December 8, 2020

DC PAWS Co-Founder Recognized For Helping Pets Find New Homes

By haziqbinarif

ARLINGTON, VA — Kate Viar of Alexandria was recently honored by Federal Realty for her acts of kindness toward the community. Viar rescues dogs from rural shelters and organizes adoptions through DC PAWS Rescue.

As part of Federal Realty’s Small Things, Big Thanks initiative, the company solicited nominations from the public of people who have gone above and beyond during these uncertain times.

In recognition for Viar’s work with DC PAWS, she received a $250 gift certificate to be spent at any of Federal Realty’s commercial properties around the D.C. metro area, including Pentagon Row and the Village at Shirlington.

“I guess my title would be executive director, but I wear many hats because we’re really small and strapped and don’t have enough help,” Viar said, with a laugh. “But, I pretty much do it all from an operations perspective, but I am one of the founders of the rescue.

DC PAWS is a 100 percent volunteer and foster-based rescue, serving the metro-D.C. region. It currently has about 40 volunteers, and it helped about 300 animals find their forever homes in 2019.

“A lot of the larger rescues in the D.C. area have paid staff,” she said. “They have an office and they either have a boarding facility or they keep a large number of animals in a boarding environment, which takes the benefit away of being a ‘foster-based rescue.'”

DC PAWS tries to help find homes for homeless dogs and cats both locally in the D.C. area, as well as from shelters in North Carolina and South Carolina.

“Our goal is, as much as possible, locally rescue the domestic short-haired cats as well as the bully mixes, because our own shelters are full of those animals and it doesn’t really make sense to be importing those animals from other parts of the country,” she said.

There is no shortage of cats and some breeds of dogs in shelters across the D.C. region. For example, DC PAWS obtains many of its animals from shelters in Prince Georges County, Maryland, and Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

“They just have a harder time because they just can’t screen adopters as thoroughly as a rescue could,” Viar said. “We try to help out by taking some animals that might have some additional training needs or some behavioral quirks that we want to make sure that they’re landing in the right family. The screening that we do will ensure that in a way that the shelter probably can’t accomplish.”

As a foster-based rescue, DC PAWS is able to screen animals to ensure that they are, indeed, adoptable, and that whatever quirks they may have can be overcome through training.

Viar recommends that anyone who is looking to adopt an animal should visit the DC PAWS Rescue website to see what animals are available.

“Sometimes we have adopters who say, ‘Listen, I want to adopt from you, but I’m not seeing the right fit just yet. Can you preapprove me and then when the right animal comes along I want to be well-positioned to be matched to that animal?'” Viar said. “We also do that for adopters. Sometimes, when we get competing applications and we only have one dog or one cat, if it’s a really good application we’ll go ahead and pre-approve the application and say, ‘OK, the next time we find a beagle like that or a Siamese cat like that, we will match that adopter.”

The process for adopting from DC PAWS is fairly simple, according to Viar. Prospective adopters fill out an application, then DC PAWS will conduct a prescreening to see if they qualify. If the applicant is a renter, for example, DC PAWS will check with their landlord to see if they’re allowed to have a pet and whether there are any other restrictions, such as the number of allowable pets. If the applicant has other pets, DC PAWS will contact their veterinarian to see if all of the animals’ vaccinations and medical treatments are up to date.

“We want to make sure they have a good record and history of vetting their own animal,” Viar said. “Then we do an interview with the adopter and that is twofold. It’s to educate the person on what it means to a dog or cat from a rescue, let them know what the contract requirements are.”

If the adopter needs to rehome the animal at any point for any reason, the animal has to be returned to the rescue, even if the adopter has a family member who is willing to take the animal. If that’s the case, DC PAWS will work with the adopter to make that happen, as long as the animal ends up in a safe home.

DC PAWS also conducts a home visit to help determine if the home is a safe environment for the animal and everyone in the home supports the adoption.

“Our goal is to make sure that we’re matching and that we’re giving them an animal that meets what they’re looking for and that we’re never placing an animal in a home that can’t meet the needs of what that animal needs,” Viar said.

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