Operating out of their homes in Plaquemines Parish, and in cooperation with the Southern Animal Foundation (SAF), founders Laura Hutchinson and Robin Pannagle began picking up stray dogs and pulling dogs from Plaquemines Animal Control. At the time, all animals at Animal Control that were not claimed by their owners were euthanized thus leaving the parish with a 100% kill rate.
PAWS was officially founded as a 501c3 non-profit organization operating out of a small warehouse-like space in Belle Chasse near the Navy Base.
PAWS officially became the Plaquemines adoption partner via a contract for services of $87,000.
Plaquemines Parish built a state of the art, green facility on F. Edward Hebert Blvd in Belle Chasse. The building housed both PAWS and Plaquemines Animal Control. Though separated only by a door, these two operations were managed independently with different animal care policies and procedures.
On August 28, as Hurricane Isaac pummeled Plaquemines Parish, PAWS transported 166 adoptable animals out of the shelter to shelters in Texas, Tennessee and New York to make room for the pets of Parish residents. In partnership with Plaquemines Parish, and at the behest of Animal Control, PAWS became a safe haven for lost, abandoned and rescued pets from August 28th through November 12th. Over those 85 days, PAWS was closed for normal business yet still cared for, treated and fed Parish animals. During this time, income reserves were depleted and adoption fees were non-existent.
On June 24th, after thorough investigation by the Board of Directors and in cooperation with Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office, Executive Director Denise Manger was arrested for embezzling over $67,000. Her two daughters, Tori Manger and Tawny Manger, who worked for PAWS at the time, were later implicated as part of the embezzlement. All three women were found guilty and began paying restitution the following year. Denise Manger was also convicted of stealing controlled drugs and selling them for human consumption.
By October 11th, the combined devastation from Hurricane Isaac and the Denise Manger embezzlement, PAWS was over $40,000 in debt, had been cut off by most of its vendors and had only $248 in the bank. An open letter was posted on PAWS Facebook page stating that, if the shelter was not able to raise $80,000 by the end of the month, it would have to close. The community – including the media – came out in massive support of the shelter. By year’s end PAWS had raised over $100,000.
In early 2014, PAWS leadership went before the Parish Council to request an increase in contract funding. After nearly ten years at the same rate the contract was increased to $120,000.
Additionally in 2014, PAWS received the first community spay/neuter grant since Hurricane Katrina from PetSmart Charities for over $37,000. The grant focused on dogs from Port Sulphur to Venice and in a year’s time PAWS performed 268 spay/neuter surgeries on dogs at a cost of only $7 each to their owners.
On October 24th, PAWS launched a low-cost community vet clinic with a focus on preventative vaccines, heartworm and FeLV/FIV testing, and heartworm and flea preventatives. The clinic began as a first-come first-serve operation, open every other Saturday.
On January 1st, PAWS was awarded an expanded contract with the parish adding Animal Control operations to the organization. Included with this new endeavor was intake/outcome of animals, daily physical and medical care, as well as behavior testing and dog training. PAWS also enhanced services to the community through expanded hours of operation, onsite rabies vaccines and microchipping.