Shelter crisis leads to extraordinary community response

When the air conditioning broke at our Grays Ferry shelter/clinic on May 29, it ground operations to a halt at our largest facility and the hub of our rescue efforts. Thankfully, a massive coordinated effort involving staff, dozens of foster parents and hundreds of supporters saved the day for the animals when they needed us most.

In order for the repair to take place, a special replacement part had to be rush delivered by air. 76 animals were housed at that facility, most of whom were especially vulnerable to the heat: sick animals, cats with respiratory conditions, dogs recovering from surgery, and very young kittens. We brought in portable cooling units for the cat rooms and kennels to keep animals out of harm’s way temporarily, but it wasn’t nearly enough to cool the building effectively.

A resident of our kitten nursery at PAWS’ Grays Ferry facility.


As temperatures crept upward we received bad news: the shipping plane was grounded and the AC part we desperately needed was stuck on a hangar in Kentucky. At that point, it became clear that we needed to cancel all spay/neuter and clinical services to the public, and the entire shelter full of animals needed to leave. We moved as many as we could to other PAWS locations, but with those sites quickly filled to capacity, it was up to foster parents to open their homes.

We put out the call, and one by one, caring community members came forward to take kittens, adult cats, dogs of all sizes, and animals with a variety of ailments. Our staff managed an amazing all-hands-on-deck effort to place every animal into foster care, working in sweltering conditions to coordinate a marathon of foster meets, while other staff worked in tandem from home to process paperwork and handle logistics. In 100+ degree heat, PAWS broke its own record for the most foster placements made in a single day.

At the very end of the day, the last animal left the building, and for the first time in its nine year history, PAWS Grays Ferry was completely empty.

Mirage was the very last animal to leave the shelter and go into foster care during our air conditioning crisis.


While this dramatic effort unfolded, our online supporters began donating to a fundraiser to help us with the unexpected costs of the crisis. In less than two hours, nearly 400 people gave and covered our $10,000 goal for repairs.

Then, in an extraordinary show of support, donations kept coming in even after the goal was met.


With all our animals evacuated to safety, the air conditioning part finally arrived. The repair was made and the building began to cool as the animals happily enjoyed the comfort of foster homes.

PAWS is lucky to have the most caring and hard-working team: foster staff who led the monumental effort to evacuate animals, staff at our other facilities who took on extra animals at a moment’s notice, our veterinary team who gave top-notch care to shelter residents and made their health a priority in such a challenging setting, those who ran transport, and kennel staff who did everything to ensure the animals’ comfort then took advantage of the empty shelter to do a full deep-clean in preparation for their return.

None of this would have been possible without the support of foster parents, volunteers, donors, and supporters who stepped up when the animals needed them most. Our very deepest thanks goes out to every person who contributed to an extraordinary lifesaving effort. We are humbled and incredibly grateful every day for the animal lovers who make our work possible, but this time, you have truly left us speechless.

More good news: of the animals who left the shelter for foster care, only half have been returned, with the rest moved up to spots at our adoption centers or remaining in foster care through adoption. This enables us to use those open spaces to rescue more animals at the city shelter whose lives depend on a spot at PAWS. As a result of this crisis which initially crippled our rescue capability, it’s possible that we’ve actually been able to save more than we would have otherwise.

How to help:
Adopt: now that the AC is humming we need to keep our rescue efforts moving! Many of the animals we evacuated are now ready for adoptive homes. Please take a look at our available animals and meet your new best friend!

Become a foster: no need to wait for an emergency: plenty of animals need you now! many of the foster parents who took evacuees had little to offer: a basement, a spare room, or even just a bathroom. Fostering doesn’t take much space or spare time, and it opens up a cage in the shelter to rescue the next animal in need! Fosters are especially needed for dogs of all sizes, cats recovering from illnesses, and kittens who are too young for adoption.