Santa Paws for a cause

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer December 05, 2012 01:23 pm

Halle Sheldon visits Santa at the Wallowa County Humane Society’s Santa Paws event in Joseph. KATY NESBITT - The Observer
Halle Sheldon visits Santa at the Wallowa County Humane Society’s Santa Paws event in Joseph. KATY NESBITT - The Observer

Pet photos with St. Nick biggest fundraiser of year for humane society 

Santa Paws came to town last weekend to visit all the good puppies and kitties in Wallowa County. 

For 20 years Santa has made Joseph a regular stop at the bequest of the Wallowa County Humane Society. 

Dogs, cats and even horses are invited to visit Santa Paws and have their picture taken during the Jingle Through Joseph Holiday Bazaar held at the Joseph Community Center. The back room, often used for city council meetings, was transformed into a Christmasy scene for collectible photos of furry companions.

Santa Paws is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Humane Society, a stand alone organization run strictly by volunteers on local donations and small grants.

Photos with Santa is a good opportunity for the Humane Society to reach out to the community, talk about their work and show off rescued cats and kittens available for adoption.

“If we bring three or four to an outreach event, it’s not as overwhelming as someone visiting a shelter,” said President Carol Vencil.

Feral cats are the biggest problem, said Vencil. The society offers to help trap, vaccinate, spay or neuter cats and kittens in an attempt to quell the population explosion. If a captured cat is sick, it will be euthanized. If it is well, it is released where it was found.

Abandoned animals are cared for by volunteers who are willing to foster found dogs and cats, which the society will fund.

“The Humane Society pays for vet bills, food and cat litter,” Vencil said. “Sometimes the sponsor will pick that up, but it’s not expected.”

As for dogs, the county has a pound, but no funding for it, so if a dog is turned in to the county, the society has a volunteer who will care for and feed it, and a concerted effort will go into finding it a home. Since this summer, dogs have been found at Wallowa Lake, up Hurricane Creek and in the Wallowa Canyon. All the dogs found homes.

Vencil said it’s a sign of hard economic times. 

“We invite people to post a picture and biography of their pet on our website when they can no longer care for them,” said Vencil.

Yet dogs are found along side of roads and cats outside of homes where their owners abandoned them.

“People do the best they can, but sometimes bite off more than they can chew in caring for a pet,” said Vencil. “We ask that if they have to give up their animals, they call us with enough notice as they can.”

Despite the sometimes desperateness of the cases, Vencil said working with the society is a lot of fun. She often gets letters and cards from animals she’s helped find new owners, and sometimes they return at Christmas to see Santa Paws.

Besides the Christmas event, the society brings its trailer with adoptable friends to the Wallowa Resources Watershed Festival, the Wallowa County Fair, Mule Days and the Wallowa Fall Festival at the Nez Perce Homeland Tamkaliks Pow Wow Grounds. 

Wallowa County Grain Growers has opened its doors to the group for outreach, education and adoptions  in the store as well as in an adjacent parking lot where the society parks its trailer to advertise the cause.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Vencil, “and it’s really all about helping the animals.”

 To volunteer, foster an animal or look for a new companion, visit www.wallowahumanesociety.org.