Founded in 2019, Paws Between Homes is an Atlanta nonprofit animal rescue that provides temporary foster homes to the pets of people who lose their housing.
Cole Thaler, Paws Between Homes’ board president, is a Jewish man who cites the Torah’s emphasis on animal welfare as informing the organization’s values. “Proverbs 12:10 teaches us that the righteous care for the needs of their animals.”
Other Jewish members of the nonprofit’s steering committee include vice president Sarah Rosenberg, secretary Debra Berger, board member Rachel Gilman Thompson and steering committee members Judy Landey and Samantha Findling. Thaler relates that Paws Between Homes receives several new calls for help each week, and the numbers are increasing. “I got a call from a woman who was sleeping in her car with her dog and cat,” he said. “The pets were her only emotional support, so she refused to move into a home without them.” When he told the woman that he found a foster home for her animals, she cried with relief.
The founders of Paws Between Homes, many of whom have ties to local animal welfare and legal aid agencies, came together to patch a hole in Atlanta’s safety net. Fulton County courts process tens of thousands of eviction cases each year. Evictions often caste a household into a temporary period of instability, bouncing from extended-stay motel to homeless shelter to sleeping outdoors or in a car. As a result of this upheaval, beloved family pets are often permanently surrendered to local animal shelters. When the family gets back on its feet, it’s too late to reclaim their pet.
The volunteers who run Paws Between Homes believe that pets are part of the family, and that the crisis of homelessness should not include the forced loss of a cherished furry family member. While the pet is in foster care, Paws Between Homes provides all food, supplies and veterinary care. And when the family is ready to reunite with their pet, the nonprofit pays any pet deposit that the new landlord charges. The organization’s work also helps overcrowded local shelters by preventing the surrender of pets.
Steering committee member Landey notes that the COVID-19 crisis has led to an uptick in calls and emails seeking help from Paws Between Homes. Her own dog Leo was surrendered by his former owner to a rural shelter when Leo was 9 years old. “I was given no other information. It makes me wonder if an organization like Paws Between Homes could have been a solution for Leo’s former family. I’m just so thrilled he joined our family. It was important to me to rescue a dog who may have been overlooked in the shelter.”
Landey emphasized that Paws Between Homes has served over 60 pets with a small budget and no paid staff. Despite the challenges, she added, “I’m privileged to be a part of this much-needed organization that serves as a safety net for pets and people who care about them during times of housing instability.”
A recent case (where the names have been changed) reads like this:
“Rob Edmond* lost his job as a forklift operator at a North Georgia winery when COVID struck. The timing could not have been worse: Rob’s wife, Kelsey, had just discovered she was pregnant with the couple’s third child. The Edmonds stayed in their apartment for as long as they could stretch their small savings. But soon their electricity got cut off for nonpayment, they fell two months behind on rent, and their landlord demanded that they move out. The couple and their two sons packed up their belongings and moved in with a friend. But the friend drew the line at taking in the Edmonds’ three dogs. In desperation, Kelsey turned to the Internet, where she discovered Paws Between Homes. All three of the Edmonds’ dogs are now safely in foster homes. Ron recently found a new job, and the family is looking forward to reuniting with their dogs as soon as they save up for a security deposit.”
To learn more about fostering for Paws Between Homes or to support the organization, visit PawsBetweenHomes.org.