Prince of Wales Island has a problem. Several problems, rather; problems that are furry or feathery, and sometimes walk on four legs.
Until recently, the island had no dedicated animal shelter or rescue. Stray or lost pets picked up by the police would go to the Craig Animal Impound.
One Craig woman saw this problem as an opportunity, and about a year ago, she founded PAWS – the Prince of Wales Animal Welfare Society. Jeannie Tipton has always been an animal lover, she said, and she was horrified by how stray animals lived on the island.
“The boxes of kittens at the front of the store, the boxes of puppies.,” she said. “Feral cats would gather underneath the store or the bank and then people would come and gather them up and dump them off at 62 pit and wish them the best of luck.”
62 pit is a rock pit about a mile outside of Craig.
So, Tipton decided to do something. She and a friend started fostering animals and sending them to places like the Ketchikan Humane Society for medical treatment and care. Tipton is now the vice president of PAWS.
Allison Weymiller, the president of PAWS, also helped to foster animals. She’s allergic to cats, but that didn’t stop her.
“Two weeks ago, I had 24 cats in my house,” she laughed. “And two dogs, and eight chickens, and a 3-year-old.”
Tipton and Weymiller are now trying to secure the funds to lease a building in Craig, which they can use as the official PAWS shelter.
They’re working on several presentations, to be shown at the upcoming Craig City Council meeting and the “island-wide” meeting in Whale Pass.
Here’s Weymiller again.
“It’s not just a Craig issue; it’s also an island-wide issue,” she said. “And so we have different graphs we’re gonna present to them, showing where each animal has come from, and see if the other communities can step up and hopefully help us be able to cover rent.”
They said PAWS will first and foremost be a shelter, but they hope to get into animal welfare education and outreach as well as eventually provide volunteer opportunities for adults and children alike.
For more intensive medical attention, PAWS sends animals to places like Juneau and Ketchikan, but they will be able to provide some basic veterinary services.
“We can do some – I mean, we give them their flea and tick here, we can do their de-wormer, we can do that kind of basic stuff,” Weymiller said. “And definitely after-vet care we can do; we’ve had to eye-drop feed some kittens and puppies.”
Weymiller said they want Prince of Wales to be a safer, friendlier place for animals.
“We want to educate people and provide homes for these animals on the island,” she said. “We want this island to be a pet-friendly island. And so, we spay and neuter each animal, give them their shots.”
They said that PAWS is ready to move its operation into a building as soon as funding becomes available.
For more information or to donate to PAWS, visit their website.