Thursday, May 29, 2014

P.A.W.S. for Fun, Funds and to Feel Good

Aiken County Animal Advocates


(Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.)

By Joya DiStefano

This Aiken County Animal Advocates Columns was posted in the Aiken Standard on 05/29/2014

When you think of chicken soup what are some of the first things that come to mind?  You are feeling puny and someone cares to make you feel better?   Or do you think of a book about and by almost any marketing demographic in the nation: couples, teenagers, those grieving, addicts, spiritual groups, techies, gardeners and, of course, every kind of animal-lover in God’s creation.  Chicken Soup for Human Life’s Soul series, who has not read, or at least heard of them?  They are translated and sold all over the world.

Chicken soup is the national metaphor for helping one to feel better.  On June 28, 1993, the Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing Company was born from a small book idea that no major publisher would touch.  Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were the original authors, and after building the Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul brand into a major corporation, they sold off the company in 2008. Since then, the brand has continued to flourish.

Nationally known celebrity veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker is a best-selling author of many Chicken Soup for the Animal Lover’s Soul books: Cats, horses, dogs.  He has other titles, too, branching out into the relationship between humans and their pets, and their curiosity about pets.  Why do horses sleep standing up?  Why do cats always land on their feet?  Why are people with pets happier and healthier?  What can we learn about grieving from our relationship with our animal friends?

Are you totally fascinated yet?  How can you not be?  I had purchased my tickets to tonight’s (May 30th) event:  “Chicken Soup for the Aiken Horse Lover’s Soul” when I started doing a little more research into the headliner for the event, Dr. Marty Becker, DVM.  If I hadn’t had the tickets already, I would have gone straight to the Equine Rescue of Aiken Facebook page, or its website ( and ordered them.  It is at the Aiken Center for the Arts on Laurens Street.  You can buy tickets for the same price at the door. This is an event not-to-be-missed; here’s why…

The topic has to be fascinating to area residents.  Animals?  Are we not terrifically special because of our relationship with animals?  Dr. Becker is an entertaining, walking encyclopedia on most of the animals we care about: horses, dogs and cats, and probably others, too.

The $20 ticket price includes wine, beer, tons of hors d’oeuvres, the speaker and the opportunity to invest in the self-enhanced chance to go home with some truly valuable items: a $6,500 diamond tennis bracelet, original art by real artists, and some other expensive stuff you might never have the chance to own were you not to participate. You buy all the tickets you want in lots of 4, then you weight your chance to be selected to go home with the rare gift of your choice.  All of the food, drinks and gifts are donated, so you can walk through the door at 6pm for $20.  Admit it; you cannot afford not to go.

The best reason to turn up tonight is Equine Rescue of Aiken.  It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in which we can all take pride.  Jim and Debbie Rhodes love and passion for homeless animals show up in everything they do for and with this amazing facility. They, their volunteers, and supporters have built a rescue and re-homing enterprise for horses and dogs that represents our greater Aiken Community so well.  We can all be thankful that Aiken County is Equine Rescue’s home.

In the unfortunate event that you are not available for this evening’s festivities, let me tell you about some other opportunities to have fun, raise some funds, and feel good about being involved.

This month (May) The SPCA began a new summer series, “Phideaux’s Flea Market (8am-2pm) and Dog Wash (10am-2pm).”  If you want to make a little extra cash, you can buy a spot and have your own “garage sale” at the site for $50 plus whatever you don’t sell.  Your leftovers will go to raise funds for the SPCA at their Treasure Chest locations throughout the area.  The next Phideaux’s Flea Market is on Saturday, June 14th.

PAWS (Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.) would like to offer you another alternative to do a really good thing.  If you can’t be bothered to sell all that stuff taking up storage space, give it to us.  We will sell it at the Phideaux’s Flea Market and use the funds to continue to promote our Spay/Neuter Your Pet (SNYP) program throughout the county.  We currently have sites operating in the valley through the Burnettown Hall, Windsor at the Shell Station and Jackson at Town Hall.  In Jackson alone, we have helped the SPCA fix over 50 animals since April 1, 2014. All our subsidized surgeries are done at the SPCA.

The SNYP program, through referrals to the county voucher program, FOTAS in Wagener, Lenny’s Brigade for stray cats and the SPCA is making a significant contribution towards keeping animals out of our local shelters.  That is the PAWS Mission: Unwanted pet prevention and well-homed pet retention.  SNYP is the heart of our efforts.  Check your sheds, garages and closets for items to donate then call: (803) 634-0564 or 226-9479.  We will make it easy for you to get your stuff to us.

We hope to see you tonight for some figurative chicken soup and a lot of real goodies.  We also encourage you to plan for Saturday, June 14 at the SPCA Albrecht Center, 101 Willow Run Road.  In between think about how to participate: give your goods to PAWS for SNYP, have your own table and give the rest to the SPCA, or just come and shop.  It will make you feel good, like chicken soup.

A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, co-founder of FOTAS, and founder of PAWS, Inc.

Monday, May 19, 2014

P.A.W.S. to Listen and Learn

Aiken County Animal Advocates


(Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.)

By Joya DiStefano

This Aiken County Animal Advocates Columns was posted in the Wagner Monthly on 5/19/2014

Folks, what we are about to do together is to make sure that no adoptable or treatable companion animal has to die impounded. Watch for our banner: NKAC!  It stands for No Kill Aiken County. In order to realize this rather lofty vision for our county (already accomplished by Spartanburg city) we have a new venture.

P.A.W.S. stands for Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.  Its mission is, “Unwanted pet prevention and Well-homed pet retention.”  Wagener’s own Dottie Gantt is on the governing board of this county-wide 501(c)(3) animal advocacy non-profit.  PAWS, Inc. promotes low-cost accessible spay/neuter services, and coordinates existing animal welfare resources so that the needs of Aiken County animals can be effectively addressed by their humans.

This month, we would like to offer the Wagener Monthly readership some information to help begin the process with companion animals we already know; dogs and cats that already depend on us, God’s creatures doomed by our ignorance or apathy unless we learn how to take care of them.

For instance, did you know that heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes?  Or are you aware that you can prevent most common intestinal parasites by protecting your dogs from heartworm?  For less than it costs for a burger and a beer, once a month, you can keep your pets safe from a potentially fatal disease. It is also worth considering that if you surrender your dog or it is picked up by the county and it tests positive for heartworm that, too, is a death sentence.  

Heartworm prevention begins with a licensed veterinarian who will test your dog.  If the test is positive, the professional can tell you about your options.  We hope the test is negative and you will be able to begin a simple prevention protocol.  The heartworm prevention medications are available by prescription, but all you are required to get from a veterinarian is the test and the prescription.  Once you have a prescription there are low cost on-line sources competing for your business.  

Heartworm Positive Dog
There are some very cost-effective ways to begin to protect your dogs from heartworm.  One is Pet Med Mobile (1-800-228-6007 or which swings through Wagener about monthly.  They charge $35 for the test, but you have the local convenience.  Pawmetto Lifeline’s Care-a-Van program may come to Wagener, too.  They charge $20 for the test and can be queried at Or you can go to the SPCA Albrecht Center in Aiken.  They only charge $18, but you have to drive.  All three organizations offer the full range of vaccines for dogs and cats at very affordable prices, and probably sell the prevention products you need for added convenience.

In our area, Heartworm treatment should be done year round due to the warmer weather we experience in the south.

Sure, dogs and cats can do fine living outdoors, provided that they have plenty of water, good food, shade and shelter, but that does not mean that they don’t need additional protection from ticks and fleas.  Beyond the misery of allergies, potentially lethal anemia if left untreated too long, the host animals (including humans) can get tapeworms from fleas.  If your environment is infested, it is not enough to slap on a flea collar, or even give the “top-spot” medications and pills, but it is not that hard, or expensive, to address the problem of a yard infestation.

“You can find an insecticide that is already set up to attach to your hose at the Feed Store, Wal-Mart or Lowes,” Dottie says, “then when you use that up, you can just get the stuff and mix it yourself.”  You can ask Dottie for her well-tested secrets, like when to spray and how much, when you call her about the easy and highly affordable spay/neuter services sponsored by Friends of the Animal Shelter (FOTAS).

Thanks to organizations like the SPCA, FOTAS, Lenny’s Brigade, Pawmetto Lifeline, PAWS and programs like the Aiken County Voucher Program, there really is no excuse for any more unwanted litters of puppies or kittens. The surgery is as good as free at the brand new SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare in Aiken, and with the $20 co-pay you get a rabies vaccine and a micro-chip.  

Here are some options:

  • Self-transport your pet to and from the Aiken SPCA, call or text: (803) 645-4021 or 564-5231.  Either Colleen Timmerman or Dottie Gantt will get back to you on how to proceed.
  • Sign up for the (monthly) transport at Wagener Town Hall.  Cost is the same but you have to wait.  Colleen or Dottie can fill you in on the pros and cons to consider.
  • If you are struggling with a free-roaming cat colony, call: (803) 507-6315 or 564-5231. Cats can be trapped-neutered and returned to their habitat. This service is free and cages are provided.

A newly revised Animal Control Ordinance has finally been adopted by the City Council of Wagener that sets forth regulations for its citizens to assure that the health and safety of persons and animals are protected. Wagener can take pride in the guidelines adopted, and any residents, or their neighbors, who are unsure of the current quality of care for any animal, would be well served to consult the Mayor’s Office for the new rules.

We mentioned a case last month where an ailing mother and her severely disabled son had a pack of dogs that were breeding and wandering out of control.  The desire to help a handicapped young man who loved (and needed) his dogs, set our animal-loving mayor into action.  The beautiful and secure fence is in.  The next phase of the project, to build the dogs some shelter inside their new perimeter, is likely to be taken on by the young man’s pastor and his congregation. Of course, Dottie Gantt instigated the initiative, but, Wagener, you are certainly raising the bar for community support!  

Of course, temporary foster care is always needed.  All you have to do is provide the space and the love.  Food, medicine and support are provided.  If you have space on your property and in your heart to help with animals needing care and guidance on their way to their forever, loving home, please contact Dottie (564-5231) or PAWS at   
Now, PAWS for No-Kill and ask yourself: Are you part of the solution or part of the problem?

A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, co-founder of FOTAS, and founder of PAWS, Inc.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Changing the World Begins with a Dog

Aiken County Animal Advocates


(Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.)

By Joya DiStefano

This Aiken County Animal Advocates Columns was posted in the Aiken Standard on 05/17/2014

“Rescuing a dog will not change the world, but it will change the dog’s world.” The significance of this slogan from the Weimaraner Rescue of South Carolina, located in Aiken County, is clear to all of us involved with rescue.  

Ask any of the local shelter staff and volunteers with the SPCA Albrecht Center or the new Aiken County Animal Shelter who see thousands of homeless pets every year. Or talk to Shelter Animal Advocates, Molly’s Militia, Happy Tails, L.E.A.S.H. Squad, and Home for Good Dog Rescue, or “breed” rescues like Weimaraners, they may tell you that, if done right, the change only starts with the rescued animal.

I am a romantic and an idealist.  I like to insert “pragmatic” as a modifier, just to suggest that I have evolved, but I will admit to the belief that whatever my current occupation, and there have been quite a few, I am always changing the world.  So when I saw the slogan about rescuing and world changing, it got me wondering.  I think the process can, and should, be bigger than that. I also think Weimaraner Rescue and other local rescue organizations are making it happen.  I’ll give you the guided tour through my reasoning.

P.A.W.S. (Palmetto Animal Welfare Services, Inc.) gets many, many calls from residents throughout our very large county who are responding to our offer of low-cost spay/neuter for their pets.  In the course of these conversations, we hear about the many previous or current litters.  I always ask, “What did you (or will you) do with the puppies (or kittens)?”  Answers vary, but they say that they find (most of them) homes.  

Of course no one says, I just take them to the county, or dump them, or call the county and say that they were dumped.  Those folks probably don’t bother to call PAWS.  In short, free dogs or cats are very easy to come by.  And we all know where many of them end up, and then some of the “lucky” ones get their world changed by being rescued. This is the world as we know it.

Now go to the SPCA website ( or Home for Good Dog Rescue (, or Weimaraner Rescue ( and look at their adoption guidelines and processes. 

The SPCA specifically tells people about the considerations and cost related to owning (read: providing a good home for) a pet.  No Christmas puppies, no indulge-your-kid’s-whim.  They address the costs for routine vet visits, vaccines, heartworm prevention, food and supplies.  That’s monetary costs; then there is the time to train, exercise, and be a good companion to your companion animal. Then there is the adoption process itself; you would think that a child was being placed in a home.  Actually, for many of us, that is exactly what it is like.  And that is where our world begins to change.

If you look closely at the adoption criteria for these rescue groups, you will find basically the same ethic running through the process.  They want to know what kind of family and home the applicants are prepared to provide.  They are not charging a lot of money, as if they are dispensing some rare commodity, they are stewarding a precious life, for which a great responsibility is felt.  They want to know about lifestyle and living arrangements and habits and temperaments.  They are prepared to do everything in their power to assure a good fit for the animal.

Home for Good, screens, checks references, arranges meet-and-greets for the prospective families and their dog-interest.  SPCA follows similar protocols. And with their “Phideaux University,” they have prepared their charges to be ready for a well-prepared and discerning human.  

Weimaraner Rescue, knowing the propensities of their breed, goes out of the way to make sure that appropriate education and training are part of the mix.  Even Aiken County Animal Services, with their new shelter and their passionate and highly experienced adoption coordinator, has begun basic prescreening for animal adoptions.

So, you ask, how does this change the world?  Here’s where being a little bit of a pragmatic idealist and romantic helps.  Imagine a world where, life by life, home by home, family and community by family and community, we begin to think about how we need to treat those who have a right to depend on us.  

Imagine if we learn to tune in to the simple and simply magnificent needs and talents of our dogs and cats, and then we commit to providing for them with love and compassion, what we might also commit to for our children, our elderly, our poor and needy.

The devotion to love, compassion AND responsibility that our rescues bring to the world, not only will change the world, it already is.  Onward!

A retired organizational problem-solver and radical educator, Joya Jiménez DiStefano is an artist, Servant Leader, co-founder of FOTAS, and founder of PAWS, Inc.