Today our Earth Scouts group paid a visit to PAWS of Tinley Park. PAWS is a no-kill animal shelter dedicated to the protection of domestic animals. Our current Earth Scouts’ focus is to make a difference through participatory democracy–and through those means, together, we chose to focus our attention on animal welfare. Specifically, we are gearing up to take action against the unfortunate and cruel practice of puppy mills.

So, as a way of understanding the issue better and spending some time with the adorable creatures we are working to protect, we all took a trip over to PAWS. Susan at PAWS was most generous with her time. She guided us through a tour of their facility, talked to us about what they do, and let us spend some time with the animals. We all learned a lot–and just barely got out of there without adopting half the place.

The issue is a serious one, though. The problem of animal homelessness is on the rise. Lost, abandoned, and stray animals account for many of the residents at PAWS, but relinquished animals also make up a large number. Tough economic times sometimes means people can’t afford to keep their animal companions. Also, in this post holiday season, many of the animals come to the shelter as unwanted Christmas gifts. In April 2008, 49 dogs at the center of a puppy mill operation came to the PAWS animal shelter where they were cared for until offered for public adoption.

The 150 volunteers at PAWS give so generously of their time and energy to make such an important difference in the lives of the animals they care for–through providing foster homes, transporting animals for veterinary care, working shifts at the shelter itself, donating money and time for fundraising events, and so on. All of the Earth Scout kids want to lend a hand–to volunteer and work with the animals–but unfortunately volunteers need to be at least 14 years old. There are upcoming opportunities, though, to help out in fundraising events–skating parties, doggie washes, and other fun gatherings. Hopefully our scouts can lend a hand in these and other important ways.

Check out PAWS or your local no-kill shelter soon–especially if you are looking for a companion animal to love and provide a good home to. Put the puppy mills out of business! Don’t shop! Adopt.