past three years, the organization has covered the cost of emergency medical supplies, as well as provided routine maintenance items for the shelter, such as kennel panels, flea and tick medications and tools.
“Fort Bend PAWS has the ability to make a direct impact on serving FBCAS, because the money we raise goes directly to providing a way to take care of those unforeseen needs in short term emergency situations, as well as address long-standing issues of providing more in-depth medical treatment to get these animals out of the shelter and into people’s homes quicker,” said Board Member Elaine Dietz.
And when unforeseen needs arise for the shelter, Fort Bend PAWS responds. “One of our strengths as an organization is our ability to reach out to our community and present matching fundraising opportunities when emergency situations occur,” said Commissioner Morales. “The awareness that we can bring to a specific need and the ability to solve that need is a valued asset of Fort Bend PAWS and our supporters.”
Social media plays a vital role in keeping the community informed about Fort Bend PAWS’ progress, needs and future plans, specifically Facebook. From when the county is facing inclement weather and the shelter needs assistance to safely house animals, to heart-felt adoption stories, to free spay and neuter clinics throughout the county, Fort Bend PAWS’ Facebook page keeps the organization and their story accessible to the community.
“The pet profiles on our Facebook page are my favorites,” said Commissioner Morales. “Barbara, Rene and the FBCAS staff do such an amazing job of getting to know each and every animal, and they take the time to share each animal’s personality on these pet profiles to share with our community. I’m happy to say that this is how so many of these pets find their forever homes.”
Meet some of these amazing animals, and stay up to date with Fort Bend PAWS on their Facebook page: @2018PAWS.
Ray Aguilar and Paco
“I am involved with Fort Bend PAWS because it is an extension of essential resources for our sheltered pets – vaccines, blankets, food – basic needs to help them on their path to finding their forever home,” said Board Member Ray Aguilar with his pal Paco. “What I appreciate about the organization is that it encourages partnerships with the community to get involved with volunteering, fostering and adopting pets at a very low or no cost – something everyone can benefit from and participate in. A pet in our shelters will love you for it.”
– Ray Aguilar
Making a Difference – One Pet at a Time
“Through Fort Bend PAWS, we have absolutely made a difference in people’s and pet’s lives,” said Commissioner Morales. “One valuable lesson learned during the isolation of the pandemic is that our pets are more important than ever in our lives. For many, the comfort of a pet was the only contact available for days or weeks on end. Caring for our pets is absolutely caring for our community, and through Fort Bend PAWS, we are committed to doing just that.”
For more information or to donate to Fort Bend PAWS, visit www.FortBendPaws.org.