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Jackson's PAWS a friend of animals

veasey conway/daily globe Catherine Koppen, Vice President of PAWS, holds an orphaned cat while Natalie Shelhamer, 7 (from left), Morgan Price, 11, and Tirzah Price, 7, all of Jackson, pet it March 16 during the Farm and Home Show at Jackson County Central High School.

JACKSON -- "They give the best hugs," Janice Lepinski says.

Lepinski is referring to animals, and in her life she comes across quite a few. In 2009 Lepinski helped start PAWS (Precious Animals Worth Saving) of Jackson, an independent organization dedicated to assisting animals and pets in need.

PAWS works to care for abandoned and lost animals -- mostly cats and dogs, but also some bunnies. It facilitates the move of animals from foster homes to permanent homes, and fills a crucial role in Jackson County.

Comprised wholly of volunteers, PAWS has "between 10 and 15 that are consistent" with other occasional helpers. A love of animals is a common trait among the volunteers. "That's what bonds us together," Lepinski said.

Growing up on a farm, animals have been a constant in Lepinski's life.

"I've always loved animals and it breaks my heart to see them put down," she said. Lepinski volunteers for PAWS during her free time, and between a full-time job and commitments to PAWS, "I feel like I'm going non-stop" she added.

PAWS worked with a lawyer to complete the necessary paperwork to become a Minnesota non-profit. The next step is gaining federal 501(c)3 non-profit status.

"We're hoping to submit that one in the next couple of months," Lepinski said.

A federal non-profit designation would allow the organization to apply for funding and accept tax-deductible donations. Becoming a federally recognized non-profit would allow the organization to apply for grants to support a dedicated facility.

"It would be nice to have them in a central location at least some days a month" said Catherine Koppen, Vice President of PAWS.

Because PAWS doesn't have its own building, the organization is currently "foster-based," and a large portion of PAWS' efforts are currently dedicated to matching animals with adoptive families.

"We don't charge enough for an adoption to cover costs" Lepinski said, noting that vaccination and veterinary costs are more than the adoptive fee of $50 for a cat and $75 for a dog.

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the communities," Lepinski said, counting Worthington as a strong supporter. In particular, area Tractor Supply Company locations have hosted adoption events and donated foods and pet medications.

Donations and sales of cookbooks and T-shirts go towards its mission. Additionally, PAWS maintains an 'Wish List,' which displays food, books, and equipment the organization needs.

PAWS of Jackson can be reached at (507) 556-7290, online at, and maintains a Facebook page called "PAWS = Precious Animals Worth Saving."