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Pet Adoption Hasn't Ended Because of the Health Crisis, Nor Should It

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The gay cofounder of Paw Works, an L.A.-based pet adoption center, doesn't want us to forget our furry friends. 

In 2014, Chad Atkins and Christina Morgan realized that rescue animals were treated as second-class compared to purebreds being purchased for thousands of dollars.

Atkins and Morgan were inspired to educate the world that rescue animals deserve "no less than the best" when it comes to love and care from their owners, so they created one of the first high-end rescue boutiques in the Los Angeles area, dedicated to showing rescue animals in the best light.

Several Hollywood A-listers have worked with Paw Works to adopt their furry friends, including Sarah Paulson (see below).

Paw Works's mission is to address pet overpopulation at its source. In addition to providing spay and neuter surgeries to animals of low-income residents of our communities, Paw Works is the only rescue in L.A. to allow children from the age of 6-15 to volunteer first-hand with rescue animals.

The Advocate sat down with Atkins, a gay man and current executive director, to discuss the importance of pet adoption amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Advocate: First of all, thank you for everything you do. I'd love for you to explain the healing power of pets and Paw Works's attachment to the LGBTQ community. |
Chad Atkins: It's my opinion that dogs are the only thing in this world that show unconditional love. No matter how much we abuse or neglect them, with time and patience, they are always willing to forgive and give love without asking for anything in return.

As a gay man, having a dog in my life has always shown me that I am loved. My dogs have never cared how skinny I am, how much money I make, or my sexual prowess. They have only wanted to show me love and how excited they are to see me every day even with morning breath and all.

We live in such a divisive culture, I believe we could learn how to accept others for who they are and where they are in life without expecting anything more than kindness in return.

How has COVID-19 impacted business? How can folks adopt pets right now?
It has been a very surreal few weeks. With the initial news of COVID-19, I quickly realized that this crisis was not going to end quickly. With the help of my staff we shut down both of our adoption centers. In order to continue our mission to lead, protect, heal, comfort, and shelter those who cannot speak for themselves, I knew that we needed to continue finding forever homes for our animals and rescuing others in need.

With that in mind, we completely restructured our facility and created our very own adoption center on site. Over the past three weeks, the support and response has been overwhelming. We have seen record numbers of animals being adopted and fostered. Animals who have had little to no interest in the past months are now having the opportunity to open up with patient adopters and fosters who have the time to spend with these pets. In addition, we have had rescue transports weekly, saving 50-60 dogs and cats during each transport.

So people can still adopt pets! That's good news.
Yes, Paw Works is still open to facilitate adoptions. During the weekdays, Paw Works is open by appointments only. We have utilized an app and website, Doodle, to help facilitate these weekday bookings. On weekends, Paw Works is open to the public during specific hours for adoptions. At all times we practice social distancing and require masks for our potential adopters and staff In addition, we only allow two potential adopters in at a time, and the others interested must sign up on a list and wait in their vehicle until called. Our weekend wait times have exceeded two and half hours at times!

I'd love to hear about your personal journey in adopting your pets.
At 41, I've had many pets throughout my years. However, the one that stands out the most was my first pet I adopted as an adult. Littles, a.k.a. Precious, was a little boy my ex-husband and I adopted in 2001. I was living in my hometown of Fresno, Calif. My partner at the time had a previous pet with his ex, and we were looking to add a new member to the family. We had heard that the local SPCA had a group of puppies available for adoption. While visiting the adoptable pets, the staff took us to their medical area where the puppies were being housed.

It was at this point a little chihuahua boy caught my eye as he was thumping around in his kennel. My partner continued viewing the fluffy white puppies in the kennel while my attention could not be drawn away from this little guy with a cast on his leg. While I was asking the shelter employee about his condition, the pup wiggled his butt nonstop and thumped his cast around repeatedly. We were informed the shelter intended to amputate his leg due to a break that had occurred.

We spoke to the shelter manager and expressed our desire to adopt him and for them not to amputate his leg. Over the next five days, we visited who would soon become Littles every day until we could bring him home.

Littles was our firstborn and lived to the great age of 18 until passing in November 2019.

How do animal rights and human rights intersect?
This is such a simple question, that I'm surprised how little insight many people have on this.

Every day humans abuse, neglect, abandon, and destroy the homes of animals. These animals are voiceless and many times dependent on the humans that subject them to this harm. If we, humankind, are so willing to harm these voiceless creatures, how will we ever treat someone who looks, acts, speaks, thinks differently than ourselves? Until we take notice of the welfare of our animals, we will never take the time to get past our own prejudices and dislikes of others that conflicts with our own thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

A great man once said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated" -- Mahatma Gandhi.

If you're interested in adopting a pet from Paw Works, visit PawWorks.org to see all available animals. In addition, Paw Works debuts all new animals available for adoption on Saturdays and posts their pictures on Instagram and Facebook, @pawworks.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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