Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 38 – Paddy’s Paws

Paddy’s Paws believes in “Rescue Done Right!” Since beginning in late 2014, and officially becoming a nonprofit organization in November of 2015, Paddy’s Paws has helped over 2,500 dogs find forever homes. The main focus is to find good homes, for good dogs, with good people. There are many reasons why Paddy’s Paws is unique. They provide animal education to local youth and create countless community outreach opportunities. Paddy’s Paws is more than just a rescue… They are a family. Always available to support adopters throughout the entire process.


Welcome to the ARPA Animal Rescue of the Week podcast, featuring outstanding organizations around the country that are helping animals & the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues & shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.

Paddy’s Paws started in 2014 but officially became a nonprofit organization in November of 2015. Since its opening, they have helped over 2,500 dogs find their forever homes by using their expert matchmaking skills and thorough approval process to ensure that each dog goes to a good fitting home. Paddy’s Paws works closely with other rescues in the US and they even go as far as sending proceeds from fundraisers and events to these other rescues to help them save more animals. As of July 2019 over $625,000 have been sent back to help these other rescues.

Hey, Erin. Welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. Thanks, I’m really excited to have you. So you are the President at Paddy’s Paws in Wisconsin. And why don’t you just get us started and tell us a little bit about your organization? Sure. So our rescue is one that we always laugh about because it was never meant to be a rescue. It was just my plan to help a former high school friend to move down to Houston, bring some dogs to Wisconsin to find fabulous homes. She noticed that Houston had this incredible overpopulation of homeless animals. And here in Wisconsin, we don’t have that same problem. So she and I brainstormed ways to just take a couple of dogs here and there, and that just sort of exploded into a full-blown rescue operation.

So how did you get started? So I know you said you were helping your friend. So how did it kind of turn into, you know, a full-blown rescue? As a child, I grew up in animal shelters with my mom volunteering. So she knew about my history and sheltering and rescue and asked if I could use some connections that I had here in Wisconsin to try to find these dogs and homes when she would come back to visit. So she has family still here in Wisconsin. So she thought each time she came out of plane, she might be able to bring a dog with her and then I could try and find that dog a home.

So why don’t you tell me a little bit about what the community is like in your area? We are so fortunate to have just an incredibly supportive community we’re a smaller, smaller rescue. But we have an incredible following. We have tremendous volunteers who have just stepped up in every way imaginable to make this rescue what it is today. It’s really, truly a group effort to make this work here in Wisconsin, we have a pretty low population in our shelters. And so there’s a lot of opportunities to transport dogs from areas that have a high population, and the community has been incredibly welcoming for these dogs to come in from out of state. There’s just been an outpouring of support and volunteers and applications and fundraising. So we are truly blessed to have such an awesome community and an awesome volunteer community. Yeah, that’s great. I feel that the community is such a huge piece of making everything come together. You know, without volunteers in the community, a lot of what we do couldn’t be done. So that’s great that you guys have that support. Absolutely. It’s wonderful.

So are there any of particular challenges for animals in your area? I know, you said, you kind of have a low shelter population, but are there any like other outside factors? I think the challenge is meeting adopters’ needs, at this point. We have more adopters than we have dogs in Wisconsin. Our shelters have empty kennels, which is unheard of in other areas. Yeah. So that biggest challenge right now is bringing the dogs and get them here safely, making sure they’re healthy. There’s always that big burst of love that you want to save them all, but there is a right way to do it and to get them here the right way so that we’re not spreading disease so that we’re bringing dogs that have appropriate temperaments to be placed with families.

So I think really Wisconsin is in our organization are just trying to figure out how we can do it the best way possible so that we’re helping all involved and not creating a problem here. We also don’t want to be a Band Aid. We want to make sure that we are helping support the areas that these dogs are coming from so that that overpopulation can be put to an end as well. We don’t want to just take the dogs and thank them and find them good homes and have them stuck in the same situation that they were in before. So we really focus on sending every dollar of adoption feedback to the rescues that sent the dogs to us so that they can work on spay and neuter education. They can get in the communities and use that money to create different programs. That’s a challenge that you don’t hear too often. You know, to have more adopters than you do dogs, so that’s kind of a good challenge to have. A great challenge. It’s a great testament to the education that Wisconsin has done to the community on spaying and neutering and responsible pet ownership, and it’s really a kudos to our state for doing that.

So let’s talk a little bit about the programs that you guys offer or actually, let’s start with the adoption process because I saw on your website that you guys have kind of a different adoption process since you don’t have a facility, so can you kind of walk me through what that looks like? So we are a foster-based organization, which means that we don’t have a facility. That dogs stay at. All of our dogs live with families here in Wisconsin, spread out throughout the state. Generally, we try to keep our fosters within an hour off our general location, which is Fort Atkinson, just for ease of getting them to meet and greets and coordinating events. We have our fosters go through the exacting process that our adopters go through. So our fosters fill out an application. We do a vet check, we do a background check. We verify that they own or speak with the landlord of their property. We do a home visit, and then we do a meet and greet with them to teach them about becoming a foster for our program. We find that makes really a nice, thorough process, where our fosters are committed, they understand what the adopters will also go through because they went through it themselves. It’s a nice in-depth program, certainly does take a little more time than some may, and it does involve a lot of time on our volunteers and to really get to all the applications that they can. But we believe that these dogs have already had so many terrible things happen to them. We want to ensure that we can, with all of our efforts, make the best ending for them.

How do you acquire the dogs at your shelter? Or since, you don’t have a shelter or facility, how do you get the dogs and then get them into the foster homes? So we work with our Houston partners who are just absolutely fabulous, and they give us the profiles of the dogs. They give us the pictures of the dogs, so we learn about the dogs before we get to meet them. Once we select them, we get a backup foster. Even if we have one that we matched to an adopter, they always have a backup foster in case it’s not a match for the adopter. And then we organize a transport. There’s a van here in Wisconsin, and there’s a van down in Houston. Sometimes there’s two, and we meet halfway and transfer the dogs with our Houston partners and then bring them here to Wisconsin. We do have a wonderful individual who’s donated the use of a private property facility. So we have a wonderful heated barn that we do all of our adoption consign on transport days. And the dogs come in to get comforted once they’re off their long trip before we send them off to foster’s. So again, a great example of how individuals are donating more than just their time to help our organization work.

So I want to talk a little bit more about the fostering process too, for those who are maybe interested in fostering or who don’t really know what goes into it. You mentioned that you do home visits. What do you look for when you go to someone’s home that wants to be a foster? Most people, when they hear that we’re going to do a home visit, think it’s kind of a white glove test or we’re coming to look at their house and see you know how good of a housekeeper they are. But really, it’s just a conversation and we find that being able to sit down with the people that we’re potentially going to work with and talking about what will fit their lifestyle. Dogs aren’t one size fits all. So we get to sit down and talk about their activity level. And you know, what they’re looking for as far as restrictions that they may have or personalities that might fit best with the dogs they already have in their house or if it’s a single dog. So it’s really kind of just a getting to know you process and to ensure that we’re doing the best matchmaking possible so that it’s an easy transition into the foster.

Yeah, I think that’s so important that you mentioned that because, like you said, I think a lot of people think that it’s like, “oh, let me see how clean your house is,” or “what kind of rooms you have,” but it’s more about your lifestyle, making sure that you get a dog. You know, if you love going hiking or you exercise a lot and you want a dog that can do that with you, it’s more about finding a dog that’ll match that personality trait. Absolutely, and we have a great track record with that. We’re well over 90% with matchmaking, and I think it is because we do take that time to get to know our fosters and our adopters and the dogs that are coming. We know them well before they get here so that we can do that matchmaking. Yeah, that’s so important.

Do you have a vet that works with you? Like if somebody is fostering like a sick animal, an animal that needs medical attention? Do you have somebody that they can call or that they can bring the animal to? How does that work? We have a vet here in Fort Atkinson that we work with regularly, but for the ease of our fosters, we allow them to use whatever vet is most convenient for them. I think that also helps with our program is they don’t have to travel an hour to get to our vet. They can use whatever that they’d like to use that’s near their home or that one that they have a relationship with. And Paddy’s Paws does send all adoption fees back to Houston. But we do all of our fundraising here in Wisconsin to pay for those vet bills. So once a dog is into our program, we 100% cover any of the vet cure that they need before they find their forever home, which can add up for some dogs. We’ve had a couple really expensive surgeries and things that the dogs have needed, and we’ve been really lucky to be able to get that funding from our community. Definitely.

And can people foster more than one animal at a time? Or do you try to have just one dog in a foster home at a time? They can foster multiple. Wisconsin State law requires that they do not go over 25 dogs per calendar year. If they do that, they need to get their own license. So our Foster’s generally stay at 25 and under. We certainly don’t have any that have 25 all at once. But we will have foster’s who will take a litter of puppies, or they’ll have a mom who’s going to have puppies or they bring a bonded pair and they’ll take those. We do try to space at least 2 to 3 weeks between when they take on an additional foster if they still have one in their home just to make sure that that fosters gotten an appropriate amount of time to acclimate. And we’re not rocking the boat by adding another dog in there right away.

So, but we do have foster’s, we have some right now, that have five fosters, and so you can definitely have more than one. It’s very helpful. We always say pairing puppies up is extra helpful because they get an added playmate in there already. You know, we’re more about quality than we are quantity. We don’t want to overwhelm our fosters, and we want to make sure that we’re not just flooding dogs and just to do it. We want to stay with purpose and make sure that we’re doing it the right way. So with the exception of a litter of puppies, we really rarely will have anyone who has more than two or three fosters at a time. Yeah, that makes sense. And I love that you guys, you go by quality over quantity, so that’s great.

Do you have any out of state adopters? I know you said that you do some transport. So say somebody in another state sees a dog that they want are they able to adopt? We do adoptions within an hour to two hours off our volunteers. So we have a volunteer who lives near Northern Illinois. We would adapt to that area. We want to ensure that all of the dogs have a connection within an hour’s drive. Just in the event, something goes wrong and we need to get to that animal. We want to make sure that we are being responsible, so we don’t adopt out generally out of Wisconsin, with the occasional sometimes Illinois. But for the most part, we found that all of our dogs have been able to quickly find a home here in Wisconsin. So we haven’t branched out at this point beyond Wisconsin, but they are all coming from Texas.

Do you need a simple way to capture video of your animals, your fundraisers, and your events? Are you tired of struggling to get videos from your volunteers & staff in one place where you can use them for social media and marketing? Do you need help editing your raw videos into amazing video stories that get animals adopted? Then check out RescueTUBE where we’ve simplified the process of capturing and editing your videos. Here’s how it works. Simply download the Doobert app, type in your code, and start recording. The videos and photos automatically upload to your Doobert dashboard so you can download them on any device. Now, videos from daily walks, training sessions, foster homes and even adoption days can be easily captured and automatically uploaded in one place. Then, you can either edit the videos yourself or send them to the RescueTUBE professionals to curate into amazing video stories. Imagine the awareness and marketing you could bring to your organization. Learn more at Rescue.TUBE so you can start collecting videos from everyone.

So let’s talk a little bit about your volunteers. You mentioned that you have this great support from your community. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about the volunteer options and opportunities that you guys have? So our volunteers, some of them will take on multiple roles, and some of them have just a specific role that they work with. We’ve got home visit volunteers. We’ve got vet call volunteers. We’ve got application processing volunteers. We, of course, have our fosters. We’ve got transport drivers. We’ve got people who would just come to volunteer in an event, who maybe don’t have the opportunity to foster at this time or for whatever reason, can’t get involved in that. And so they’ll come and help us at a fundraiser. So they really range from one duty to all of them. And they have never met such a kind and caring and passionate group as they have with the Paddy’s Paws group. They’re out of this world, phenomenal. So we’ve been really lucky to meet all these great people, and we’re always looking for more volunteers. Manpower is probably our biggest challenge, but the volunteers that we have are outstanding. Like you said, it sounds like you have a lot of different opportunities and different things that they can do. So that’s great, cause there’s something for everyone. Yes.

So how does someone become a volunteer? Is there an application that they fill out online? Most of our volunteers have either been adopters or they’ve been applied to be a foster, so they kind of cultivated from that group. But for our volunteers who just want to do home visits, we just do a meet and greet with that and some training a background check, obviously, since they’re going into someone’s home. So the process to become a volunteer is pretty easy compared to becoming adopter/foster. It’s just kind of branching out from folks who have adopted who then have a friend who wants to get involved and they have a friend, so it kind of snowballs from there. But it’s very easy to become a volunteer. We just ask that they email to learn more about the opportunities that they may have in their area.

It sounds like volunteers, and getting that manpower is kind of one of your biggest challenges.  So what are some things that you guys are doing to resolve those challenges? Or is there something that listeners can do to help? Absolutely. Emailing to learn how to become a volunteer would be amazing, but really just getting the word out there about the organization sharing our posts, sharing our information sharing our adoptable dogs. We found that the more publicity are dogs can get before they even arrive here, leads to the need for less manpower because they get adopted instead of needing to go to a foster right away. But yeah, we’re always looking for people to just spread the word and ask how they could get involved.

And so do you guys have any events that you put on or any fundraising events that you guys do in order to get more funds or more volunteers? We do a lot of online T-shirt sales. That’s always a fun way for people to raise money. They can purchase a T-shirt and portion of the proceeds goes to Paddy’s Paws. So we post those on our Facebook page and website often. We do a lot of meet and greets where we can have just the general public come to meet the dogs. They’re not adoption events, so no one can take a dog home that day because they have to go through the process. But we sell goods that our community makes, if they’re dog treats, or they make totes or other little items that we can sell. We do a lot of online fundraising specifically for a dog in need. So if there’s a dog that has an upcoming surgery, that we need a little help or we’ll put a post out there. We’ve got a lot of very crafty and talented people in our group, so they’re always coming up with something to make to sell.

And our school system is also absolutely fabulous. We’ve had so many children from the elementary up to the high school level taking the time to run a mini grant and do a lemonade stand or sell something at school or just even donating their class funds to our organization. The senior class of 2019 opted to use the leftover funds that they had to give to Paddy’s Paws. So people are offering their talents in their time, and that has really increased our funding. Wow, that’s great, especially that they—the kids, decided that they wanted to donate their extra funds. That’s great. We tried to visit the classrooms, which is a big piece. Our vice president, Kerry, is a teacher, so she is constantly promoting Paddy’s Paws in her classroom and creating learning opportunities and teaching kids how to become responsible pet owners in the future. And I think that change—these air going to be our ambassadors in the next coming years. So it’s really amazing to see them step up and be so selfless.

When you talk about education, are you going into schools and kind of teaching like this is how to be responsible pet owner. This is how to hold animals how to treat animals. What is kind of an education piece look like? Definitely all of that. We find that sharing the stories of particular dogs that we bring into the classrooms that they can meet also helps create that empathy, so they can learn about the dogs and what they’ve been through. We have a lot of children who can relate to some of the stories that we share and just giving them that opportunity to perhaps meet a dog, that something resonates with them and then that channels into talking about responsible pet ownership and the importance of spaying and neutering, the importance of adopting a dog versus purchasing one, just really the things that the kids might not think about or be exposed to on a day to day basis. Yeah, that sounds like a great program. And like you said, it’s really important to make sure that kids are aware of these issues. So absolutely they’re our future in this. So it’s important to start early with them. Definitely.

So do you have a memorable story that you would like to share with us. It could be about an animal or a volunteer, just something that you’re proud of. I think I’m obviously I’m most proud of our volunteers and everything that they’ve given to the organization, especially sharing perhaps a story about our Houston volunteers who are down there sort of in the trenches of Dog Rescue, where they’re bringing in the sick dogs from the street. They’re taking the owner surrenders from the high kill shelters. They’re really, really doing the tough part. We get them when they’re healthy and happy and ready for a home. So we get kind of the pretty end of rescue, but just the trips down to Houston that we’ve gone for transport or just people going down to meet these volunteers just actually seeing the conditions that these dogs are in and what our volunteers down there endure on a day to day basis, just really hit home. I think for a lot of people here in Wisconsin don’t see that, so I think that’s memorable for everyone who’s had that opportunity to go there and to visit with those rescue partners down there. It’s not always a happy ending for them. Whereas here, we get the happy endings.

Yes, always sort of like a humbling experience. You know, when you see the animals that are in these situations that aren’t ideal, and then they either come to you or you just see them and then, you know, flourish finally and finally get that loving home. I think that’s just it’s incredible for people who are from the areas that we’re rescuing from to see the forever happy endings that we share. These dogs who have been tossed aside like garbage there, are suddenly treasured, and they’re just a part of a family. And I think that’s really what drives everyone to continue is, seeing that happy ending and knowing that these dogs have that story at the end that’s going to be beautiful, it keeps them going.

I guess. Like in Texas, they have, like a higher population of dogs and shelters, whereas where you are, there’s less crowding. Do you know why that is? I think it boils down to a lot of the spay and neuter. Each dog that’s out on the streets are owned, but roaming just creates litter after litter after litter. It’s just become such a snowball effect of these dogs being born on the streets of these dogs being born in homes who don’t value them. They’re valued more as a property or some people have talked about the dogs that have become kind of a garden fixture on their front yard, chained to the house. There’s just a different level of respect for animals, and they’re working so hard to change that they’re having those conversations, especially with the youth around there, who maybe didn’t grow up with animals being a valued member of the family, trying to get those folks involved in rescue themselves so that they can feel that change happening.

But really, I think it just boils down to getting a hold of spay and neutering and starting to stop that big bleed of dogs that are being born every year. Yeah, it kind of sounds like there’s an education piece to it as well, which is why I think it’s so important that you guys incorporate education because maybe they don’t have that—those programs where they talk to kids about spaying and neutering or the importance of it. So I feel like that might be a big piece of it, too. That’s a huge part of one of our rescue partners that we send the adoption fees to. We’ll use some of that for spay and neuter sponsoring of people that they need in the community who are having litter after litter. They can take those adoption fees that we send and pay for the spay or neuter of the parents so that the cycle ends there.

So what does the future look like for your organization? Do you guys have any upcoming plans or programs that people should know about? For us, it’s really building on what we’ve already started and just growing and finding more volunteers so that we can spread out throughout Wisconsin and potentially into other states. We’ve got some great fundraising opportunities and some great promotion of our dogs. Our dogs will be walking in a holiday parade on November 9th in Fort Atkinson, so they’ll be following our van and showing off the van that we fund raised for, and tossing candy of course to the children. And we have a holiday open house coming up on December 7th at St. Colletta’s, where people can come and purchase some of the goods that have been donated to us that they’ve created and also do a public meet and greet. So those are some of our fundraisers coming up this winter still. And are both of those available for anybody to participate in absolutely up there for kids of all ages and adults as well. And it’s always just a great opportunity to meet the dogs that they see online. You get to see them in person, and sometimes you just fall in love with one that you didn’t know you would love until you meet them. So it’s a great opportunity to see the dogs in person. Awesome.

So what is the best way that people can get in touch with you guys? Because we’re all volunteer-base and everyone does have a full time career and family we use email as our best form of contact. It allows our volunteers to be able to check in when they can and shoot a quick email at all hours of the night. So email is definitely our mode of communication. Our volunteers do use phones, obviously too. To set up home visits and talk to adopters and helped them pre and post adoption. But email is absolutely the best way to get in touch with us. And can you please say what your email and your website is? Just in case anybody wants to send you guys an email? Our email is and our website is Perfect.

Is there anything else that you would like to share before we wrap things up today? I would just like to say thank you to all the people who are involved in animal rescue and making our world a better place for animals. It’s amazing to me that so many people will take time out of their busy schedules and time away from their families to dedicate to these dogs, in our case. It’s been a humbling experience to see how many people care. Well, thank you so much, Erin, for joining me today. I really appreciate it. And I’ve learned so much. Thank you for having me.

Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the ARPA to take advantage of all of the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign-up with It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.

This show is available on