"Every time we went to the grocery store, there would be a box of kittens or puppies with a sign saying 'free to a good home'," recalled the late Virginia Knouse, PAWS' co-founder and first volunteer president.

"It was awful and we wanted to do something about it."

Virginia and a group of friends realized the solution to the tragedy of pet overpopulation was spaying and neutering-as PAWS still believes today.

In 1967, this dedicated and forward-thinking group banded together to raise money to pay for spay and neuter surgeries. Thus the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) was born.

From thrift store to shelter

The founders first raised money to pay for spay and neuter surgeries with a rummage sale in an office basement they nicknamed "the Cave," which soon became PAWS' first thrift store.

As word spread that an animal welfare group was operating a store in Lynnwood, the store became swamped with cats and dogs brought in by people who hoped PAWS would take care of them. Within two years, PAWS opened our companion animal shelter in what was then rural Lynnwood, Washington to house, care for and find homes for lost, abandoned, unwanted, homeless companion animals.

Like many shelters, PAWS also began receiving sick, injured and orphaned wild animals. In response to this great need,  PAWS began rehabilitating local wildlife in 1981, and became a voice for protecting habitat and wildlife in Washington State and beyond.

Education and advocacy

Even after expanding into hands-on care of animals, advocacy and education remained key elements of PAWS' work. We have brought about changes to improve the lives of all animals, and the people who care about them.

Today PAWS continues to teach the community, including children, how to be responsible guardians of companion animals and to respect our wild neighbors.

PAWS' History Timeline


  • PAWS delivered the first ever Catio Tour Seattle, inspiring solutions for peaceful co-existence between companion and wild animals for residents in Puget Sound.
  • PAWS celebrated the successful signing of the Animal Anti-Cruelty Bill SSB 5501 by Washington Governor Inslee. The bill strengthens protections for all animals in Washington.
  • PAWS joined the 2015 World Spay Day collaboration in Washington State. The group effort included 37 participating clinics who delivered a total of 900 spay and neuter surgeries in the month of February.
  • PAWS led the chorus against Substitute House Bill 1838—the bear baiting bill—by alerting our audience to the swift moving bill. Concerned citizens spoke up quickly and the bill was defeated.
  • PAWS' wildlife care experts presented on panels and led workshops at the 2015 National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium.
  • PAWS utilized the power of social media to encourage the defeat of the "Ag-Gag" bill H.B. 1104 in Washington State.


  • PAWS participated in 32 community outreach events around Puget Sound, offering information on foster and adoption of dogs and cats, and peaceful co-existence with local wildlife.
  • PAWS recognized a critical issue for an indigenous songbird, the Dark-eyed Junco, and made the species a focus of study this year.
  • Fireworks in Lynnwood were successfully banned! PAWS joined with concerned citizens who led a campaign against a municipal bylaw to stop the deployment of fireworks within Lynnwood by 2015.


  • PAWS participated in 38 community outreach events around Puget Sound, offering information on foster and adoption of dogs and cats, and peaceful co-existence with local wildlife.
  • PAWS wildlife experts delivered workshops at the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association Symposium, including sessions in Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation and Pediatric Mammal Critical Care. Our expertise in these areas reached an audience of over 500 wildlife professionals in the US.
  • We provided 105 free spay/neuter surgeries on Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes who are in the care of loving and responsible guardians.
  • PAWS participated in the World Spay Day—partnering with 13 local shelters and rescue groups and 40 veterinary clinics locally to offer low-cost spay/neuter surgeries locally.
  • After 140 days in our care, our longest term Bald Eagle patient—who was rescued from a fish turbine and needed multiple surgeries to survive—was finally ready for release back to the wild. He was released to the Chehalis River in the Fall of 2013.


  • PAWS trained 17 rehabilitation interns and 25 veterinary medical student externs.
  • The Humane Education team at PAWS presented 117 special classes to 2,433 elementary students in the Puget Sound area.
  • PAWS delivered the message of animal welfare to 41 community events reaching almost 5,000 people.
  • PAWS cared for 63 raptors including; 11 eagles, 6 falcons and 27 owls. PAWS also cared for 1,265 songbirds and perching birds from 63 different species.
  • PAWS was able to expand our wildlife hospital with a larger flight pen for raptors, two new raccoon shelter buildings, a deer pen, squirrel boxes and a refurbished seabird pool.


  • A bill allowing sport hunters to hunt cougars with hounds was successfully stalled in its tracks. PAWS, along with other concerned organizations and citizens, voiced opposition for this bill because of its ineffectiveness, and legislators listened.
  • 30,000th child reached with PAWS’ messages of compassion and respect through PAWS Humane Education Program.
  • PAWS provided expert opinion and testimony on a spay/neuter assistance bill low-income Washington residents, and an anti-tethering bill to protect dogs.

Read our 2000—2010 timeline.

Read our 1967—1999 timeline.