ShelterPaws: A win-win for quality assurance and quality of life

Introducing our project to build much-needed websites for animal shelters while coaching junior devs through portfolio-worthy work that aligns with their passions.

I used to live in Poti, Georgia, where the situation with stray dogs and cats is dire. Many are left on the streets, suffering from severe hunger and diseases. Puppies were thrown away to the streets almost weekly. I found myself collecting strays and bringing them into “my flock.” 

Being passionate about helping those in need, I couldn't simply ignore this situation. I fed them daily with 20 liter pot of rice and liver.

With no veterinary clinic in Poti, I took sick dogs to Batumi, located 200km away, for treatment. I managed to save some, but sadly, others didn't survive. I still miss Benjamin, a puppy abandoned at birth that I tried to save. Despite my best efforts, he succumbed to illness after just a month with me.

With the help of local volunteers, we found homes in Europe for a few dogs. Others were adopted by Ukrainians and Russians who had fled to Georgia due to the war.

It was during this time that I met Irina, the owner of a local shelter. Despite the challenging conditions, her kindness and love for the dogs were evident. It was then that I realized that a good shelter could provide more assistance to stray animals than I could alone.

But good shelters need help too, in the form of donations and adoptions.

I wanted to find a way to help not just animals, but the hardworking people behind struggling shelters 

As an IT specialist with 23 years of experience, I knew I could assist Irina's shelter by creating a website for her. Irina needed a website because she had no media presence. As she wasn't very tech-savvy, she struggled to promote animal donations and raise funds for her shelter. The shelter run by Irina and her husband was entirely self-funded and housed over 40 dogs.

A simple website with an easy-to-use animal management system would allow Irina to add dogs to the site and manage donations. This system could help raise funds and find new homes for the dogs. Many small shelters face a similar predicament, as their owners often lack web development skills and the funds to hire professionals.

Meet Irina and some of her shelter animals:

I realized I also had an opportunity to mentor junior developers at the same time

Knowing that I could only devote a few hours each week, I decided to assemble a team.

I've always been keen on helping junior developers start their careers. I understand how difficult it can be for them to land their first job without any commercial experience. They often resort to creating “demo” projects like to-do lists and calendars to showcase their skills to recruiters.

This gave me an idea. Irina needed help with her shelter's website, junior developers and QAs needed real-world projects to include in their resumes, and I had ample experience in leading projects and teams. Why not bring everyone together to build an information system for Irina?

And that’s how began. 

At the project's inception, I reached out to the junior devs community and received support from a designer, developers, and QA engineers who were eager to contribute. I assembled a team of junior developers, QA engineers, and a designer. Then, I purchased a VPS and the domain name and we began building. Our initial goal was to quickly launch a functioning website to start receiving donations for Irina, so we decided on a simple static website.

We built a system that would work long term 

I'm a big proponent of mob programming and believe it's an effective approach for most projects, especially at the beginning. We started with weekly two-hour calls. After two mob sessions, we had a static website live on GitHub pages, linked to the domain I purchased. During this time, our designer Elena completed the first proper design in Figma. We then held two more mob sessions to establish a basic backend and start the redesign.

Screenshot of Figma project showing mockups of Shelterpaws website design

As this is a volunteer-based project, coordinating regular mob sessions became increasingly difficult. We decided to change course and follow the traditional open-source approach via GitHub. All tasks are now listed in our Github Project, and team members tackle them one by one. We've transitioned from mob programming to the classic git flow.

We initially designed our system to support only one shelter, but we have plans to expand it to accommodate multiple shelters. Our objective is to enable any shelter owner worldwide to quickly set up a website for their shelter, regardless of their programming skills. We will maintain the open-source nature of the work on GitHub. This way, as the system becomes more complex, developers and QAs from around the globe can contribute and provide assistance.

I've already been approached by another shelter owner from Georgia. She currently houses 14 dogs and her shelter will be the next addition to our system!

The first (static) version of Irina’s shelter's site is We're currently applying a new design and adding server-side templating and a database for the animals.

What's rewarding about this project is its impact on multiple lives:

  • Dogs find new homes and receive better nourishment due to increased donations
  • Irina can provide better care for the dogs
  • Junior developers gain valuable experience while working on a socially significant project
  • We’re building in public and sharing our work so it can be used by others (We’ll share more about this as the project progresses!)

Meet the ShelterPaws volunteers

This project would not be possible without the help of my volunteer team. At the beginning of the project, I connected with the junior developers community and received support from a designer, developers, and QA engineers eager to contribute. These individuals didn't ask for any compensation; they simply got to work. Everyone on the team shares a passion for animals.

I couldn't ask for a better team. Their dedication, contributing their free time to help shelters and animals, means a lot to me.


Hello! I'm Lena, I specialize in website design. I enjoy helping people and animals. I love traveling and fishing.


Hello! My name is Alexey. I am a novice frontend developer and I am excited to be part of a project aimed at helping homeless animals find a new home. For me, it is important not only to create functional web applications, but also to use my skills to contribute to solving social problems. I am happy to be part of a team that strives to make the world a better place for animals by providing them with a home and a caring family. I am ready to learn and grow with this project, and I am proud to have the opportunity to work with such wonderful people who share my values and aspirations.

Connect with Alexey on Github and Linkedin.


Hi! My name is Ekaterina. I have many diverse interests, one of which happens to be programming. I really enjoy building things to make someone's (or my own) life easier and more pleasurable, while also making time for other life experiences. One aspect I care about is that not only human beings need help — animals do too. What I love about ShelterPaws is that, with the help of the community, we can help make these little creatures' lives better and provide them with a home and a loving family. I'm happy to not only learn about programming but also to share the knowledge I gain with beautiful people working towards this great goal for the project.

Connect with Ekaterina on Linkedin.


My name is Rustam, I have been writing articles about IT for many years, and a few years ago I became interested in programming and want to develop in this field. The ShelterPaws project  is interesting to me for two reasons. Firstly, it is an opportunity to somehow help unfortunate animals and those great people who take care of them. Secondly, it is a wonderful chance to participate in a real project and gain necessary experience in programming. Experienced developers are involved in the project, which is a great opportunity for me to learn something new.

Find Rustam on Github.


Hi everyone! My name is Andrew, I am a frontend developer on the team. I am very glad to take part in a project that was born of just an idea. I am inspired by the opportunity to make a contribution to the project that can bring plenty of positive changes for shelters and help find homes for animals.

Find Andrew on Linkedin.


My name is Alexey, and I am a backend developer passionate about leveraging code not just to tackle work tasks but also to find cool ways to make a difference in society. I'm super excited to join a team focused on helping homeless animals find a loving home. It's a chance for me to use my coding skills for something that feels important to me.

Find Alexey on Github and Linkedin.


Hello! My name is Kristina, and I'm a frontend developer. My calling is to turn beautiful design layouts into functional applications. I love dogs, interesting projects, and pleasant people, that's why I'm here 😄


Hello. I am Marina 😄 I have been working professionally with animals for more than 10 years, bringing beauty to dogs and cats. My team and I also help shelter pets. I have also been working as an IT project manager for more than a year; this profession also brings me a lot of pleasure.

Keep up with the ShelterPaws project

We’ll be publishing updates about the ShelterPaws project as it progresses. You can also explore the project at any time on our Github.

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