Sunday Focus: PAWS rescues dogs from bad situations

Published 12:51 am Saturday, September 7, 2019

FERRIDAY — In 2015, a group of women with a common passion founded an organization that has since helped save countless dogs — mostly pit bulls mixed with other breeds — from homelessness, abandonment, neglect and even severe abuse that may have resulted from illegal dogfights in and around Concordia Parish.

They started out by hosting meetings at Sevier Memorial United Methodist Church in Ferriday and organized fundraisers for spay, neuter and rescue operations for the group they formed, which they named Concordia PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving), said Nancy Lansdale, one of the group’s earliest volunteers.

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The following year, Lansdale said Concordia PAWS had blossomed into a full-fledged, no-kill animal shelter, which is located at 1212 South First St. in Ferriday. The group partners with HoofBeats and PawPrints Rescue organization in Natchez to take in and transport to other regions of the country about 10 to 15 dogs each month on average, Lansdale said.

Early beginnings

Workers at the Concordia PAWS animal shelter in Ferriday currently provide care and treatment to more than 50 dogs, said vice president Lydia Wilson.

A few of the animals have lived at the shelter since it opened in August 2016, adding they may never leave because they had been recovered from a dogfighting operation, Wilson said.

“As we were still getting the building ready in August 2016, there was a big dog fighting bust right here in Ferriday,” Wilson said. “They rounded up 42 dogs that very day. It was on a Sunday. Many of them they wound up bringing to us and that’s how the shelter was started.”

Wilson said the shelter is funded strictly by grants, donations and fundraisers without using any local taxpayer dollars and is mostly maintained by volunteer workers and inmates.

“Right now we probably have 50 grown dogs and 16 puppies,” she said. “On average, we house around 60 or 70 dogs at one time.”

Lansdale said PAWS took in approximately 20 of the 42 dogs seized in August 2016.

“I never dreamed that in a little town like Ferriday that we would have pulled off what we have,” Lansdale said. “We clearly did not know anything about what we were doing and I was scared to death. … We only had four big kennels, four or five rooms inside the building and nothing outside. … We had several small puppy cages that we held the adults in until we could get kennels. We immediately started begging for donations and people started bringing us kennels and crates they didn’t use anymore. It didn’t take us long to get it going.”

Lansdale said she learned dogs recovered from dogfights are surprisingly friendly toward people but have to be separated from other dogs.

“These dogs are taken as puppies, put on chains and taught to fight,” she said. “They didn’t know anything else before they came to us. I remember when the first one came in and I was standing at the door. We named her Sissy, and she was a breeder. She was so skinny and pitiful and when I looked in her eyes I could see how terrified she was … how terrified they all were. But when I put my hands on the cage and just start talking to them, their tails would start wagging.”

Seeds of change

Lansdale, 66, worked tirelessly as a volunteer at the shelter and was one of few who could administer shots when the animals were sick, Wilson said.

Though she wasn’t an expert, Lansdale said she would sit up at night and read about heartworms, mange, parvovirus and all of the challenges she knew they would face. She eventually started to foster dogs and puppies at her home in Monterey and today transports approximately 5 to 10 dogs each month once they are healthy enough to be taken to other no-kill shelters and be adopted.

“People ask me why, at my age, would I get into this and it’s because of that dog fight and meeting those pits,” Lansdale said. “All I care about is the dogs. I love to fool around with them and care for them, hands-on. … I have my building set up with crates and medicines. … You can’t imagine the amount of work that goes into caring for so many puppies until you do it.”

Meanwhile, Concordia PAWS continues to grow, Wilson said.

A fenced yard has been added on one side of the property, which gives the dogs room to run and play during the day.

One of the shelter’s strongest supporters, Linda Huffman, contributed to fixing up an additional building at the back of the property to house more animals and also helps pay veterinary expenses for dogs who were severely injured, Lansdale said.

One such dog was found on the side of Airport Road in June with multiple scars and his throat cut open, apparently used as a bait dog for fights, Lansdale said.

“He had to have surgery and lost a lot of blood,” Lansdale said. “We named him August because we were told that by then he should be well again — and he is. He is blind in one eye but his neck is almost completely healed.”

Lansdale said another girl pup, named Honeybun, was so weak from starvation she couldn’t stand up on her own and reeked with mange.

“I honestly thought she was a cur when I got her,” Lansdale said. “The chain she was on weighed six pounds by itself and she smelled so bad driving home I had to roll down my windows.

She would stand up, take a few steps and fall down. I took a beach towel, cut it down the middle and put it underneath her to hold her up.”

After months of being treated, Lansdale said Honeybun came running up to her porch one day with her tail wagging and was actually a pit bull.

Honeybun and August are two examples of the countless animals Huffman, Lansdale and other volunteers have brought back to good health.

Huffman, who lives in New Orleans, said she has always been a dog-lover, adding she and her father rescued more than 300 dogs from around their hunting camp near Jonesville. Huffman said she adopted two stray dogs named Indy and Zena, and both died February and May of last year at 14 years old.

“I have been to the shelter a couple of times passing through,” Huffman said. “I wanted to do something in their memory, so I donated for the building. … I’m more than happy to save these animals and Nancy and I work together to do that. I can’t live there and contribute hands-on, but I do try to help in other ways. … My hat is off to those ladies for all of the work that they do.”

Donations to Concordia PAWS may be made online at or mailed to P.O. Box 671 Ferriday, LA 71334.