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The Short Version: For more than 50 years, PAWS has been bringing animal lovers in the Seattle area together to help their furry (and feathered) friends. Since its inception, the shelter and wildlife center has matched more than 145,000 animals with loving homes and has cared for upward of 132,000 orphaned or injured wild animals. PAWS offers a number of ways to get involved, from volunteering and fostering to participating in the nonprofit’s events. Not only can you meet your canine or feline soul mate at PAWS, but you can also find a community of like-minded people with whom to bond over a shared love of animals.
When I first moved out on my own after college, it wasn’t a week before I felt the urge to get a dog. As a long-time pet owner, I knew the warmth and companionship of a cuddly buddy could make my new house feel like a home.
I met my pup when he was four weeks old. A cute Springer Spaniel-Black Lab mix, he was as adorable as he was precocious. I scooped him up, named him Capone as a nod to my hometown, Chicago, and we built a life together.
From my perspective, Capone was the most social dog in the world. We’d go out for our multiple daily walks, and people would always stop and say hi to him. I met friends and even dated a few people who were drawn to Capone’s irresistible cuteness. That dog had charisma. He helped me connect with people who felt the same way I did about animals, and it was nice to bond, in friendship or romantically, over our compassion and dedication to our furry friends.
If you’re an animal lover in the Seattle area looking for your Capone, PAWS should be the first place on your list to visit. The shelter and wildlife center has been in operation for more than 50 years and is fully committed to making the world a better place for animals and the people who love them.
To date, PAWS has facilitated the adoption of more than 145,000 dogs and cats and has rehabilitated and cared for 132,000 injured or orphaned wild animals. Those who want to be a part of these efforts are in luck. There are several ways to get involved with the organization to help animals and foster bonds with like-minded humans in the process.
PAWS was started in 1967 to be a champion for animals. The nonprofit is informed by its mission to care for wildlife and find permanent families for the Seattle area’s homeless cat and dog populations.
“We have a huge, generous community of people who will give their time to PAWS in a variety of different ways,” said Laura Follis, Director of Marketing and Communications for PAWS.
She told us this community has made PAWS one of the most effective shelters in the country, boasting an average of only five days before an animal’s adopted. And most of that time is taken up by animal welfare checks that measure health and behavior.
In addition to sheltering animals, PAWS also operates a wildlife rehabilitation center and wildlife hospital that cares for orphaned and injured wildlife, caring for an array of species — from herons to bears. PAWS gives these creatures whatever help is needed and then releases them back into their natural habitats once they are well enough to survive independently.
As another component of organization’s mission, education is foundational to the work the PAWS does in the community.
“We educate kids about compassion for animals primarily,” Laura said. “Research shows if you nurture that natural compassion that kids have for animals, they become compassionate people overall, which is good for society.”
PAWS is also an excellent place to meet other animal lovers through its volunteering opportunities and fundraising events.
“A love of animals is a value. If that’s important to your being, you’re going to want to meet someone who feels that way, too,” she said. “You’re finding people here that are putting it out there that it’s important to them. I think it’s a great place to meet like-minded people.”
Each year, the PAWS Shelter cares for more than 4,000 cats and dogs. The organization also provides training and education to strengthen the pet and human connection.
PAWS takes in strays from the local area as well as through its Placement Partner Program, which helps other rescues and shelters by taking in their overfill. PAWS also has a Re-Homing Service for pet-owners who can no longer keep their animals. These efforts give displaced pets the best chance of finding a loving home.
Another key element of the shelter is the volunteers who foster animals in their homes.
“Fostering allows us to expand beyond our physical capacity,” Laura said. “If we have pets out there in people’s homes, it lets us take in more animals.”
PAWS also works with guardians to help find pet behavior solutions for those that need them. Guardians are taught how to give animals quality, responsible care by trained volunteers and professionals.
The PAWS Wildlife Center rehabilitates sick, injured and, orphaned wildlife. The goal is to bring them back to complete health and then return them to the wild.
Paws is a full-service wildlife rehabilitation center and hospital that operates 365 days a year to save animals in critical moments of need. The center is staffed by an expert rehabilitation and veterinary team that specializes in upward of 260 species of animals.
Aspiring veterinary professionals flock to PAWS each year for its internationally recognized training and education programs. Here, students can learn an array of cutting-edge techniques to care for a wide range of species. The program offers a perfect way to continue professional development while interacting and bonding with peers in the same field.
The PAWS wildlife center cares for more than 4,000 wild animals each year, from seal pups to deer to bears. Check out their Patient of the Week to see who is visiting their center and getting healthier every day. The Patient of the Week program not only offers an adorable picture of adorable animals, but also gives valuable insight on their habitat, and ways humans can adapt their behaviors to prevent harm to these wild friends. Volunteers are always welcome at the Wildlife Center, and interested parties can find sign-up information on the PAWS volunteer page.
PAWS relies on its incredible volunteers to do its good work, and these generous individuals love what they do.
“In 2016, volunteers contributed nearly 62,000 hours,” Laura said. “That’s equivalent to over seven years of work!”
The volunteer program is quite expansive, encouraging animal lovers to volunteer their time in several ways.
“There’s everything from walking dogs to stuffing envelopes to helping with events to fostering in your home,” she said. “The first thing you do is attend orientation where you’ll learn about the different positions.”
Laura told us some positions, such as dog walking and handling wildlife, require additional training; however, these are also some of the most popular. One volunteer opportunity Laura said has been particularly helpful is focused on the misunderstood pitbull community.
“We have the ‘Pitty Committee.’ A lot of pit bulls and pit bull mixes are in shelters, and they are a very high-energy dog,” she said. “We have a special group of people who take them on field trips. They can take them to the beach, or hiking, or something like that to supplement their daily walks.”
Volunteering isn’t the only way to meet people and help animals at PAWS. The nonprofit’s two annual events, Wild Night and PAWS Walk, also provide opportunities to mingle with fellow animal lovers and raise funds for a good cause.
With such a successful shelter, wildlife center, and educational sector, people may think PAWS has hit its stride, but the organization has big goals moving forward.
“In 2018 and beyond, we’ll continue to help shelters that aren’t as lucky as we are by transferring in homeless dogs and cats who have run out of time,” Laura said. “We have the ideal combination of excellent community spay/neuter programs that cut down on overpopulation and a population that understands the value of adopting from a shelter. If you’re a homeless pet, Seattle is the place to be.”