Shannon Prouty: A Light in the Darkness

By Leslie Moore

Shannon Prouty: A Light in the Darkness

Walking into All 4 Paws Animal Rescue in Pawleys Island is overwhelming to the senses. Dogs are barking, cats are meowing and volunteers are hurrying around, busily caring for the animals and cleaning up behind them while talking about each animal’s needs. As we waited in the office for the president and founder of this non-profit dog and cat (and sometimes horse) rescue, we petted several cats in cages that meowed and begged for attention, we admired Luke, a beautiful 10 month old Great Pyrenees with sad eyes who had recently been abandoned, we comforted an adorable, frightened little dog named Mindy, whose life had been turned upside down when her owner died, and we met (and fell in love with) a sweet Pit Bull Terrier named Violet; rescued by All 4 Paws after being used as a bait dog by a dog fighting ring – all in the first 15 minutes of our visit and all before we had a chance to tour the entire facility. The animals were obviously well cared for and the volunteers who told us their stories spoke with great affection and respect for each member of the All 4 Paws family. Everything was running like a well oiled, if slightly chaotic, machine working toward the goal of saving abused, homeless and abandoned animals – with the intent of eventually sending each one “home” to a family that would love and care for them and to a life that would erase the memories of hunger, fear and abuse buried deep in their soulful eyes.

Shannon Prouty, the force behind All 4 Paws, has devoted her life to saving animals and fostering positive change in the way animals are treated, not just in our area, but all over South Carolina. Born in Bennington, Vermont, Shannon was raised by a single mother, who served as the local sheriff and was nurtured by a close, loving family in the small town where her grandfather was first chief of police, then judge. “I grew up on a small farm and had lots of animals,” Shannon told me. “We are a compassionate, emotional family. My mother taught me that whatever I feel is right is worth fighting for.”

In college, Shannon majored in animal science and behavior, but then returned for degrees in art therapy and psychology. Fresh out of college, she went in search of warmer climes and ended up in Georgetown County. “As a child we vacationed in Pawleys Island, and I have always loved it here. It’s so much like my hometown. The locals are warm and friendly – this is my community, and I want to make it a better place.”

“Animals are handled differently in Vermont,” Shannon began. “There are not as many unwanted dogs and cats. When I first came to Georgetown, I had a German Shepherd that I had rescued back home. It was the 4th of July, and she became frightened of the fireworks and ran away. I went to St. Francis Animal Center to see if someone had turned her in, and that’s when I first learned how many animals are euthanized because of lack of space in area shelters.” Shannon left St. Francis Animal Center that day with another dog, a Pit Bull Terrier named Hooch, and a new job at the shelter. She was there for five years, and partly through her efforts, the shelter is now a low kill facility.

After leaving St. Francis, a lucrative job offer tempted the 29 year old to move back to Vermont and start over. But, Shannon knew her work here was not finished. With her family’s support, and $1,000 in her bank account, this determined young woman began operating a shelter out of her home. The need quickly outgrew Shannon’s small house, (think 40 to 50 dogs) and with the help of a generous benefactor, she found a location for All 4 Paws in a former automobile repair shop on Waverly Road in Pawleys Island. To save money, she moved in the small upstairs apartment. By November of 2011, the non-profit received its 501 (c) (3) status. “There’s no good reason this should have happened,” laughed Shannon. “The owner of the building had other people interested, but picked us!” Shannon chose a logo with four paws, three in brown and one in blue, to symbolize the horrible statistic estimating that one in four dogs in South Carolina are abused, abandoned or neglected.

Former St. Francis employee and friend, Allison Gillespie, has worked beside Shannon since All 4 Paws was founded. “One day Shannon called me and said, ‘Want to start a rescue?’ I agreed and here I am!” Neither woman takes a salary – Shannon gets by with minimal support from her family and by living on site, while Allison, her husband and four year old daughter, have managed to get by on his salary. For both, any sacrifice they make is well worth the rewards of their work. In the year and a half they’ve been open All 4 Paws has saved nearly 1,500 dogs, cats and even one horse. Shannon told me the story of the horse with tears in her eyes. “I got a call about two horses being abused, and by the time we arrived one was already dead; the other was standing over his friend with his head resting on his body, nearly starved to death as well. They had been left in a filthy, dirt paddock with no food, and while animal control had been contacted and given the owners a citation, they were unable to find placement. It took me a few hours, but I found a home and medical care for that horse.”

This story is typical of what Shannon sees on a regular basis. Weekly visits to rural animal shelters with dozens of dogs on the euthanasia list are routine. I asked about a beautiful Pit Bull Terrier named Ginger, and Shannon shared her story. “I had gone to pick up several dogs, but there were more than 25 on the euthanasia list, and I, as usual, took them all. As I was leaving, animal control pulled up. I told myself not to look in the truck; there was no way I could take another dog. But, when I saw an employee coming out of the shelter with two needles in her hand, I knew I had to do something. It was Ginger, who had a prolapsed uterus and was seriously ill. The shelter was not equipped to handle that kind of medical emergency and was going to euthanize her on the truck, so I managed to fit her in the van.”

These kinds of emergencies are common at All 4 Paws and are very expensive. Ginger’s care cost nearly $4,000. Funds come from adoption fees, fundraisers, private donations and from the force of Shannon’s magnetic personality. She told me, “I have faith that it will work out, and it always does!” It’s impossible to be around this woman for more than five minutes and not feel the need to help. The facility has community runs for groups of dogs and individual kennels for others. All dogs are put into a large fenced area twice each day for exercise and socialization. Volunteers interact and walk each dog daily as well. By the time an animal is adopted, they are comfortable with other dogs, children and people through Shannon’s system of training. Outdoor time is scheduled around a typical working person’s schedule to make them better pets when they go “home.” Cats are also socialized by volunteers who work with them daily. Through a grant program, all the animals are fed a high quality food designed to help them gain optimal health after the stress of abuse and neglect. Anyone is welcome to visit and tour All 4 Paws; Shannon believes this open door policy is important to maintain the support and trust of the community.

And if she didn’t have enough to do, Shannon also takes her certified therapy dogs into the Waccamaw Schools and hopes to expand her program this year. School groups also visit regularly and learn about animal welfare. “We have to start with the children. If children grow up seeing the adults in their life abuse or neglect animals, they think that’s acceptable. Changing these core values will make our community a better place, not only for the animals, but for all of us.”

Their current facility is already too small, and All 4 Paws has been given the opportunity to buy a large piece of property with several buildings – perfect for their needs. Shannon, along with Allison and her family, will move on site. But, it will take a lot of money, approximately $150,000, to complete the renovations needed for this state of the art facility designed for the emotional and physical needs of animals coming from shelters. An intense capital campaign is currently underway.

Our last stop was the veterinarian’s office to meet a very special All 4 Paws dog. This time, I was the one with tears in my eyes. Mackenzie, a beautiful beagle mix, was pulled from a shelter in Hampton County after being left there by her owner to be euthanized. She had been shot in the face, cut and beaten, but still struggled to live after an estimated two weeks of living with her injuries untreated. Dr. Berger of the Animal Hospital and Laser Center of South Carolina has performed two surgeries thus far, and Mackenzie is expected to make a full recovery, even though she will be blind in one eye and have a disfigured mouth. The day we met her, this sweet dog allowed us to pet her and even tried to give us a nudge with her mangled muzzle. Publicity surrounding her horrific story has brought applications to adopt her from around the country and is also being used to promote harsher penalties for those who torture animals.

To face the darker side of humanity each day takes a special person, and Shannon Prouty fits that description. Her last words to me were, “Dogs give us unconditional love, no matter how we treat them. This is a gift I take seriously. I was born to do this.”

To find out more, visit www.all4pawssc.org, like All 4 Paws on facebook or stop by and visit the facility. Shannon has also started a facebook page to highlight the issue of animal abuse called Songs of the South. Volunteers are welcome, and donations are always needed!

Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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One Response to “Shannon Prouty: A Light in the Darkness”

  1. Chris Moon says:

    What a beautiful article about a beautiful person and group! Thank you!

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