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It’s been a ‘ruff’ year for animal shelters and rescues in rural Alaska

Animal shelters around the state have seen a recent uptick of stray and surrendered animals but it’s been an especially “ruff” year for one organization who serves the Norton Sound region.

PAWS of Nome is a non-profit animal rescue and advocacy organization that provides no-cost animal related support to pet owners. The organization has saved thousands of animals since opening in 2013.  

Emily Stotts is the president of PAWS of Nome. She said the year has been overwhelming and the rescue has reached full capacity multiple times.

“We’re at 365 rescues and 365 owner supports (spay, neuter) or more, so probably closing in on 700 to 750 animals that have been helped by us this year.”

Animal Care and Control (ACC) in Anchorage recently experienced several multi-week-long closures due to dogs testing positive for the highly contagious canine parvovirus. All services were furloughed until all animals were healthy, with the exception of pet adoptions.

During the closures, Stotts said rescues around the state received calls from desperate owners looking to re-home their pets. She said when PAWS of Nome reached maximum capacity she had to deny surrender requests.

“Even when they don’t go through us, they (our dogs) do somehow end up at facilities in the (Mat-Su) Burrow and in Anchorage, because when PAWS of Nome can’t come through, people will find whoever they can. ”

She said the number of dumped and stray animals has become too much for rescue organizations to handle on their own, especially in rural Alaska where there isn’t a strong animal control presence. 

“It’s just me and I’m out of space. They’re in my own backyard, they’re in three facilities that I run, they’re at my friend’s houses as foster’s.”

PAWS of Nome is run by volunteers and is funded through grants and donations.

A volunteer shaves the area where the dog will be receiving surgery. (Emily Stotts, used with permission)

Stotts said animal care and control in rural Alaska needs more support from government officials. Without government support, she said she worries the PAWS of Nome won’t continue. She cites North Slope Veterinary Clinic in Utqiagvik which receives funding from corporations and provides animal control and limited veterinary services.

“If we stop what we’re doing here, that is going to devastate what’s going on in Anchorage and Fairbanks and everywhere else, everywhere has no room.”

PAWS of Nome encourages residents to call and write letters to local and state government officials requesting their support of animal rescues.

To learn more about how to support PAWS of Nome, visit their Facebook Page. Read more about their projects on GoFundMe.

Photo at top: A volunteer preforms an oral surgical procedure on a dog. (Emily Stotts, used with permission)

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