2018-04-11 / Voice at the Shore

JFS PAWS Pet Care service provides dog walking and jobs

COMMUNITY CORNER
By MICHAEL O’BRIEN
Vocational Coordinator, Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties


PAWS dog walker Eve Holly is on the job. PAWS dog walker Eve Holly is on the job. PAWS Pet Care is a unique enterprise that pairs dogs with much-needed exercise and jobs for people with disabilities. The loss of so many jobs due to casino closings has made job creation a priority in our area. For people with autism and other disabilities, finding a job is much, much more challenging than it is for others. PAWS Pet Care was created by Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties (JFS) to provide employment opportunities for this population.

New Jersey has an extremely high percentage of children with autism, and a number of programs exist for school-aged children. However, when these children reach adulthood, there are fewer options. Lack of job training and experience create a significant barrier for people with autism and disabilities seeking employment.

To address this need, JFS came up with the idea for the PAWS dog-walking service. JFS then recruited job coaches who had experience with dogs to provide the dog walkers with job skills.

PAWS currently employs six dog walkers who range in age from their 20s through 40s. As part of the on-boarding process, walkers receive training in understanding dog behavior, basic dog first aid, and, of course, in the actual dog walking itself. Through PAWS Pet Care, people with disabilities gain the satisfaction that comes from employment as well as work experience they can use to build a resume. The confidence they gain from this work experience also helps them find future employment.

In creating PAWS Pet Care, JFS adopted a “social enterprise model.” Through this model, which is trending nationwide, businesses are started with social and business goals. With PAWS, the goals are to provide high-quality dog-walking services as well as to address the barriers faced by individuals with disabilities when trying to enter the workplace.

Potential dog walkers are selected through an interview process. All must have experience with animals. All PAWS employees must also pass a background check and complete training. Each employee is paired with a JFS Job Coach who will accompany them on each walk until the employee is proficient in all tasks involved in performing a dog walk.

A distinguishing feature of PAWS Pet Care is our use of Pet Check Technology, a GPS-enabled app that dog owners can use to track the route used by the dog walker and the dog. The app also allows the owner to see when the dog walker clocks in and out for the dog walk. The walker uses the app to provide the owner with pictures of the dog along the walk route, as well as comments about the walk. The pictures and commentary have been a source of enjoyment for the dog owners, allowing them to feel more connected to their pet.

Services begin with a free consultation. A face-to-face meeting, including a brief walk and play, allows both parties to see if it makes sense for the relationship to move forward. PAWS works to ensure a good “fit” for both the customers and employees.

A 30-minute walk is only $15. PAWS also offers an hour-long session, which costs $25, that ensures companionship for dogs that may not want to take a long walk. The hour-long session is also good for pets that experience loneliness and anxiety when their owner is away for the day. Additional pet-care services are also available, including pooper-scooper, companionship & feeding, and extended walks.

PAWS Pet Care is accepting new customers. If you have a dog in need of exercise and would like to help a deserving person build confidence and work experience, PAWS Pet Care awaits you! Please call (609) 822-6817, or email paws@jfsatlantic.org today. 

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