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June 22, 2017

Passion for Paws

by Anne Paddock

While sitting in the waiting area of a car service center one day, a woman with a cascade of brown curls falling from the bun in her hair walked in wearing a pair of animal print leggings. She sat next to me and immediately greeted my 14-year old Jack Russell who was curled up in a tight ball on my lap, while introducing herself as “Ava Rhodes.” While we talked about our passion for animals, I learned Ava has 2 dogs and 5 cats which made me pause and make a mental note (self: there is a special place in heaven for anyone who takes care of seven animals).

As we waited for our cars to be serviced, Ava told me that she is the Executive Director of Passion For Paws in Palm Beach.  Eight years earlier, Ava – graduate of Yale – started a non-profit 501 (c) (3) after seeing firsthand as a volunteer at an animal shelter what happens when hard times fall on people. Unable to take care of their pets, these animals were either left to fend for themselves or taken to a shelter where they were often euthanized.

Passion For Paws provides emergency pet food, medical care, foster care, and rescue alternatives to pet owners facing financial difficulties. The organization’s mission is to reduce the number of pets in shelters by keeping dogs and cats in their forever homes and for finding homes for displaced pets. It’s better for the pets and their people.

The organization runs on a shoestring budget while administering 5 programs:

  • The Pet Food Pantry
  • Assistance for Senior Pet Owners
  • Pet Care Assistance
  • Homeless Pet Rescue and Placement
  • Temporary Foster Care for Dogs

In 2016, Passion For Paws collected about $60,000, most of which were contributions. Veterinary expenses totaled $18,000 while pet food was about $9,000 and office expenses were about $8,000. Out of pocket reimbursement to volunteers and staff totaled about $6,000 while other expenses were about $4,000. The Executive Director is paid $25,000 (truly a labor of love). Total expenses were about $70,000 in 2016 – about $10,000 more than what Passion For Paws collected. The organization has $13,000 in net fund assets.

Passion For Paws runs on a tight budget but Ava doesn’t give up.  She sees what one bag of dog food or an emergency veterinary procedure can do for an animal and his/her family, and this motivates her every day to continue. When we talked about the homeless and mental illness, Ava told me she had a lot of experience dealing with addicts and how their decisions impacted the life of an animal who depended upon them. She used to give money to homeless humans but she now spends the money helping the animals who are often the victims.

To read more about Passion For Paws or to make a donation, go to the Passion For Paws website:

To read the organization’s IRS Form 990 (2016) click here.

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