YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — For the past eight years, scores of dogs and hundreds of cats have passed through Yokosuka’s only animal shelter and into the lives of local families.

Such as Fred. A lively Shiba seen running free through Negishi this summer, Fred now awaits adoption from his cage in PAWS (Pets are Worth Saving), on the north side of the base, along with several cats and kittens and a boxer mix who barked too much for his original owners’ liking.

While the animals wait, PAWS workers and supporters will celebrate their eighth anniversary Friday with a fund-raiser at the Officers Club. The event, which will include a silent and live auction, hors d’oeuvres, music and a slide show, runs 6-8:30 p.m. in the Officers Club’s Admiralty room. Tickets are $20.

The event marks the anniversary of an organization widely regarded as bringing an extra measure of humanity to the base. Years ago, Dawn Zumwalt says, before there was a PAWS and she was still a senior at Kinnick High School, “If animals were brought in, they were put down.”

Zumwalt, now grown up, married to a sailor and serving as PAWS president, said, “I’m really impressed with all the progress that’s been made.”

There have been ups and downs, however.

Two years ago, there was such a shortage of volunteers the shelter was in danger of closing its doors. Although the shelter can always use volunteers, Zumwalt said, it currently has a solid group of about 30.

Three years ago, the group helped base veterinarians institute a cat-control program called Trap, Alter, Vaccinate, Release (TAVR). While the program lasted, feral cats on the base, of which there were and are many, were trapped, then underwent sterilization surgery and were tested for disease before being released. The idea was to control the cat population (which helps control the rodent population) by returning cats unable to reproduce to their territory. The theory is that the territory won’t then be taken over by another, fertile cat.

But that program was halted more than a year ago when the Navy decided it no longer would pay for the program, including the $35 worth of vaccines and surgical supplies per cat. The program’s demise was mourned by many.

“I would have loved to see that program stay,” said Spc. James Sandler, base veterinary technician. “If you trap and euthanize an animal, another animal’s just going to come and take its place.”

All PAWS animals must be cleared by the base vet before they’re eligible for adoption, and all are not only tested and vaccinated but spayed or neutered as well. An adoption fee helps offset the cost.

The shelter saves and finds homes for kittens found on the base. PAWS also accepts animals turned in by their owners. “Some people don’t want to have to take them on their PCS. Some people get a new baby or allergies develop over the years,” Zumwalt said. “Or we’ll get a dog because they’re getting too many complaints from their neighbors that the dog is barking too much.”

But big dogs pose a problem. Right now, Zumwalt said, there’s a Great Dane in Ikego that needs a new home. But the shelter can’t take it in, because there’s not enough space to accommodate it, she said.

This is the second year for the fund raiser. Last year’s auction raised $4,600, Zumwalt said.

“Hopefully, it’s going to work again that well.”

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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