Santa Paws

The Santa Paws Tree at Sea Paws in Morehead City sits ladened with ornaments with photos of shelter animals, representing supplies needed by the Carteret County Humane Society near Newport. Ornaments can be selected to help a shelter pet for Christmas. (Cheryl Burke photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — For the third year, a unique Christmas tree at Sea Paws is helping shelter animals at the County Humane Society on Hibbs Road near Newport.

The Santa Paws Tree is the brainchild of Ruth Jones, who wanted a way to remember her beloved golden retriever, Buddy, that died in June 2017, and also help shelter animals.

She came up with the idea of a Santa Paws Tree that allows people to sponsor a homeless pet to help for Christmas by picking an ornament from a small Christmas tree. Each ornament contains a photo of a shelter animal.

By selecting an ornament, the person commits to donating food, toys or supplies for the animal or to be shared by all the animals housed at the shelter, which is traditionally full during the holiday season.

Ms. Jones said last year all the ornaments were adopted from the tree and she was able to deliver a van full of supplies to the shelter.

“It was very special to know they all got sponsored last year and we hope to see that again this year,” Ms. Jones said Thursday. “We have a very caring community and this is just a way to provide the shelter animals some sort of a Christmas.”

The tree will remain up at Sea Paws, a pet food and supply store at 412-C Evans St. in Morehead City, until Friday, Dec. 20. That is the day all food and supplies must be returned so they can be delivered to the shelter in time for Christmas.

Sea Paws co-owner Sarah Vaughn said Thursday some people have already adopted pet ornaments and purchased food and supplies, which have been placed at the base of the tree. Many more ornaments remain.

“They don’t have to purchase anything here, we just ask they return their items by Dec. 20,” Ms. Vaughn said. “When Ruth asked us to get involved in this, I immediately wanted to because I used to serve on the animal shelter board in Guilford County. I know how much donations mean to the shelter and what a difference they make for the animals.”

Ms. Vaughn said items to donate include food, treats, collars, leashes, toys, blankets, cat beds, cat litter and chew toys.

Shelter Assistant Manager Cassandra Tupaj said she appreciated Ms. Jones and the business offering to host the tree once again to help the shelter pets. She added that another business, Petsense in Cape Carteret, is also hosting a tree this year.

“It’s awesome. It lets the dogs and cats be seen and brings attention to the shelter,” Ms. Tupaj said Monday. “Last year we got all kinds of donations of food and toys for the animals.”

While Ms. Tupaj encouraged people to adopt animals, she cautioned them to think carefully before picking a pet as a Christmas gift.

“If a person doesn’t know they’re getting an animal as a gift and they don’t want it, it will end up back at the shelter. What we do here and suggest is that they get a voucher to give to the person as the gift, then come and adopt after the holidays,” Ms. Tupaj said.

“It’s difficult for a new animal to come into a home during the stress of the holiday rush and crowds,” she continued. “Unless you know you will have a quiet home during the holidays, I definitely think you need to wait until after.”

Ms. Tupaj added that for those adopting, it’s good to research what type of pet they want and consider it as a lifetime commitment.

“They need to consider the time they have and research the breeds,” she said. “You also need to think about the cost of care, but the main thing is do you have enough time to care for your pet?”

Other animal rescue groups, such as the Pet Adoption Welfare Society of Carteret County, also offer vouchers for Christmas to allow people to wait until the holiday bustle is over before bringing a pet into their home.

“I absolutely believe people should wait until after the holidays, and if you have child, they need to be the one to help pick out their pet so they can make that connection,” PAWS Vice President Donna Youraine said. “We tell families they can do something fun like wrap a pet carrier and place it under the tree to start building the excitement for their child.”

For those who feel Christmas is the right time to adopt, animal experts have several tips on what to consider, including:

•    Can you afford the vet bills, supplies and food?

•    Does your family have adequate time to give to the pet?

•    Do you have adequate space?

•    If renting, does the landlord allow pets?

•    Do research to find out the temperament of the breed you’re considering, making sure it will fit with your household.

•    If there’s a young child involved, make sure they understand the proper way to handle a pet.

•    Experts suggest adults first go to look at pets without their children to avoid upsetting them if the decision is made to not take an animal from that particular breeder or organization.

•    Will the pet cause allergy reactions to anyone in the family? You can test this by visiting people with the same type of pet you are considering.

•    While everyone migrates to puppies and kittens, older animals make good pets, too.

Once all these factors have been considered and the decision is made to go ahead with adoption or purchase, there are many options available to obtain pets. Many opt to adopt from a humane society or animal rescue group to give abandoned animals a new lease on life.

For more information, call the Humane Society at 252-247-7744 or go to To contact PAWS, visit or email

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 253; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.