Volunteer Guide

Please read this entire document to learn about PAW’s policies and procedures so you can feel knowledgeable and informed. Also familiarize yourself with our adoption forms, contracts and guides.


Answers about the PAW organization, guidelines and procedures:


Q. What does PAW look for in an applicant?
A. Committed, capable, can-do people who plan to make a lifetime commitment to the animals – and aren’t just trying out pets. Claiming to “love animals” is not enough.


Q. Why don’t we give people a list of PAW adoption criteria?
A. Because some people might write down what seem like “approved answers” instead of what they really plan to do, for example, letting dogs run off-leash, or declawing cats.


Q. Can we take opportunities to educate people?
A. Yes, if the person seems interested in learning. First read these hand-outs and learn PAW policies.


Q. Are all PAW animals spayed and neutered?
A. We neuter and spay animals as early as age 3 months as medically appropriate. PAW dogs are not adopted out until we spay/neuter them. For underage cats, the adopter is required by the contract to have the animal altered no later than age 6 months.


Q. What is the history of PAW?
A. The group was founded in the mid-90s by several volunteers who wanted to start a group whose volunteer-members fostered the animals in their own homes.


Q. Is PAW the same as PAWS?
A. PAWS, Patuxent Animal Welfare Society, is a separate group with different policies. To avoid confusion, you can use our whole name – Partnership for Animal Welfare.


Q. What is PAW’s policy about outdoor pets?
A. PAW does not adopt to people who keep dogs outside when no adult is supervising the dog, or who have outdoor cats. We do not adopt to people whose pets sleep outside or stay in a garage or unfinished basement or who will be kept in the bathroom while they are gone. Animals left outdoors too often get injured, and garages, unfinished basements and bathrooms are havens for accidents for unsupervised dogs.


Q. What is PAW’s policy on declawing cats?
A. We do not permit a cat or kitten adopted from PAW to be declawed. We feel that this is inhumane and unnecessary. Declawing requires the amputation of the first digit of each toe. This surgery can cause tendon or nerve damage and can lead to behavioral problems, such a biting. We encourage adopters to trim their cats claws and to train their cats to use scratching posts or other scratching aids. Generally this requires only a little consistent, patient training. We suggest to adopters who insist on declawing (or must due to medical problems) that they adopt a rescued cat that is already declawed.


Q. Are fenced yards required?
A. Not as a rule. However, some caregivers require fences for their foster dogs. Also, some dogs can jump or dig under fences, so there are special fence requirements for those dogs. Whenever a dog is outside and not in a secured fenced area, he or she must be leashed.


Q. What is PAW’s policy on electric/invisible fences for dogs?
A. We don’t regard them as adequate containment. Electric fences may keep some dogs contained (although this is not guaranteed), but they do not keep human or animal intruders from coming into the yard. Therefore, their use is not permitted.


Q. Are doggie doors OK?
A. Typically, the owners must agree to block outdoor access when they are not home. PAW requires that dogs be supervised when outdoors in a secured fenced area, so dogs cannot be allowed to exit to the fenced yard when no adults are home to supervise.


Q. What about people who let their dogs off-leash or use voice command?
A. Because so many dogs get hit by cars or lost, we do not adopt to people who let dogs off-leash in unfenced areas. Dogs obey instinct and will eventually run off or get hurt.


Q. Does PAW adopt to people who rent?
A. Yes. PAW does a lease or landlord check to confirm pets are allowed.


Q. What about people with small children…or who are pregnant?
A. We usually discourage adoptions to expectant parents or parents of young children, because so many give up pets. It is hard to care for an active pet AND young children. Also, many children let dogs run outdoors or drop leashes or rough-house and get nipped. Small children and kittens often don’t mix well. A child may not hold the kitten securely or may cuddle the kitten as if it were a stuffed toy, and can get scratched by a scared kitten as a result. Kittens can also get injured or let outdoors by youngsters.


Q. Are there special requirements for adopting puppies?
A. To effectively housetrain puppies, they shouldn’t be left alone an entire workday. We seek households in which the puppy can be taken out to potty every 4 hours or so.


Q. What if an applicant adopted before…or the applicant is my friend?
A. Friends would follow the same procedures as would any applicant. If more than a year has passed since a previous adopter last adopted from PAW, we do a new vetcheck and housecheck. If they are trying to adopt a different species (or age) of animal, we would do a new housecheck in any case.


Q. What if an applicant has not owned a dog or cat before?
A. We consider whether they’ve done their homework and are willing to practice proper care. Any adopter must demonstrate responsibility, financial ability and commitment.


Q. Does PAW adopt to people who live outside the Washington metropolitan area?
A. We typically discourage out-of-the-area adoptions. It’s hard to find PAW volunteers to do home visits more than one or two hours away. In addition, if the adopter had to give back the animal, the distance could be a problem.


Q. Does PAW have an EEO policy?
A. Yes. PAW does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, age, or disability in accordance with local, state, and federal law.


Q. Should people fill out applications before choosing an animal, or submit new applications for additional choices?
A. We don’t process applications before an animal is chosen, so people should decide on one or two animals before applying. If the applicant has filled out a PAW application for one animal, he/she does not have to submit another application for new choices unless several months have lapsed. (And remember: dog applications cannot be used for cats, and vice versa.)


Q. What’s the application process?
A. After finding an animal(s) they wish to adopt, they would fill out an application. The application is reviewed within several days, and a vetcheck done on current/past pets. If these steps are passed, a housecheck is conducted. If the adoption is approved, a contract is signed, donation made, and the pet goes home.


Q. What does a PAW “vet check” look for?
A. PAW does a vet check for an applicant’s past and current animals. We seek confirmation of spay/neuter … annual shots given on time … age and cause of death of past animals … following their vet’s advice … also for dogs, regular heartworm tests and continuous dosing of heartworm preventive (exception: applicants who moved from an area where vets did not prescribe HW preventive) … for cats, feline leukemia and FIV tests.


Q. When someone passes a housecheck, can they choose any PAW animal?
A. Do not tell an applicant they are approved for an animal, even if they passed a recent PAW house check for another animal. Approval for one animal does not guarantee approval for another; some animals may have special requirements. For example: the applicant has a 4′ fence or children, but the animal needs a taller fence or adult-only home. Furthermore, approval of a cat adoption does not constitute approval for a dog adoption and vice versa. A satisfactory home visit from another animal welfare group does not constitute approval for a PAW adoption. Do not give any PAW animal to an applicant until the adoption is approved and the contract is signed.


Q. Can applicants have a housecheck before picking a dog or cat?
A. We don’t do housechecks until the people have narrowed their choices because (1) the animal’s foster caregiver may want to conduct the housecheck, (2) the focus might change depending on the age, size and type of animal selected.


Q. Are there exceptions to PAW policies?
A. Sometimes. If an applicant seems very good but raises a concern, we discuss whether the problems are solvable or whether they’ve learned from past experience. Usually we do not adopt to people who have given up animals, but we do consider if they found a good home for a past pet, and their ability now to keep a lifelong commitment; or if someone had an unaltered pet in the past but now understands the importance to spay/neuter; or if someone declawed their cats in the past, but now understands that this is neither kind nor wise.


Q. What is the adoption fee?
A. The minimum donation is $350 per dog, and $105 per cat – nonrefundable, tax-deductible, and due at the adoption contract signing. The adopter is not buying an animal; their donation helps fund PAW medical expenses. No money is spent on salaries, overhead, or daily animal care. PAW is all-volunteer; most funding comes from fund-raising activities.


Q. What shots and vet work does PAW do?
A. PAW animals receive a vet exam and treatment for health problems at intake. At adoption, pets come with DHPP (dogs) and FVRCP (cats) shots, rabies vaccinations (age 4 months and older) and worming. We neuter and spay animals as early as age 3 months as medically appropriate, and we don’t adopt out unsterilized dogs. For underage cats, the adopter is required by the contract to have the animal altered no later than age 6 months. When sending proof of spay/neuter by age 6 months, the adopter can request a partial refund ($35). PAW dogs have been tested for heartworms and kept on monthly preventative; cats are tested for feline leukemia and FIV. Adopters get the medical records as well as an adoption kit. Adopters need to register their adopted animal at their vet as soon as they receive PAW medical records, and for dogs, purchase heartworm preventive.


Q. What if the adoption does not work out?
A. Adopters should talk with a trainer, their vet and experienced volunteers before the adoption is in jeopardy. If the adopter decides to give up the animal, the contract requires the animal to be returned to PAW.


Q. Can I bring animals into the PAW program?
A. There are many, many animals that need to be rescued, but sadly we can’t rescue them all. Every week, shelters ask PAW to take animals having no option but euthanasia, and we can say yes to only a few. If you find an animal, it’s the law in some areas that strays must at least be reported. The owner may not be neglectful, so an attempt should be made to find the owner or at least alert the local shelters and vets before putting the animal up for adoption. After doing this, if you want to bring an animal into PAW, first contact the group’s Dog or Cat Adoption Coordinator. If the animal is adoptable and you will foster the animal, find an approved foster caregiver for the animal, or cover the boarding until a permanent home is found, PAW may accept the animal. The foster caregiver of this animal will need to complete an application, pass a vetcheck and housecheck, be approved, and sign the PAW Volunteer and Foster Agreements. You may be expected to cover the medical costs of this animal until it is adopted in order for PAW to contain veterinary costs. If approached by people who want to give up a pet, tell them to call PAWline at 301-572-4729.


Q. How do I find out what’s going on at PAW, and where do you get forms and details about PAW programs?
A. Volunteers who fill out the Volunteer Agreement receive the weekly volunteer newsletter, PAW THIS WEEK. You can receive forms and guides from the show table or the cat/dog coordinators. In addition, forms, guides and details on a variety of PAW activities are available on the web at: www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/members.html. You’ll also find reading lists, guides, application forms and other useful information on the regular PAW web site: www.paw-rescue.org


Transporting and handling PAW dogs:

  • Always use a harness so the dog can’t slip out of a collar and run off. A dog can easily slip out of a flat collar so attach your leash to the clip on the harness. The flat collar is for holding the ID tag. Check with someone knowledgeable to make sure you put the harness on correctly.
  • Cars: Secure the dog’s leash in your car (or use a crate) – so when you open the door, the dog can’t jump out and run off. Have the leash in hand before opening the door. Never leave pets in cars; they can suffocate even when it’s not hot outside.
  • Please let the Dog Coordinator know ASAP when you can transport to a show or vet.


Handling dogs at shows:

  • Always watch your dog: keep the dog near you and in control. Otherwise, the dog could nip someone or fight with another dog. Never let go of the leash.
  • Don’t let young children hold leashes for safety and insurance reasons. The dog could get loose; the child and/or some other person could get injured.
  • Always accompany show visitors who want to walk a PAW dog. Do not hand over a dog to someone who is not a volunteer without close supervision.
  • Don’t give dogs rawhides or other chews – they can trigger a fight.
  • Puppy handling: Two volunteers should stay at each puppy pen. Never leave puppy pens unattended. Do not allow visitors to pick up puppies. Instead, a volunteer should carefully hand a puppy to responsible adult visitors. Do not let children hold pups for safety reasons.
  • Don’t take the dog into the cat section – this can traumatize the cats and it is not a true test of how a dog will react to cats in a home.
  • Let’s help each other at shows so we can provide the animals and patrons the best experience.


Transporting and handling PAW cats:

  • Use a cat carrier to transport cats. Make sure that it is latched securely. You don’t want a scared cat running around in a parking lot or store.
  • Ask about a cat’s temperament before encouraging visitors to pet or play with a cat, or to pick it up. Some cats become very nervous at shows and may bite or scratch.
  • Do not remove a cat from a cage at an adoption show without first checking with the cat’s foster. Some cats do not like to be picked up, or become very scared when removed from the cage. If your foster cat doesn’t like other cats, please bring a towel to screen off the sides of your cage.
  • Keep the number of cats being held by visitors and not in their cages to a manageable number. Keep an eye on everyone to avoid problems, cats becoming scared or angry, or having someone walk out of the store with the cat or kitten.


Dog & Cat Volunteers – Talking with show visitors and applicants:

  • Be polite to all visitors, even ones who don’t seem like good prospects. They may be appropriate for another animal. Strive to be courteous and warm. If you feel pressured, politely excuse yourself and go speak with a senior volunteer.
  • Potential applicants: When someone is interested in an animal, get his/her name. Tell the volunteers taking the applications your observations. For example, is the applicant able to handle the animal? How did they interact? Your feedback is critical; it will steer us to good potential matches and away from undesirable ones.
  • If the applicant mentions having pets, see if they note them on the application. Some people with a bad vet history or give-ups don’t list the animals, but we need the facts.
  • Did they have pets hit by a car or lost? Ask questions. Was it an accident…or careless-ness? Were they regretful? What did they do to find their lost pet? What did they learn?
  • Listen for people who let their pets have litters and why.
  • Does the applicant let dogs off-leash in unfenced areas? Or outdoor cats? (Animals left outdoors lead much shorter lives.)
  • Will they leave a dog out in the yard when shopping or at work? The animals could be injured, stolen, tortured, let out of the yard, or bite people over the fence.
  • Do they plan to declaw a cat? If they have a declawed cat, was it done before they got the cat? Educate people about declawing – many don’t realize that it involves amputating the joint. Talk about ways to train the cat to use a scratching post.
  • When talking about discipline, note if they indicate they might hit or abuse an animal.
  • Ask what they are doing to prepare to bring a pet into their family. Discuss how life will change: they’ll have to get up earlier, make time for walks, pet-proof the house, and make special plans for trips.
  • Do they know about housebreaking and crate training? Are they willing to get and learn to use a crate? Do they have realistic expectations?
  • Ask what they expect to spend on animal care and medical needs. Are they realistic? Listen for clues that they might not be ready to spend money on animal care; one indicator is when a prospect complains about the adoption fee.
  • Encourage everyone to read good dog/cat selection and obedience training books before adopting – it’s the best way to avoid a failed adoption. Better they learn the realities BEFORE adopting.
  • Encourage every potential dog adopter to read and to take obedience training, group or private, from a professional. Advise they line up a good training class now.
  • Educate. Tell people that spay/neutering helps reduce the tragedy of pet overpopulation and the thousands of pets euthanized at shelters each day. Also, altered pets develop fewer health problems. Pets get fat when they are not exercised and overeat, not due to altering.
  • For kittens: Two kittens expend energy on each other rather than on the adopter’s furnishings. Of course, the adopter must be financially and emotionally prepared to adopt two. An approved adopter can adopt one and come back later.
  • Don’t tell someone they are the only applicants for an animal, or that they’ll get approved. They must pass the application/vetcheck/home visit process, and also be the right match for that animal.
  • Never give a foster to someone who claims they have “lost” him. They may be mistaken, or have mistreated the pet, or have had the animal taken from them due to neglect. Re-direct the person to the dog or cat coordinator.
  • Avoid blocking customers who are trying to shop. Be pleasant and helpful. Don’t criticize products sold at stores hosting our shows.


When talking with families:

  • Observe how all family members interact with the animals. Are the kids careful?
  • Have parents begun teaching their kids about responsible pet ownership (not opening the door until the pet is secured, not letting friends pester the pet and pull tails or tease)?
  • Have they considered how to protect the children’s friends from getting bitten or scratched (a parent should always be present when a pet is mixing with kids)?
  • Will everyone in the family learn and practice proper humane obedience techniques?
  • Your observations will help PAW make better adoption decisions for the animals in the program.




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