A PASSION for animals has led Horsham’s Carolyn Stow to donate countless hours to Horsham PAWS in the past five years.
She has taken on many roles with the animal welfare organisation, from assistant secretary, to vice-president and now president.
She is also responsible for writing grant applications to ensure the volunteer-run organisation can continue to help animals in need.
Ms Stow said her work with Horsham PAWS had been an extension of her welfare work, and she now enjoys working with both people and animals.
She said her welfare background had allowed her to see the good in people.
“I was regularly seeing people who would want to do the right thing but perhaps didn’t have the capacity to do so,” she said.
When invited to join Horsham PAWS in 2013 as the assistant secretary, Ms Stow said she was motivated to help people do the right thing.
She was determined to start a successful subsidised desexing program.
“The program assists the community members who want to do the right thing, but are financially strapped with cash,” she said.
A significant amount of animals were euthanised when Ms Stow first became involved in Horsham PAWS.
She said reducing animal euthanasia rates was among the focuses of Horsham PAWS’ work.
“We need Horsham PAWS to be active and educate people around animals and the benefits they provide to the community members,” she said.
Education has remained a key issue during Ms Stow’s years with the organisation, including informing the community of what the organisation was about and its work.
“As Horsham PAWS gets bigger, the challenge is the expectations from the community,” she said.
“We are a small team of volunteers that dedicate a lot of hours not only to the animals, but also fundraising as well – we don’t receive government funding, but we are expected to take on all animals.”
Ms Stow said her motivation to bring about positive change in her community is what kept her going.
She said seeing the difference between the animals from the time they were surrendered to when Horsham PAWS finds a perfect match and ‘forever home’ for them made it all worth it.
The number of animals Ms Stow has fostered is ‘too many to count’.
“We have fostered cats that have had litters with us. We have had puppies and some older dogs,” she said.
“We also rehabilitated Karen, the three-legged Kelpie following her amputation.”
Ms Stow said while it could be hard to let the animals go, her positive mindset had helped her through the process.
“We always think we are part of the journey for the animal,” she said.
“A lot of effort is put into matching the animals. Seeing the connection with the person once we find that right match and getting updates on how those animals develop that bond and have a great life is most rewarding.”
Helping other carers on their journeys has also been a highlight for Ms Stow.
“Over the next couple of weeks I will be supporting a foster career who is caring for two-week-old puppies,” she said. “While I don’t physically have them at my place, I enjoy supporting that foster carer in the bottle feeding, toileting and all those other elements.”
She said it was important for her to keep in contact with the owners of the animals she fostered.
“We have maintained a friendship with a couple from Geelong who adopted a puppy. We try to see them at least yearly to see how that dog is developing, and he is having such a great life,” she said.
However, Ms Stow said on two occasions she could not let animals go.
“We have a dog named Olly, a scruffy Jack Russell that we decided couldn’t leave after ten days,” she said.
“Pixie our cat was the other animal we adopted. She was born here as part of a litter of eight and she was very special.”
Ms Stow said she could not imagine not being involved in Horsham PAWS.
“I am certainly connected to the organisation and what it is all about,” she said.
“I will always be involved in some way, whether that be in my current role as president or in some other role.”
Building a relationship with the community was another highlight during her time at Horsham PAWS.
She said there was a strong community connection with the organisation, which was positive.
“A lot of the community know I am involved with Horsham PAWS,” she said.
“They regularly stop me in the street to see what is happening with Horsham PAWS and what animals are available.” She said ultimately it would be great if Horsham PAWS was not needed. However, Ms Stow said that would never happen.
“We are always going to get animals that have been abandoned, lost, unclaimed or surrendered because no one wanted them any more,” she said.
“I just ask that people think about what they are doing and committing to before they take animals.
“Unfortunately free to good home animals tend to find their way into the pound. People need to consider the right match.”
Ms Stow said Horsham PAWS was always looking for volunteers to help n any way they could.
She said helping animals find permanent and loving homes was a rewarding experience.