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What’s new with the Paradise Animal Welfare Society

PAWS continues to help protect the valley’s pets 

By Josh Scott

After ten years of helping the people and pets of this valley, there is a lot you may not know about the non-profit Paradise Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, which has been operating out of its current facility adjacent to the highway just south of Crested Butte since 2009. On your way out of town you might struggle to see the building at the end of the short gravel driveway on your right, but look for the green paw. The small, well-kept kennel is easy to overlook but the services it provides are important and could one day help you find your dog or cat.

PAWS will most likely be helpful in the event that your four-legged feline or canine best friend gets lost. If that happens, PAWS will have someone ready to answer the phone or respond to you regardless of the time, day or night. In fact, if that pet has been outfitted with a microchip, PAWS may very well contact you first.

Microchips and updated tag information are the keys to PAWS being able to assist when your animal is missing. If your animal is not microchipped and you feel you don’t want to spend the money to do it, don’t sweat it. PAWS conducts two free microchip clinics a year, and will register your animal for you in the process, a step that many pet owners forget. PAWS can also print you a new tag and help you out with many different kinds of pet-related materials and possibly discounted veterinary services if you qualify.

The organization was started in 2005 by Sherron Green, Betty Barkman, and Elaine Weston, together with PAWS president Cindy Filchner and the most famous local veterinarian in Crested Butte, Laura Ramos.

Four years later, with the help of Rita and Dave Clemente and a community that supports its non-profits and four-legged friends, PAWS was assembling a two-piece pre-fab facility shipped from Missouri.

“Everything PAWS has accomplished has been because of the support it gets from the community,” Rita says. The modest but well-kept facility has 10 kennels all set up with an interior facet inside the facility and an exterior facet separated by a small door. The exterior part of the kennels is surrounded by a chain-link fence and covered by a recently added roof topped with a polycarbonate material rather than sheet metal, so that sunlight can come through.

“We had to start locking the fence because someone decided they didn’t want to pay the $15 fee for their dog, so they broke in,” Rita explains as we tour the facility. “Also, the roof is a new addition after the winter of 2016-17 destroyed the original exterior kennels.”

On the southeast side of the building is a large chain-link play area for dogs to socialize when they aren’t being walked by volunteers. The area is covered by a loose netting system designed to protect the smaller dogs from flying predators.

Inside the facility is a small room specifically for the feline tenants. The room contains no crates, cages or kennels. If there is a roommate dispute, the hostility is separated by a curtain. If the health of an animal is questionable, there is a quarantine room with two large windows and a heater to keep the animal comfy while it recovers.

All of this is made possible solely by donations made by the outstanding community support provided by the people of Crested Butte. Treasurer Jackie Bird says the bulk of the funds that PAWS accrues throughout the year come from the annual donation cards they send out. Both Rita and Jackie say they could not possibly speak highly enough about the giving and caring nature of the Crested Butte community. Jackie says the current trend in not permitting renters to have pets definitely hurts the cause. But with the dedicated volunteer and board member staff, foster care and adoption always seems to work out.

Jackie herself ended up with a couple of furry new additions to her home, after four kittens and four puppies came to the facility at the same time. At that point, Jackie’s duties expanded far beyond that of treasurer. Jackie tended to the kittens, which she had to keep in the isolation room because of a case of ringworm, while also dealing with the dogs. All four of those dogs are now immortalized on the walls of the facility with their stories framed behind glass.

It is far from unusual for the active volunteers and board members to take on the responsibility of a new pet. During my tour of the facility, I met Nancy, who was tending to a six-year-old Havanese female rescued from a puppy mill.

“One of our board members  adopted Momma Cass and two of her kittens,” Rita says. It becomes obvious very quickly that the 11 board members and numerous volunteers at PAWS give a lot more than just their time.

As far as donations go, money is far from the only accepted form of charity. PAWS also accepts anything and everything pet-related. Two of the ten kennels at its facility are currently dedicated to storing crates, cat toys and surplus food that Laura Ramos, along with the board members and eight to 10 active volunteers will eventually find a suitable recipient for as pets pass through the facility. If you are in town and are in need of a loaner crate to keep your dog or cat comfortable, PAWS can help you there as well. And if your animal is having health issues that you’re not able to afford, you can see if you qualify for assistance by giving PAWS a call.

For more information or to volunteer, go to the website at or call (970) 209-3656.

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