It's a typical day at Paws Place, the no-kill dog shelter in Brunswick County.
About 30 canines are individually kenneled in the indoor section, greeting visitors with friendly barks and wagging tails. Kennel attendants are washing down the outdoor play areas. Five volunteers are walking dogs. Another volunteer washes blankets and toys.
A steady stream of people comes and goes. Some drop off dog food or inquire about volunteer opportunities. Most want to meet the dogs, to see if they can find a new family pet.
"We love dogs and want to be able to help," says Lane Stickley, who donated the dog food. "We have a dog, and he's a rescue. We know places like this take good care of animals."
Paws Place has been taking care of animals since 1999, when Nancy Janovetz founded the nonprofit organization. The mission is to "offer refuge to the abused, neglected and abandoned dogs." The shelter also accepts those with major health needs that can't be cared for at county facilities and nurses them back to health.
"We treat our dogs like family," says Peggy Durso, board member and director of operations.
Durso has volunteered since 2008. She joined the board of directors in 2012, and took over the day-to-day operations in 2014.
"I love dogs, and I wanted to do something," she says. "I started by doing adoption events once a month. Then I was doing it two times a month, and before you know it here I am. I'm here just about every day."
"Here" is the facility on George II Highway in Winnabow that opened last year. It includes climate-controlled kennels, outdoor play areas accessible through guillotine doors, a quarantine area, an examination room, a food storage area, a laundry room, and plenty of room to expand.
The dogs are cared for by an army of volunteers, including Marda Sarnataro. She's been helping out for over a year, usually in the laundry room.
"I love dogs, and this is a wonderful facility," she says. "We wash all the blankets, all the toys, every day. The dogs are catered to. I came down to visit when I first moved here. I was struck by how happy the dogs were."
It's a great setup for the dogs, but it's only supposed to be temporary. The goal is to place each animal in a forever home.
Adoption is a multistep process, beginning with a shelter visit.
"If you have two adults and two children, we'd say all of you need to come in and meet the dog," Durso says. "And if there's another family dog, we want the dogs to meet."
If all family members and pets are onboard, Paws Place initiates a reference check and conducts a home visit. There's a $195 adoption fee that covers spaying or neutering, age-appropriate vaccinations, heartworm preventative, and a microchip.
"Last year we adopted out 140 dogs," Durso says. "The numbers are usually 140-145 coming in and going out. We're on track for that right now."