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Itura Weber, center, base liaison and co-chairwoman of PAWS, or Pets Are Worth Saving, the newly formed pet rescue organization at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, listens to fellow PAWS member Lt. Megan Miller, left, during a discussion of the group’s bylaws during a dinner meeting attended by 10 volunteer members.
Itura Weber, center, base liaison and co-chairwoman of PAWS, or Pets Are Worth Saving, the newly formed pet rescue organization at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, listens to fellow PAWS member Lt. Megan Miller, left, during a discussion of the group’s bylaws during a dinner meeting attended by 10 volunteer members. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — They can’t do it all, but when it comes to saving unwanted, lost or abandoned pets, doing anything is better than doing nothing.

That was the consensus of 10 women who met here Tuesday evening to move toward completing the formation of PAWS — Pets are Worth Saving — a new base pet rescue society in the final stage of organizing.

“We have no illusions about saving all the animals in Japan; nobody can do that,” Itura Weber explained. But PAWS members said they can help find homes for animals associated with Sasebo Naval Base personnel — in a way, playing matchmaker between pets and people.

The group’s special concern is animals domesticated by departed Americans but left homeless to fend for themselves.

“It is a shame,” Weber said, “when people, who usually have good intentions, come to the base for a couple of years … and they bring a pet or get a pet, and when they have to PCS they don’t know what to do with it.

“With cats, if a family takes in a stray it becomes domesticated, and learns that it eats because a human feeds it. So if they are just abandoned, they can’t take care of themselves and can’t survive.”

Also, she said, “Some people have the cats declawed. If they are then abandoned, they can’t defend themselves and survive.

“It’s all pretty sad,” added Weber, the group’s base liaison and co-chairwoman, and wife of Cmdr. Mark Weber, skipper of the USS Fort McHenry.

Members of PAWS and other community volunteers would register with the organization to serve as “foster families” for pets in transition. Transitioning pets could be those left behind by owners ordered to transfer before finding them new homes, or pets simply abandoned, PAWS members said.

The organization would pay for the care of such pets, including veterinary attention if needed, until it could find community members wanting to adopt, members said. The group’s budget would come solely from donations and fund-raising projects, not from any command or government source.

Everyone involved with PAWS is a volunteer, members said.

Terri Polk, wife of Fort McHenry medical officer Lt. Travis Polk, has lived in Sasebo about a year. She decided recently to become a founding PAWS member in part because “when we moved to Sasebo we had to leave our dog behind, and that was a heart-wrenching situation. Our dog is staying with my mom until we come back.

“So, I understand how people can feel about their pets, plus both of us have always been people who love dogs.”

The organization plans to offer help with the regulations and paperwork required for incoming residents to bring their pets, as well as for those moving on to take their pets with them.

“We have a great group of people here now interested in rescuing the animals,” said Weber. “There are a lot of animal lovers out there, and even though they may not be able to have a pet … there are other ways they can help by volunteering.”

Those wishing more information about PAWS may call Weber at 090-5289-9182, or Brandi Russell, the PAWS secretary, at DSN 252-2905 or 080-5209-6409.

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