Our Cause

We believe that every dog and cat, no matter their age, medical need, or behavioral issue, deserves a wonderful forever home. These animals need extra love — and will give it back a thousand times over. We know that if potential adopters knew about these special animals, they would welcome them into their homes.

Core Paws is a 501c3 non-profit organization that advocates for the underdog. We rejoice and stand up for senior animals. We know that special needs and animals with behavioral issues are some of the most joyful and grateful animals around. Core Paws helps find adopters to give these animals the beautiful lives that they deserve. Our website showcases hard-to-place animals in rescues and shelters across the nation.

Adopting an animal showcased on Core Paws means a happy tail wag from a 12-year old dog who had lost his owner. It’s a purr from a cat who was diagnosed with congenital heart disease and requires medication for the rest of her life. It’s a trusting approach from an animal who used to fear the world.

For financial supporters of our cause, your involvement makes the difference for every animal who has not had it easy, and who deserves a loving family. We could not continue our efforts without the support of our generous animal-loving community.

For rescues and shelters, partnering with Core Paws brings your animals into the spotlight. Join us in finding your hardest cases the perfect forever homes.

And for volunteers, Core Paws allows you to feel a part of this movement from wherever you are in the United States, our Virtual Volunteer Program is top of the line and we can’t wait to meet you.

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Meet The Team

Kara Hamada

Kara Hamada, Founder & Executive Director

“I believe that all animals deserve unconditional love, no matter their age, special need or behavior issue. The right family is out there for every animal, and I pledge my skills to help find them.”

Although her career is in Digital Marketing, Kara has a passion for animal rescue. She has been volunteering with animal shelters since 2011. In a chance encounter, Kara met an adoptable kitten, Abbott, who was continually overlooked for his heart issues and special medication needs. In the end, he was adopted by a couple whose son also had the same heart issues. It was in that moment, that Kara knew the right family was out there for every animal, even the hardest to adopt cases. They were just a bit harder to find. She created Core Paws to address this need and to bring awareness of hard-to-place animals in rescues and shelters everywhere. Her love for all animals keeps her happily motivated to help as many homeless animals as she can. Her rescue cat, Mitzi, is a daily inspiration.

Kelli Olson

Kelli Olson, Board Director

"I believe every animal deserves a forever home. You never know the meaning of unconditional love until you adopt an animal, especially one with a special need. Just like people, no animal is perfect, but they all deserve a chance to shine."

Kelli is a licensed attorney with experience in corporate law and intellectual property. Kelli is originally from Montana and grew up surrounded by animals. At an early age, she started training and showing both horses and dogs and her love for animals only grew. Today, she is the proud owner of two canine kids, one with special medical needs and the other with special behavioral needs, and she could not imagine life without either. She is a true believer that every animal deserves a forever home.

Appu Chalamalachetty

Appu Chalamalachetty, Board President

“I believe that every animal, regardless of age, special needs or special behavior, deserves a home in which they are accepted, loved and cherished. Animals bring so much love and joy into this world and I want to help spread that love and joy by bringing together animals and their humans around the world.”

Appu is a financial and business analyst with a background in accounting and information systems. Appu discovered her love for animals after adopting two puppies, an English bulldog and an English bulldog/Pitbull/Boston terrier mix. They have opened her heart to so much love and empathy that she cannot imagine a life without animals in it. She loves the bond that she shares with her dogs and hopes to help other people develop the same bond and connection with animals. She is a firm believer that animals bring joy to every aspect of life and is dedicated to helping end homelessness for animals.

Dawn Wensel

Dawn Wensel, Vice President

“I believe that there is a special, loving home out there for every animal."

Dawn is the Director of Development and Communications at Maybelle Center for Community, a nonprofit in Portland building community and connections for those living in social isolation. While her and her husband were looking to find the perfect addition to their family, they encountered first-hand the challenges one can face when looking to adopt an animal. Eventually they found Otto, a miniature schnauzer, and are already talking about when they should get another dog. She is excited to use her skills and talents in ensuring hard-to-place animals find their forever homes.

Jill Fenimore

Jill Fenimore, Board Director & Volunteer Manager

"I believe our lives are enriched when we experience the unconditional love of an animal. I believe all animals deserve to be treated with respect and compassion."

Jill is a Regional Account Executive for a national healthcare company and has had a heart for animals her whole life. Animals have been part of her family since her birth. At one point, Jill was the proud mom to two labs, three dachshunds and one cockapoo, each with their own unique story as to how they became a member of her family. Jill is deeply passionate about doing all she can to help those who dedicate their lives to saving and rescuing animals.

Julie Honse

Julie Honse, Advisory Board Chair

“I believe that in this nation of animal lovers, there is a home for every animal in need of one--regardless of age, health or behavioral considerations--that someone is out there for them. I know we can help bring them together and maybe along the way, change some hearts and minds about the way an animal can be imperfectly perfect.”

Julie was born and raised in Portland, OR, and after graduating with a Journalism degree from the University of Oregon, she promptly changed career tracks and became an event manager in non-profit and corporate events. As the Senior Manager of the National Events Department for Best Friends Animal Society, she gets to put her event planning chops to work specifically to help homeless cats and dogs across the US. Julie grew up with with dogs, but was not exposed to the world of animal shelters and animal welfare until 1998, when she adopted her first kitten from the Oregon Humane Society. It was kismet from that day on, where she became a volunteer, took on a leadership role helping to train new volunteers and developed and implemented volunteer-run animal programs. Eventually she joined forces with several other shelters and rescue groups in the Portland Metro area to lend them a hand. Along the way, she ended up with a houseful of animals, which currently includes two pit bull like dogs, a beagle/border collie mix, a golden retriever mix and a true Heinz 57 mixed breed, along with two cats and until she recently passed, a house chicken, all living happily together.

Nicole Jergovic

Nicole Jergovic, Board Advisor

"I believe that we can make a huge difference in our society by being a voice for the most vulnerable members of our animal community. I know that we can find homes for these underdog animals."

Nicole is a lawyer who has spent most of her career as a prosecuting attorney, providing a voice for the most vulnerable members of our community. Nicole began volunteering at an animal shelter while in law school and she has continued to volunteer with an array of animal shelters and rescues since 1999. Over the years, she has opened her heart and home to a variety of shelter dogs.

Dr. Rosie Gilbert

Dr. Rosie Gilbert, Board Advisor

“I believe hurdles to the perfect placement of an animal can be overcome with commitment and communication. I believe we can learn so much, as individuals and as a community, from these animals and the people whose lives they have touched.”

Rosie is a veterinarian and owner of Viking Veterinary Care. She graduated from the University of Alaska Southeast with a degree in communications, then volunteered in the Portland rescue community before starting veterinary school at Oregon State University. In an effort to continually improve veterinary care to all her patients, Viking Veterinary Care is a Fear Free certified hospital and a Gold Standard Cat-Friendly Practice. Viking Veterinary Care also utilizes acupuncture, Chinese herbs, physical rehabilitation, regenerative medicine (autologous stem cell treatment, platelet-rich plasma, Class IV laser therapy) to individualize therapy for patients with special needs. Rosie is currently owned by two great Danes, three felines, and two sulcata tortoises, although there is usually a room or two of foster kittens in her home.

Jamie Lawrence

Jamie Lawrence, Board Advisor

"I believe every animal deserves a loving home that provides safety and security, reflective of their individual needs. Together, we can be the voice for those that need it the most to help them find that home."

Jamie is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and co-owner of Sit Stay Fit, a dog training company in Portland. Her love of animals and training came at an early age growing up in a house full of cats, birds, and rodents as well as her family Newfoundland who she took to earn his Canadian Draft Dog Title at age 10. Her training passion lies in helping puppies build a solid foundation of socialization & skills and in working with reactive or fearful dogs. She currently lives with her five rescue dogs and a cat, and is excited to help some of our harder to place animals find the loving homes they deserve.