University of Georgia junior Madison Webb saw a need for a specialized animal rescue in Athens after volunteering at the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control and falling in love with Jean, a 4-year-old female pitbull.
As a large dog and with some negative connotations, Jean went a long time without being adopted and was close to being euthanized.
“These ‘unadoptable’ dogs will get euthanized if they don’t get pulled. But even when rescue groups do pull animals, they pull the most adoptable ones, like golden retrievers or dogs under 25 pounds,” Webb said.
That’s when Webb knew she had to step in. With the help of her business partner and friend Kelvin Ling, Three Paws Rescue was licensed in January. The rescue has been working publicly as an active group since June, and together they successfully found a home for Jean and dozens of dogs and cats like her.
Three Paws, a nonprofit organization that finds fosters and adopters for elderly or special needs pets that most people have given up on, was named in honor of Ling's dog Sammy who passed away in 2013. Sammy lost a leg to bone cancer toward the end of his life and lived the rest of his days with three paws.
Many of Three Paws’ animals were abandoned by their owners.
“Most of our dogs are strays, but it's normally a result of dumping. Unlike other counties, Athens has no surrender fee and still many people prefer to dump them,” Webb said.
The work can be emotionally draining, she said, but at the end of the day Webb said the rewards outweigh the difficulties.
“The best thing is getting a text from one of my old adopters and seeing the dogs in their homes after a year. I try to stay in touch as much as possible. I think it’s really important and I’ve always loved to check in on my animals,” Webb said.
Denise Eades, a Three Paws adopter, has known Webb for several years. When Eades decided to rescue another dog she knew Three Paws would be perfect for the job.
“They really took the time to make sure I had the perfect dog for my family. The new dog and my nine-year-old daughter bonded immediately,” Eades said. “He was a perfect match for our family.”
Webb said their goal is to ensure a good match between pet and owner.
“We have to make sure that our animals are going to a good home because rescue groups have to be able to take them back if it’s not a good fit,” Webb said. “It’s really based on what’s best for the dog, rather than what's best for the applicants.”
This means Webb is tasked with the difficult decision of which applicants to accept and which to deny.
“We have to reject people all the time. A lot of our smaller dogs get tons of applicants. We had a shih tzu who probably received over 100 applications,” Webb said.
The rescue operates entirely through foster homes, meaning they aren’t based out of one physical location. Most of their clients connect with the rescue through Facebook or Petfinder, Webb said.
Three Paws Rescue will be participating in Athenspets first annual bar crawl on Sept. 21 from 6:30-10 p.m. Registration will take place at Little Kings Shuffle Club and all proceeds will go toward supporting medical costs for local homeless pets.
The bar crawl will feature adoptable dogs from Three Paws as well as ACC Animal Control, Athens Area Humane Society, Athens Canine Rescue and Madison Oglethorpe Animal Shelter.
More information on fostering, volunteering and donating can be found here.