After watching and witnessing the horrors of overseas dog meat trade via social media, Annie Leo came up with the idea to create a haven that would be based on the mantra:
Compassion. Education. Collaboration. Rescue
Paws For Change (PFC) – a not-for-profit, registered Australian organization – works at improving the lives of dogs on a local and global scale by encouraging people to ‘pause’ and help (change) the lives of our best furry pals. By working closely with grass root shelters and rescue groups in the area, PFC hopes to home dogs who may have been abused and/or abandoned by finding them their fur-ever homes and ensuring that they are well-looked after and supported, instead of going through an unnecessary process of euthanization.
With the upcoming Gathered Design Market in Hahndorf from December 13 – 15, 2019, I had a Q&A with Annie about her anticipations around participating in the market as a stall holder – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: How long has Paws For Change been around for and how has the journey been so far?
Annie: Paws For Change was founded just over a year ago. The reaction to our cause has been very positive and we are continuing to grow our brand and our products in order to reach a wider sector of the market and, therefore, raise more funds for our rescues, projects, and adoptions.
Tema: What made you decide to set up Paws for Change?
Annie: I have always been an avid dog lover and I was appalled with the lack of welfare and compassion for animals overseas. The same can be said for dogs within Australia, but at least we have some regulations in place. However, dogs in many overseas areas will never know a loving word or a kind touch, let alone a fulfilling life as a family pet. I was particularly confronted and appalled by the horrible dog meat industry and I ended up sending endless donations to many overseas dog rescue organisations. But, I never knew if my contributions were making a difference… so the best way to ensure 100% of what I send to a shelter or rescue operation is getting through, was to start my own charity. I have select partners that I have researched and visited and know with absolute certainty that our support is going exactly where it’s needed.
Tema: What does a day in the life of someone involved with Paws For Change look like?
Annie: Like any charity, it usually involves a lot of networking, admin, working out market schedules, ordering products, social media updates, working the website, touching base with our partners, and working out which rescues or projects to prioritise.
Tema: When Paws For Change progressed from being a concept to a reality, what were the key principles that you based your business around?
Annie: We wanted to work on a project-by-project basis, with transparency on where funds were being used and on giving 100% of profits to our rescue projects. Paws For Change is about the dogs, not about making money for shareholders or board members. We also constantly re-work our goals and ensure we’re maximising our contributions to make the most difference to the dogs as we can. We are also about the behind-the-scenes stuff – lobbying for greater animal welfare laws; running sterilisation programs; implementing education, and work experience programs, so we’re not just talking the talk with the next generation of local people, but walking the walk as well.
Tema: What are the main aspects of Paws For Change that make it such a unique organization?
Annie: 100% of our profits go directly to our dog rescue projects – not a small percentage, but 100%. We also always looking for new and unique collaborations – such as our ‘Pawsecco’! It’s the first Pawsecco ever offered (and the only Adelaide Hills estate-grown Prosecco from Artwine Estate). It’s a limited edition bottling with a striking label, which was the result of running a competition amongst Graphic Design Graduates from Adelaide Tafe – and it’s our major fundraiser for the year!
Tema: What would you say as the rewarding and challenging aspects of being a not-for-profit organization in Adelaide / South Australia?
Annie: I think the rewards and the challenges are the same as every other not-for-profit anywhere in the world. It’s always great to see the change we make for those we save. Likewise, it’s always hard to know that there are so many more out there that still need our help.
Tema: What are some of the key services that are offered by Paws For Change?
Annie: We offer financial support and partnership to shelters, raising funds and spreading the word on the wonderful hands-on work they do. We support their admin and shelter costs, vet costs, adoption drives and much more.
Tema: How did you get involved with Gathered SA?
Annie: I was looking for a great quality market where I could spread the Paws For Change message and showcase our products and the Gathered Christmas Market was a great opportunity to do just that.
Tema: What can visitors of the Gathered Design Market – Hahndorf Edition expect from the Paws For Change stall?
Annie: Lots of unique products you won’t find anywhere else! We have unique products for dogs and dog lovers – from doggy bandanas and our limited-edition Pawsecco to quirky candles and one-off up-cycled denim fashion that stands out from the crowd! All our t-shirts, cushions and totes are doggy-themed and we’ll have great Christmas hampers full to the brim with delicious doggy treats for you furry friend – and a major raffle prize with everything the dog lover could want! And, again, 100% of our profits go to dogs in need – guaranteed!
Tema: Where do you invest the proceeds from the sales of your Pawsecco and bandanas?
Annie: We support safe houses in Bali – with a fourth about to open in January 2020. We also fund rescues and adoptions from dog meat markets in China and Vietnam and next year, we will expand that to cover shelters in Thailand as well.
Tema: Where do you see Paws For Change in the next 5 years?
Annie: I’d like to see successful education programs in place that help to change the way local people think about and treat animals. We will also be continuing our sterilisation programs to reduce the number of street dogs and I’d like to think the dog meat industry will be greatly reduced.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like us to know about you and Paws For Change?
Annie: We offer a range of high quality products which are a fun and engaging way to tackle a serious topic. We have fun with our candles, with names like ‘I Like it Doggy Style’; ‘Tall Bark & Handsome’; or ‘Melon Collie’. Our range of up-cycled denim products are all unique and one-of-a-kind, so no two are alike. Our cushions and totes all feature doggy slogans people can relate to: “Dog Mum AF”; “The More People I Meet, The More I Like My Dog”; “Dogs Before Dudes”, etc. We’re fun, we’re cheeky – but we’re also 100% serious about dog rescue!
You can visit Paws for Change at the Gathered Design Market from December 13 – 15, 2019 from 4pm – 10pm at the Thiele House in Hahndorf. Entry to the market is free and there is plenty of free street parking available nearby.
With thanks to Jenna O’Dell from Gathered SA for the interview opportunity
Interview conducted by Fatema “Tema” Sitabkhan
Answers and images supplied by Annie Leo