Although many people only think of dogs and cats when they think of PAWS, many other types animals also take shelter there and are available for adoption.
FORT WALTON BEACH — Donna Kaufman chuckled as she described her morning routine, each day beginning with a quad of hungry turtles ready to greet her at the base of the animal shelter’s pond.
Kaufman, a staff member at the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), first began feeding the turtles at the shelter in May after she realized they had taken a liking to her and began rushing to the side of the pond as she walked past.
“When the turtles are very hungry, they might come up to me and eat food out of my hand,” Kaufman said. “It was like a turtle swarm and it marked a new Turtle Lady milestone for me.”
Although many people only think of dogs and cats when they think of PAWS, many other types animals also take shelter there and are available for adoption. Karnise Schweizer, a PAWS volunteer, said in addition to the turtles, PAWS houses rabbits, birds, hamsters, pigs and chickens.
One of the most unique was a cherry- and tomato-loving pig named Templeton who was surrendered by his owner. On July 26, he was adopted by an Alabama family with another pig and a couple of dogs.
When it comes to the turtles, there are currently four at PAWS and, even though they are adoptable, they will likely remain in the pond at the shelter for the rest of their lives.
“Nobody’s interested in taking them,” Kaufman said about the turtles. “People get turtles when they’re small then abandon them when they get bigger.”
One of the most recent additions to the PAWS family is an African spurred tortoise. PAWS staff found the tortoise on the doorstep of the main office, but they still don’t know where he came from. Kaufman said he looked like a concrete statue until he moved his head, and she realized otherwise. He doesn’t have a name yet, but Kaufman calls him Tortie.
Even in the most unexpected cases, such as the recent intake of more 80 dogs and cats at once, the staff and volunteers work hard to care for each and every animal housed at PAWS.
Dee Thompson, director of PAWS, said some people have misconceptions about what happens to the animals at the shelter. Thompson said, however, she and her staff try to find a home for every one, which can be hard.
“We have our policies, so if the animal bites, we can’t directly offer it to the public,” Thompson said. “There aren’t a lot of homes for the quantity of animals being born, which is why we tell people to spay and neuter their pets. We work hard to make sure that every animal in this shelter finds their forever home.”