The Peaceful Animal Adoption Shelter of Vinita has rescued 706 dogs from January to August of 2016, according to recently released statistics.

Most of the dogs were transported to Colorado, where they are adopted out to waiting “forever” homes through the Denver Dumb Friends League.

Through the partnership with Denver, which is funded by a grant from the WaterShed Animal Fund, a van loaded with wagging tails departs from Vinita every Tuesday evening destined for the Mile High City.

PAAS Executive Director Kay Stout explained how dire the adoption situation was when PAAS first opened in 2015.

“We practically filled up overnight. We had over 50 dogs and 50 cats, and we weren’t getting adoptions. We had over 100 dogs and 150 cats on the waiting-to-surrender list,” Stout said.

“Our first out-of-state trip was to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter in Wyoming with 10 dogs. We thought it was a big deal,” Stout said.

But since obtaining the Watershed grant and partnering with the Denver Dumb Friends League, the out-of-state adoption program has kicked into high gear.

PAAS records show that 109 dogs were transported in June, 119 in July and 157 in August.

“It’s hard to watch them leave, but then you look at the numbers. At the end of each month, we know that more than 100 dogs have a new home and that we’ve been their voice,” Stout said.

She noted that PAAS also works with 15 other Oklahoma animal shelters to take in their strays.

PAAS Vet Technician Rhonda Norris

Veterinary technician Rhonda Norris gives each dog and cat a full medical examination so that they are healthy before being adopted out.

“It’s a lot of work, and there’s a lot of preparation that goes into it. They get a full exam and vaccinations, or anything else that they need. We have an excellent relationship with all of our local veterinarians, and we want for them (the pets) to be as healthy as they can be,” Norris said.

“It’s hard to watch them leave. You can see that old fear in their faces. But they are all usually adopted into new homes within seven days of getting there. Then the process starts all over again,” Norris said.

Another new program is a partnership with Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinita where dogs are paired with inmate trainers.

Many of these dogs have been abandoned and need to be properly socialized before they can be successfully adopted.

The program is a big hit with the inmates, as the dogs are rock stars at the correctional facility and are great companions to inmates serving time.

Two classes of dogs have already graduated the program, which teaches them basic obedience commands, and they receive Canine Good Citizen Certificates upon graduation.

PAAS also works with area law enforcement agencies treating dogs seized in animal cruelty cases.

PAAS first opened in 2015 with a mission to provide a safe haven for stray dogs and cats until they can be adopted out to permanent homes.

More than 1,000 dogs have been successfully adopted since then.

* This story was written by Denton Thomason and first appeared in the Vinita Daily Journal on September 30, 2016.