The Life-Changing Cause Behind UPAWS
One Thursday morning, we were fortunate enough to interview Bill Brutto, Executive Director of the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS)!
As we spoke on the phone, dogs crooned in the background. The enthusiasm was contagious. We asked him about all things animal-adjacent: what sort of supplies UPAWS often finds themselves needing (cleaning products and paper towels being two huge ones), why rescue and rehabilitation services matter (for a lot of reasons), and how he got into this line of work (let’s get into that).
Brutto had been working in nonprofits for his entire adult life before becoming the Director of UPAWS in 2020. However, he didn’t get actively involved with animals right away. That is, until he saw the tremendous impact their family dog had on his children. The bond provided a necessary comfort and relief from the anxiety they had been experiencing. This made him “start to fall in love with animals”. Brutto also noted that the isolation of the pandemic has resulted in a more desperate need for socialization and interaction, even in young adults. When he sees people and animals spend time together and bond, he says there is a “great change in their overall wellbeing” for both parties. All of these factors played an active role in his decision to join UPAWS.
Located just south of Marquette off M553 Hwy, UPAWS isn’t your average animal shelter.
“On a typical year, around a thousand animals or so will come through here.” Brutto tells us.
Not only does UPAWS boast a 98.2% save rate and “embrace the no-kill philosophy”, but they also have the best “save rate” in Michigan for a rescue of their size. The organization even arranges out-of-state transfers periodically, in order to save animals from euthanasia or give them another chance at rehabilitation and re-homing. And while they aren’t the only shelter to share “success stories” with social media, the follow-up stories alongside snapshots of snoozing dogs and content cats on their website will likely restore at least a bit of your faith in humanity.
When asked about the UPAWS property, Brutto says “A lot of people don’t realize we’re also a campus. We have a dog park, and a stable on-site through an organization called Sally’s“. The property also houses a memorial garden and other unique facilities for the community.
Because the organization is a non-profit, they receive no government funding. And there are a lot of unexpected costs. “Everything we get here is from donations.” Brutto states. “One of our biggest costs is medical expenses for our animals. But even just the basic supplies of taking care of the animals, from food to everything from leashes, treats, dishes, and even all of the cleaning supplies.”. While this makes their rescue-and-rehab mission more challenging, it doesn’t stop them from making a tremendous impact. How is this accomplished? Through tireless fundraising efforts, local engagement, community events, and countless hours spent with animals with complex needs.
Want to make a difference in an animal’s life?. For the month of March, The Landmark collected donations to support UPAWS, in addition to sponsoring the adoption fees for five animals in 2022. If you’re reading this when March has passed, that’s alright– there are still ways to give back! You can find a list of what UPAWS currently needs, in addition to a list of drop-off locations and a link to their Amazon Wish List, by clicking on this link: https://upaws.org/get-involved/wish-list/.
Brutto also shared that UPAWS is “always in need of more volunteers”, largely due to the pandemic. As of right now, the shelter operates with around 50 volunteers. For more information on how to become a foster or volunteer, you can visit the following link to their website: https://upaws.org/the-shelter/volunteer-opportunities/.
We always say that hospitality takes a team, and philanthropic efforts are no different. Whether you’re cleaning cages and walking dogs, donating paper towels, or simply sharing the UPAWS page with friends and family, each and every one of us can do something small to make a big impact. We have the power to change lives. To save them.
Thank you again to Bill Brutto and the UPAWS team for allowing us to partner up. We couldn’t be more honored to support such a necessary organization!