By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Paw Pals, Inc. of Quincy will close down next year, ending more than a decade of offering assistance and advice to pet owners.
The organization will continue to offer emergency veterinary care assistance and will operate the pet food pantry until May 1.
The Paw Pals board decided to shut down after six months of reviewing the direction and future of the organization, including several strategic planning sessions for all board members with a facilitator. Executive Director Jane Holt said the decision coincided with, but was unrelated to, her decision to retire effective June 1 from the organization she founded 12 years ago.
"Our fervent hope is that other animal welfare organizations in the community will recognize a need for the services we have provided and the value of community outreach and will take up some of our work within their list of services," Holt wrote in a letter to friends and contributors.
The pet food pantry will remain open 3:30-5:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays at 20th and State.
Staff and volunteers with Katherine Road Animal Hospital, which has provided veterinary service for Paw Pals since its launch, will take over its operation.
"We'll still do two days a week like they're doing now," KRAH office manager Pat Hussong said.
The pantry provides one key item for pet owners, and pets, in need, but Hussong said the other services Paw Pals now provides, especially veterinary care, also are important for people with limited resources.
"It's become more important as the economy has changed. Initially when (Holt) started out, she was not seeing as many people as she's seeing now," Hussong said. "We've seen a lot of animals, helped a lot of people. This will leave a void for a lot of people."
Hussong hopes to see those services continue even after Paw Pals shuts down.
"There's a lot of time left," she said. "Hopefully somebody will come forward to do something."
Holt could not be reached for comment. The message on the answering machine at Paw Pals said Holt was out of the country until Thursday and unavailable to take calls.
In the letter, Holt said the organization is proud of its accomplishments.
"We have provided thousands of free spay/neuter surgeries and vaccinations, and hundreds of pets have received vet care assistance to relieve pain and suffering and improve their quality of lives," Holt wrote. "The Pet Food Pantry has fed thousands of animals, and shelter has been provided to hundreds of pets. Rescue was available when needed, as well as the delivery of education and assistance to many, many clients and their pets."
"Needless to say, these accomplishments would have been impossible without the generous support of donors, volunteers and supporters who throughout the years have made our success possible," Holt wrote.
Holt worked at the St. Louis University Hospitals and Blessing Hospital before taking a hiatus from full-time employment to raise her family. She became an advocate for animals after joining the board of the Quincy Humane Society and seeing a need to offer animal care assistance to pet owners in the northwest side of Quincy. That led to founding the organization "dedicated to bettering the lives of pets through education and service to the community."
With the decision to shut down, Paw Pals will not hold an annual appeal this holiday season and no longer solicits donations. Voluntary cash donations offered by supporters will be accepted through Dec. 31.
When Paw Pals dissolves its not-for-profit organization, all remaining cash and belongings will be distributed to other not-for-profits with similar missions.