Shelter for rehabilitating dogs needs rescuing at the lake
MORGAN COUNTY - For three decades Paul Rhodes has been rescuing and rehabilitating animals.
“The very first one I rescued was out of a burning farm home,” Rhodes said. “I grew up with animals. I’ve always had a heart for animals.”
In 2010, Rhodes and his then wife opened Paws Place, a true no-kill, non-profit animal shelter near the Lake of the Ozarks.
Throughout the past eight years, Paws Place has saved the lives and adopted out thousands of dogs from its shelter, finding them permanent homes.
“It feels good to find them a home that they’re going to live out the rest of their lives in. That’s the success of doing what I’m doing,” he said.
Larry Clark adopted Kingdom from the shelter within the first few years it was open. Rhodes scheduled a time for Kingdom to meet the other animals in the Clark household before the adoption.
"Paul's just as concerned about the dog than anything else," Clark said. "Out of all the shelters I've seen in the Ozarks, he's not only unique, he has a different attitude about adopting out a pet."
Clark said Kingdom is the perfect dog.
The shelter has 40-50 dogs currently in Rhodes’ care. He uses a different style to contain the animals. Unlike many other shelters that segregate dogs in cages, Rhodes uses pack philosophy instead. Pack philosophy allows the dogs to freely roam, and Rhodes said it’s more effective than traditional shelters.
“My return rate is less than 2 percent by using pack philosophy,” he said. “The average shelter that segregates their animals is 15 percent or more.”
Even with the success of Paws Place, Rhodes, who is the only person keeping the shelter operating, is now struggling to keep the doors open.
“I’m not a quitter, but now it’s to the point where I may have to,” he said.
Rhodes experienced a difficult winter. He paid $6,000 to save one dog that was hit by a car, a pipe at the shelter froze, and well water dried up at the property. All of this happened after Rhodes installed a $10,000 fence surrounding the property in the fall, not expecting the hardships that would soon come.
“I never thought that I would see this day, with all the rescues I’ve done, hundreds and hundreds, that I myself need rescued.”
Now as the expenses continue to rise, paying nearly $1,000 each month to feed the animals has become a challenge.
One of the main sources of revenue for the shelter, around 75 percent, comes from an unlikely source. Rhodes owned and operated two thrift stores in the lake area, though recently had to shut down one.
“I recently had to close the doors on one. The other, I don’t see too much hope around the corner that I’d be able to keep the doors open on it,” he said.
If Rhodes was forced to close the thrift store, he would be left without a suitable source of revenue.
“I don’t see how I can last another month,” he said. “This relationship has been physically, mentally and financially very, very tough.”
Rhodes said that the if Paws Place is forced to close, the long term impact on other lake area shelters will be felt. The shelters in the region are the only source of animal control, and by removing one, Rhodes said others will be forced to bring in more animals.
“Any loss of a shelter is going to trickle downhill, it’s going to get that ripple effect,” he said.
Bringing in more animals often forces shelters to euthanize animals that are not quickly adopted.
“A lot of times the older dogs that have been there for a while get euthanized to make room for the newer dogs,” Rhodes said. “I won’t put down animals, I refuse to euthanize unless it’s absolutely humanely necessary.”
Even with his back against the wall, Rhodes refuses to fold.
“When we’re talking about animals and being responsible and taking care of them, you can’t just walk away,” Rhodes said. “The animals aren’t just a thing, their animals, they’re alive, they’re breathing. They need somebody to be responsible, and take care of them and that’s all I’ve ever tried to do.”
Rhodes said he will continue to care for the animals until he is no longer able to.
“One thing I refuse to do is give up hope, that’s the one thing I will not give up on is hope,” he said.
Rhodes said the future of Paws Place is in serious question, but he's optimistic that he will still be able to do what he has grown to love.
“We’ll see, we'll just have to see.”