"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

  • 1967 - PAWS was founded and incorporated as a not-for-profit agency. Founding members ran a thrift store to raise money for spay and neuter surgeries to help end pet overpopulation.
  • 1968 - PAWS purchased land with a house on it in Lynnwood, WA, and converted another building on the property into a shelter for homeless companion animals. We are still on this property today.
  • 1969 - Current companion animal shelter built, expanded in 1986.
  • 1970 - Became the first shelter in Washington State to require the spaying or neutering of every adopted animal.
  • 1981 - Rehabilitation of wild animals began, using the building that was the original shelter.
  • 1985 - Began campaign to end the Omak Suicide Race.
  • 1986-87 - Rehabilitated and released first Black Bear.
  • 1987 - PAWS won an injunction requiring University of Washington's Animal Care Committee to hold open meetings.
  • 1989 - Wildlife rehabilitation center and hospital built on property in Lynnwood, WA across the parking lot from the companion animal shelter (we are still on this property today).
  • 1991 & 1993 - Twice helped put a halt to the U.S. Navy's plans to use dolphins to patrol in Western Washington waters.
  • 1992 - First PAWSwalk at Woodland Park in Seattle.
  • 1992 - PAWS played an integral part in getting King County Ordinance 123 passed, requiring King County shelters to spay and neuter animals adopted to the public.
  • 1994 - After campaigning for seven years, PAWS was instrumental in helping send Ivan, a western lowland gorilla, to Zoo Atlanta after he spent more than 25 years in solitary confinement in a Tacoma shopping mall.
  • 1995 - PAWS Foster Care Program created, allowing PAWS to save under-aged and sick kittens and puppies, as well as ill and injured adult dogs and cats.
  • 1996 - Founded the Washington Wildlife Alliance, a political action committee formed to pass Washington State's I-655 (ban on hunting cougars with hounds and bear baiting). The initiative passed with the second largest margin of victory of any statewide race.
  • 1997 - Internationally-recognized wildlife veterinary medicine extern program began.
  • 1997 - Ended euthanasia of healthy, adoptable companion animals in our care.
  • 1997 - Closed the thrift store and opened PAWS Cat City in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood, a unique cage-free, open-colony adoption center just for cats and kittens-the first of its kind in the Puget Sound.
  • 1999 - Began operation of PAWS Olympic Wildlife Center in McCleary, WA.
  • 2000 - Kids Who Care, a core part of PAWS' Humane Education Program, was launched.
  • 2000 - PAWS led a campaign to ban the use of cruel traps on wildlife with I-713. It passed into law with 55 percent of voters approving.
  • 2000 - PAWS was integral in passing a law allowing animal welfare agencies to own and operate spay/neuter clinics to help increase the number of altered animals, and therefore decrease the number of unwanted animals in our community.
  • 2000 - PAWS persuaded 15 Seattle-area restaurants to stop selling veal.
  • 2001 - Closed PAWS Olympic Wildlife Center and moved all wildlife rehabilitation services back to Lynnwood.
  • 2001-2003 - Led successful campaigns in the cities of Edmonds and Everett to ensure that all dogs and cats adopted from local shelters are spayed or neutered before adoption.
  • 2002 - 100,000th companion animal adopted.
  • 2003 - PAWS wildlife staff played a leadership role in creating a statewide network of wildlife rehabilitators, the Washington Wildlife Rehabilitation Association, and helped organize the association's first conference.
  • 2004 - Seattle Goose Program partnership was launched with Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Humane Society of the United States. Secured a moratorium to cease the annual gassing of Canada Geese in Seattle's parks.
  • 2004 - PAWS voted "Best Charity" by Seattle Weekly readers.
  • 2004 - 6,000th cat adopted from PAWS Cat City in Seattle.
  • 2004 - Due in part to PAWS' campaign against the use of wild animals in entertainment, and years of protesting with other animal welfare groups at circus events, Ringling Bros. Circus is unable to fill the seats at Seattle's Key Arena.
  • 2006 - 11,000th companion animal helped through PAWS' Foster Care Program.
  • 2006 - 95,000th wild animal cared for by PAWS.
  • 2007 - Celebrated 40th Anniversary.
  • 2007 - Cared for our 50th Black Bear cub. The bear was rehabilitated and returned to the wild in June.
  • 2007 - PAWS voted "Best Animal Rescue" in Western Washington by Seattle's King 5 Evening Magazine viewers.
  • 2008 - PAWS surpassed the milestone of caring for 100,000 injured, orphaned and sick wild animals since beginning wildlife rehabilitation in 1981. Of those animals, we've seen more than 260 different species.
  • 2010 - Received the Best of Web Award from the Seattle Weekly for our new website.