Almost everyone is passionate about animals. When Saint Leo University's Office of Student Affairs was looking for a new service project, animal rescue quickly came to mind, and Paws of Love was born. Now the university community is supporting the new project, which helps two rescue services and two shelters: The Humane Society of Pasco (County), Pasco County (FL) Animal Services, DC Dogos; and Destiny for Dogs.

Paws of Love is a nonprofit organization that supports sheltered, rescued, and service animals. Paws of Love completes its mission through fundraising, volunteering, and creating pet toys out of recycled materials such as old T-shirts. The organization also produces pet treats and first-aid kits. These items will be donated to the rescues and shelters to sell and some items will be sold to those in the community. In addition, monetary donations are being collected.

The nonprofit is a model for students, showing how philanthropy makes a positive impact in the community, said Heidi D'Ambrosio, senior coordinator for Student Affairs, who leads the Paws of Love effort.

Items will be donated to the rescues and shelters to sell and some items will be sold to those in the community. In addition, monetary donations are being collected

Pasco County Animal Services is the beneficiary of a partnership with Paws of Love, which has donated more than 55 pounds of pet food to the shelter. "We also have contributed countless treats, toys, and first-aid kits," D'Ambrosio said. "Members have committed their time through volunteer hours by cleaning [the shelter in Land O' Lakes, FL] and helping the animals, too."

Saint Leo's Paws of Love has a goal to raise $1,500 to purchase 140 lasso leashes. "This is a dream of Pasco County Animal Services so that each kennel can have an individual leash," D'Ambrosio said. "These lasso leashes will ensure that each dog receives time outdoors."

During New Student Orientation on August 20, freshmen, transfer students, fraternity and sorority members, and other students made healthy no-bake dog treats; assembled first aid kits for pets; and created braided dog toys from recycled T-shirts. The Lions tennis teams donated tennis balls to be used for pet toys.

"We aren't leaving cats and other pets out of the equation," said student Jamar Belizaire. "We also are using recycled carpets and other materials to make cat trees. The possibilities are endless, and we see this organization as a great thing for the Tampa Bay area."

Paws of Love also received help from students enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Approaches: Service & Therapy Animals (IDS 300) course. The class provides an overview of how human-animal interactions (HAI) and the human-animal bond (HAB) can impact animals, society, and work with interdisciplinary helping professions. Paws of Love also assists commuter and residential students at Saint Leo University who have service and therapy animals.

On September 11, the IDS 300 students came to the Kirk Hall green and were greeted by wagging tails and wet noses as several dogs that were rescued or serve as therapy animals came to visit. The students made no-bake treats out of peanut butter, honey, and oats and created braided dog toys from T-shirts.

"It's really a love fest out here," said Dr. Rhondda Waddell, associate dean of the College of Education and Social Services.

Lucy and Robert Avila of Dade City brought their Scottish terriers Abby and Scotty McDuffy, both rescues, to visit on September 11. The Avilas also promoted Dogs' Days in Dade City, which will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, March 16, in Agnes Lamb Park in nearby Dade City, FL.

This is the second semester the service and therapy animal course is being offered at Saint Leo. "Paws of Love really came out of our first class," Waddell said. "Some of our students were volunteering, and they wanted to do more. They approached Heidi [D'Ambrosio], and she got this all started."

Dr. Susan Kinsella, dean of the College of Education and Social Services, noted that students in Dr. Veronika Ospina-Kammerer's gerontology classes are learning how to use animals in social settings and are helping Paws of Love. Ospina-Kammerer regularly takes her students to rehabilitation and skilled nursing facilities.

Paws of Love also will sponsor Pizza and Puppies, an event to help relieve exam stress via furry friends and free pizza. Therapy dogs will visit campus while students grab a slice of pizza for a snack. Paws of Love also hopes to sponsor a pet Halloween costume contest in October.

Saint Leo students may attain community service hours by helping Paws of Love. For those who are scared of dogs or cats or allergic, other opportunities such as helping promote Paws of Love through its social media channels are available.

True to the university's core values, Paws of Love not only helps other creatures and the community, but also "upcycles" items that would go in landfills. By using old T-shirts, tennis balls, and carpeting to make the pet toys, Paws of Love is helping the environment.