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Newly formed organization works to keep animals out of shelters

by EMRY DINMAN
Staff Writer | September 29, 2020 1:00 AM

EPHRATA — In their second weekend in a row inside Hale’s Farm and Feed in Ephrata, volunteers with newly formed Moses Lake-based Hands ‘N Paws got nine kittens into new forever homes.

Saturday’s adoption event is just one way the group, which acquired non-profit status in March, is working to keep animals in homes and out of shelters. While getting surrendered animals into foster families is part of that mission, it also strives to remove barriers and assist with costs that keep families from keeping their pets in the first place, said volunteer Sue Campbell.

“We decided to do something about all of the animals getting surrendered because their owners can’t take care of them, because they can’t get them shots, can’t get them groomed, spayed, neutered, whatever,” Campbell said. “And that started out to be our mission, to keep animals in their homes.”

That was evident in Saturday’s adoption event, which included several kittens from an unexpected litter. Hands ‘N Paws worked with another organization to spay the mother cat so she could stay with her family while working to get the kittens adopted out straight into new homes without a stay in the local shelter.

The organization was a longtime dream for founder Carmon Derting, who was a founding board member of the Grant County Animal Outreach and worked with that organization for many years. While Animal Outreach helps take in stray or surrendered animals, other efforts were needed to keep pets from reaching that point in the first place, Derting said.

“It broke my heart every time someone needed to surrender the animal just because they needed vaccines or they needed to be spayed or neutered, and because they couldn’t do that they needed to surrender their animal,” Derting said. “The shelter, through no fault of their own, they can’t do this.”

The organization does work with dogs as well as cats, but many of their efforts have been focused on the outsized needs of area cats, Derting added. While Grant County has ordinances regulating pet dogs, there are no ordinances for cats, which can have up to two to three litters a year and start breeding at four months, she said. This plus the county’s sizable stray and feral cat population create a strain that the local shelter struggles each year to handle.

Although Hands ‘N Paws is based in Moses Lake, it aims to do work and partner with organizations across the region, and won’t turn down a family in need just because they’re from farther afield, Derting said.

Many of the organization’s programs are focused on providing support to lower-income families, including the Safe Haven project to help with boarding facilities for domestic violence victims with pets, or their Buddy Program to help with deposits or other expenses. The latter program also works to help active duty servicepeople find a home for their animals while they’re deployed, Derting said.

“There are quite a few animals that get surrendered to shelters because these servicepeople do not have a place for their animals to go while they’re deployed,” she said.

The non-profit operates with funding through donations, grants and fundraising, which has been difficult during the pandemic. Shortly before the coronavirus swept through Grant County, the organization had gotten some of its starting funds through a dinner and auction hosted by ABATE of Grant County, a local motorcyclist advocacy and awareness group often involved in charitable work.

But cash from that fundraiser has largely been spent, and many fundraising efforts were put on hold during the pandemic, Campbell said. Now, the group is looking for other businesses that might be willing to hold fundraisers, or which, like Hale’s Farm and Feed, can allow it to set up events inside their businesses.

Individual donations and volunteers are also needed, Derting said. Those looking to help can reach out to Hands ‘N Paws at www.handsnpawswa.com or via the group’s Facebook page.

Emry Dinman can be reached at edinman@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Emry Dinman/Columbia Basin Herald

From left to right: "Grumpy Face" Ms. P, ginger cat Simon, Libby the dilute calico, and Missy (back) appeared displeased at having been woken up during their naptime Saturday afternoon.

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Emry Dinman/Columbia Basin Herald

Volunteer Sue Campbell, seen here holding up ginger cat Simon and tabby cat Missy, helped man the adoption booth inside Hale's Farm and Feed in Ephrata Saturday. While the organization is always in need of donations and fundraisers, it also welcomes additional volunteers, Campbell said.