The PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) program was started by a group of volunteers in 1990 as a response to help provide the resources necessary to the pets of those living with HIV/AIDS. The goal of the program was to provide these resources so that the clients could keep their pets in their homes for as long as possible.

As time progressed and the program grew, the PAWS program came under the management of Saint Louis Effort for AIDS. This was done to provide consistent oversight and give the program more opportunities for expansion.

Today PAWS is thriving with 70 pets enrolled in the program with plans to increase this number by 20 by year’s end. PAWS provides monthly preventatives for the pets, as well as either annual veterinary care or monthly food and supplies for the pets enrolled. The benefits are threefold. First, the pets are provided for and the client does not have to worry about the financial impact of keeping their pet. Second, in order to maintain eligibility, the client must be enrolled in the Ryan White Case Management system, which ensures the health needs of the client continue to be met. And third, having a pet in the home helps the client better deal with their illness as they have their four-legged companions to rely on and provide them comfort.

As with any program, funding is a necessity. Thankfully, there are many opportunities for funding of the PAWS program which help sustain the services and allow it to continue to grow. Two of the program’s largest fundraisers are the Art of PAWS, set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at Gallery 400, and Thirst For Life, which is Thursday, Aug. 31, at participating locations. Both events directly benefit the program by raising funds for those services mentioned above.  V