Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Shelter & Companion Animal Questions

Wildlife Questions


General Questions

How did PAWS start?
PAWS was founded by a small group of dedicated people in 1967. Most prominent was Virginia Knouse, who served as the president of PAWS until the early 1990s. The founders were concerned about the tragedy of euthanasia at our communities’ shelters. They believed that the best way to prevent the euthanasia of animals in shelters was to encourage spaying and neutering, as PAWS does today. They founded PAWS to raise money for low-cost spaying and neutering of Lynnwood-area animals, initially by running a thrift store.

But the store quickly became swamped with cats and dogs brought in by people who assumed PAWS would be able to take care of them. Within two years, PAWS opened the companion animal shelter in, what was then, rural Lynnwood. As with many shelters in the country, PAWS also began receiving injured, sick and orphaned wild animals. In 1981 PAWS began to provide specialized care for wildlife. Since those humble beginnings in 1967, PAWS has found loving, responsible homes for more than 120,000 cats and dogs, cared for more than 100,000 wild animals, and helped countless others through advocacy and education. Read more about our history.

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How is PAWS different than other animal advocacy and animal welfare organizations?
PAWS is unique because of the breadth of our commitment to the animals in our community. There is no other organization taking a leadership role in direct care for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife and of homeless dogs and cats, and offering a central commitment to advocacy and education on behalf of animals. More than 200,000 animals have come through our doors since 1967, and it is this hands-on experience that gives us perspective on how best to advocate for them and educate the community.

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Is there a PAWS near me?
Throughout the United States there are several organizations with the name PAWS. However, all of these are separate organizations and have no affiliation with our organization, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, in Lynnwood, Washington near Seattle. If you are looking for a PAWS in your area, try checking the list of other organizations called PAWS on the not the right PAWS page .

To search for companion animal organizations near you, go to www.petfinder.com. For a list of wildlife rehabilitation centers contact the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) at www.nwrawildlife.org or 320.230.9920.

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How do I make a donation to PAWS?
You can do one of three things: send in your donation by mail, make a secure donation online, or call the fundraising office at 425.787.2500 x261 to talk to someone about making a donation. More than 80 percent of PAWS' operating budget comes from gifts made by our friends in the community. Gifts are vital to help us fulfill our mission.

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What items can I donate to PAWS? Does PAWS have a wish list?
You can help the animals in our care by donating items from our wish list. PAWS is not able to accept bags or cans of food that have been opened or are expired. Donations can be delivered to PAWS Companion Animal Shelter during our regular business hours. We will provide you with a tax-deductible receipt for your contribution. Thank you for your support!

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Is PAWS recognized by the government as a non-profit?
Yes, PAWS is recognized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Our tax ID number is 91-6073154.

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How much money goes to fundraising and administration?
PAWS is committed to keeping our fundraising and administration costs as low as possible. This ensures that community support truly benefits the animals in our care—providing food, supplies, expert veterinary care, and love, and funds our education and advocacy initiatives. In 2012, fundraising and administration accounted for 23.6 percent of PAWS' total operating budget. PAWS' audited financial statements are available by calling 425.787.2500 x807. Also see our latest Annual Report.

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How old do I have to be to volunteer?
You must be 18 years old to volunteer at PAWS on a regular basis, however we do have a few options for kids to volunteer with PAWS and lots of ideas on how kids can help animals every day.

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I want to volunteer– how do I go about this?
Visit the volunteer page where you can read about how to become a volunteer, link to descriptions of volunteer opportunities, and complete an online application. Opportunities include walking dogs, providing foster care, staffing outreach and fundraising events, taking care of cats, assisting with wildlife rehabilitation, helping with administrative tasks and more.

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Does PAWS teach classes?
PAWS has a Humane Education Program where a humane educator and trained volunteers go to classrooms, clubs and other groups to teach youth about wild, farm and companion animals. We offer a variety of different presentations and interactive lessons to help youth better understand animals, foster empathy for them, and even meet many educational requirements, such as math and reading. Learn more about the programs we offer or call 425.787.2500 x258.

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How do I report animal cruelty?
If you are witnessing animal cruelty at this moment, call 911.

PAWS has no legal authority to intervene on behalf of abused and neglected animals, but we can provide resources and support to Washington residents in identifying and reporting cases of animal cruelty and neglect. If you suspect animal cruelty, you should contact animal control immediately. Refer to our report animal cruelty page for tips on documenting and reporting animal abuse, Washington State laws, and other resources. See a list of Western Washington animal control phone numbers.

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Shelter & Companion Animal Questions 

I can no longer care for my pet, how can PAWS help?
PAWS offers several resources if you feel you can't keep your pet or if you are helping someone else find a new home for a companion animal.  You can also call 425.787.2500 x445. Thank you for taking time to do the best for your animal friend or a homeless animal in need.

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I found a stray animal I need to take somewhere. What do I do?
It is important to take the animal to the correct shelter so she can be reunited with her family. If you found a stray cat or dog in the city limits of Bothell, Brier, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Shoreline or Woodinville, you can bring the animal to PAWS. Hours and Directions to PAWS. Strays found in unincorporated Snohomish County should go to the Everett Animal Shelter.

If you have found a stray animal, he should be taken to the shelter closest to the location where the animal was found. This will increase the likelihood that the animal will be reunited with his guardian and safely returned home. If you live in Western Washington, view a list of other local shelters.

If you don't find a shelter listed or you live outside of Western Washington, you should call information and see if there is a humane society or SPCA in your area. If that doesn't work, the best bet is to call the local police or sheriff department and ask where they take stray animals. Often it will be your local shelter and they should be able to provide contact information. In some areas it may be necessary to call 911 to obtain information about where to take a stray animal. Be sure to indicate it is a non-emergency.

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How long does PAWS keep animals before they put them to sleep?
PAWS does not euthanize healthy, adoptable companion animals nor do we euthanize animals for space or simply because they have been in the shelter for a certain length of time. As an organization committed to the welfare of animals in our care, we euthanize companion animals only when all other reasonable courses of treatment and options for appropriate placement in a home have been exhausted. For every animal in our care, PAWS explores all avenues prior to recommending euthanasia, and remains committed to saving as many animals as possible.

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Does PAWS care for feral cats? What can I do about feral cats?
PAWS does not have the facilities to care for feral cats. You can contact Feral Care or the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project, or other feral cat groups in your local area. These organizations can provide information on trapping and altering feral cats or provide assistance with renting traps or surgery. For more information and for a list of feral cat organizations refer to our feral cat page.

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Where can I get a humane cat trap?
Traps may be rented from PAWS for a $10 a day or $50 a week rental fee, plus a $100 refundable deposit. You must come to the PAWS Companion Animal Shelter during the hours we are open to rent one. Ask a PAWS staff person for "trapping" posters to put up in your neighborhood prior to trapping. This warns neighbors who let their cats roam that they may be accidentally trapped, and encourages them to keep the cat indoors. Other shelters may rent traps as well. Refer to our humane trap rental page for more information.

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Why does PAWS interview potential adopters?
PAWS interviews potential adopters to ensure that they and the animal are a good match for each other. For example, adopting a very high-energy animal into to a low-energy family will only result in disappointment for the animal and the family. PAWS wants to do everything possible to make sure families find the right animal to fit into their lifestyles and animals have a home that best fulfills their needs. Read more about our adoption process.

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Why does PAWS suggest adopting two kittens at the same time?
Kittens are curious and require lots of stimulation. A single, bored kitten will often entertain herself by chewing and climbing on things, or engaging in other possibly destructive or dangerous activities. These behaviors are usually reduced if a kitten has another kitten or cat to play with, and has frequent interaction with her human family.

If there isn’t already a cat in the household, PAWS will often encourage adopters to consider adopting two kittens at the same time, or a kitten and a young adult cat. Since kittens need to learn appropriate feline behavior in the first several months of their lives, having another feline friend can help to temper normal behaviors such as scratching or biting so they don’t become a problem.

If you choose to adopt just one young kitten, you may need to modify your schedule to allow more interactive time with your new friend. While toys are helpful for short periods of time, they are not a substitute for socialization which is imperative for a kitten’s healthy physical and emotional development. For more tips see the kitten section in our Resource Library.

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What is PAWS’ stance on declawing cats?
PAWS does not approve of declawing, a painful, surgical procedure that has long-lasting effects on cats. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, declawing is the surgical amputation of all or part of a cat's toe bones and the attached claws. Once their claws have been removed, cats can no longer perform their natural stretching and kneading rituals. They become weaker as they age and may experience debilitating arthritis in their backs and shoulders.

Furthermore, cats without claws have lost their first line of defense, and therefore, live in a constant state of stress. They cannot fight off other animals or escape quickly from danger. They may also become biters because they can no longer use their claws as a warning. Declawing can also lead to issues with using the litter box. For more information see The Problems with Declawing.

Scratching is natural for cats, but it can be both annoying and destructive. Luckily, scratching behaviors can be modified humanely and effectively. See our page on Destructive Scratching for suggestions.

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Can I license my pet at PAWS?
At PAWS Companion Animal Shelter in Lynnwood, we can license your pet if you live in Mountlake Terrace, Seattle, unincorporated King County, Auburn, Beaux Arts, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Carnation, Clyde Hill, Covington, Duvall, Enumclaw, Issaquah, Kent, Kenmore, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Maple Valley, Mercer Island, Newcastle, North Bend, Redmond, Sammamish, SeaTac, Shoreline, Snoqualmie, Tukwila, Woodinville, & Yarrow Point.

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How do I update my contact information for my pet’s microchip?
In order to update your contact information, you need to contact the company who produced the microchip your pet was implanted with. If you are unsure about the brand of microchip, go to www.petmicrochiplookup.org and type in your pet’s microchip number. Once you determine what brand of microchip your pet has, contact the company directly to update your information. Some microchip companies charge a small fee to update your information, but it’s worth the cost to ensure you and your pet can be reunited if they become lost. Current contact information also helps to provide proof of legal ownership.

AVID may charge a nominal fee to change or activate the registration. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but taking this extra step allows your animal to be more easily reunited with you if he becomes lost.

If your new companion has a HomeAgain® microchip that was implanted while at PAWS, that microchip is registered automatically to the HomeAgain national database. If you wish to customize the information, visit www.homeagain.com or call 888.466.3242.

Regardless of what brand of microchip your companion has, it is imperative to update the registration with your local animal shelter and veterinarian if you move, change phone numbers or other contact information. A microchip is only useful if the registration is kept up to date.

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Does PAWS pick up dead animals?
PAWS does not pick up dead animals. Please contact your local animal control agency.

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Can PAWS spay or neuter my pet?
PAWS offers low-cost spay and neuter surgeries for qualified low-income individuals. Learn more about getting your pet spayed or neutered at PAWS. Also, see this list of other low-cost clinics in Western Washington.

Also, on Spay Day, held once a year in late February, PAWS, other shelters and private veterinary clinics in Snohomish, King, Skagit and Island Counties offer low-cost spay and neuter surgeries. This event is open to anyone. Please check the Spay Day page for information on and the date of the next event.

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Can I bring my companion animal to PAWS for veterinary care? Can PAWS help me pay for my veterinary bills?
PAWS does not have a full-service veterinary center and cannot be responsible for veterinary bills or treatment of an animal after leaving our shelter. In Washington State, shelters are restricted from providing general veterinary services to privately owned animals. If you have questions about the health of an animal you adopted from PAWS, please review the information in your adoption packet, and be sure to take advantage of the free certificate for a veterinary exam. If you have further questions, you can contact us at 425.787.2500 x804.

PAWS does not have a program to help individuals cover the cost of their pets' veterinary bills, but provides some resources and ideas for getting help with veterinary bills.

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Can PAWS provide me with a veterinary or pet sitting/boarding referral?
As a non-profit organization with limited resources, PAWS does not have the ability to evaluate businesses and provide referrals or endorsements to the public. We do provide tips on how to find a pet sitter or boarding kennel and links to resources.

If you are looking for a veterinarian, you can see a list of veterinary clinics that helped with the recent Spay Day. You can also search for a veterinarian in your area on the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association's website or the American Animal Hospital Association's website. As a caring guardian, please undertake full research before entrusting your companion animal to any service provider.

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I am having behavior issues with my new and/or long-time companion animal – can you help?
Please call the PAWS Behavior Helpline at 425.787.2500 x860 or refer to the behavior helpline page. You can also search for tips on solving behavior problems in our Resource Library.

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Wildlife Questions 

How does PAWS help wild animals?
PAWS operates a wildlife hospital and rehabilitation center that includes a surgical suite, laboratory, an X-ray machine, a treatment and post-operative ward for recovering patients, and custom-built pools and enclosures to meet the needs of a wide variety of species. We have cared for more than 100,000 injured, ill or orphaned wild animals representing 260 species since we began wildlife rehabilitation in 1981. Our goal is to return the animals to the wild with the best possible chance of survival. We do not keep any wild animals permanently in captivity, for display or for educational purposes.

PAWS also educates adults and children on how to peacefully co-exist with wild animals, works to pass legislation to protect wild animals in Washington State, and provides practical humane solutions for solving conflicts with wildlife.

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What is wildlife rehabilitation?
Wildlife rehabilitation is a profession involving the treatment and care of sick, injured or orphaned wild animals with the goal of releasing them back to their natural habitats in the wild. For rehabilitation to be deemed successful, released animals must be able to survive on their own and be an integral part of their species population, i.e., recognize and obtain appropriate foods, select mates of their own species to reproduce, and respond appropriately to potential dangers (people, cars, dogs, natural predators, etc.).

Those animals who sustain injuries or illnesses that prevent them from living successfully in the wild are humanely euthanized to end their suffering. Wildlife rehabilitation is not an attempt to turn wild animals into pets. Patients are held in captivity only until they are able to live independently in the wild. Read more about wildlife rehabilitation.

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What do I do if I find an injured or potentially orphaned wild animal?
If you find a wild animal you suspect may be injured or orphaned, please contact PAWS at 425.787.2500 x817. Our experienced staff will help you determine whether or not an animal needs assistance, and how best to provide that assistance. Also refer to what to do when you find an injured or orphaned wild animal.

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What if I find an injured or sick animal after hours?
If you find an injured or sick wild animal after PAWS Wildlife Center has closed, please do the following:

  • Find a suitable container (cardboard box, pet carrier). Line it with a towel or cloth.
  • If you feel you can do it safely, throw a towel or a sheet over the animal so he can’t see you, gently pick up the animal (wear gloves), and place in the container. You don’t need to remove the towel, but loosen it. Secure the container to make sure the animal cannot escape.
  • Keep the animal in a warm, dark, quiet place away from noise and pets. For warmth you can place half of the container on a heating pad that is set on the lowest heat setting.
  • Do not give the animal food or water. Leave the animal alone to rest.
  • Take the animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, like PAWS, as soon as possible.
  • Please resist peeking at the animal. Before transporting the animal to our facility, you can check whether or not the animal is still alive.
  • Bring the animal to PAWS Wildlife Center as soon as possible.

Many wild animals can be dangerous to handle. Contact PAWS Wildlife Center at 425.412.4040 with questions about safely handling an animal you have found.

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If I touch a wild baby bird, will the parents abandon the baby?
No. It is a myth that birds will reject their young if they detect human scent. As a matter of fact, if the baby bird appears unharmed, it is best to put the baby back into the nest. If the nest is too high or you cannot find it, make a surrogate nest:

  • Find a container such as a small box or margarine tub.
  • Fill the container with leaves, paper towels or a clean, soft cloth.
  • Place the nest in the tree or bush closest to where the animal was found, out of the sun and rain, as high up as you can safely manage.
  • Place the animal (or animals) in the nest (wear gloves) and leave the area.

Learn more about what to do if you find a wild baby bird.

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Can I raise an orphaned wild animal myself? What do I feed a wild animal?
It is illegal to raise or keep a wild animal without proper state and/or federal rehabilitation permits. Rehabilitating wild animals also requires specific training. Average citizens rarely have the training to meet wild animals' physical and behavioral needs. Without proper training, you can do more harm than good.

If you are interested in working with wildlife you can volunteer at the PAWS or other local wildlife rehabilitation center. If you find a sick, injured or orphaned wild animal, call PAWS at 425.412.4040. PAWS' experienced staff will help you determine whether or not an animal needs assistance, and how best to provide that assistance.

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How do I get rid of a nuisance wild animal?
Please call PAWS at 425.412.4040. A trained PAWS staff member will give you advice on dealing with the animal in a humane manner. There are all sorts of effective solutions to different human/wildlife conflicts that do not require the killing or harming of the animal. If you simply get rid of one wild animal without taking care of whatever it is that attracted that animal to your property, another will be drawn in by the same attractant and take his place. You can also read about various solutions to common problems and learn more about some specific animals, such as Racoons, in our Resource Library.

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Is trapping and relocating a wild animal legal? Can PAWS trap and relocate a wild animal at my home, school, business, etc?
No, it is not legal in most cases. Neither citizens nor PAWS can legally trap and relocate wild animals. Relocation is perceived as a quick, effective and humane solution to resolving human-wildlife conflicts. It is, in fact, an ineffective, often inhumane and potentially ecologically destructive method for dealing with wildlife.

Ineffective: A new animal may quickly replace the one that was relocated. Effective long-term solutions can only be achieved by discovering what is attracting the animal and then removing the attractant (covering garbage cans, bringing pet food inside, sealing up potential denning areas in attics or under decks, etc.).

Inhumane: Many animals do not survive relocation. Animals who are relocated have to fight for new territories and are often injured or killed in the process. Relocation of a mother and young is almost always futile, since it is often difficult for her to quickly find food, shelter, and a safe place to raise her young in unfamiliar surroundings. The mother may be forced to abandon her young for her own survival.

Biologically unsound: Relocation of wildlife to new territories can disrupt the wildlife populations that are already living there. Relocating wildlife may also introduce diseases or parasites into areas in which they did not previously exist.

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Can I keep a wild animal as a pet?
It is illegal in the state of Washington to possess a wild animal without a permit unless you are transporting that animal to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. (WAC 232-12-064)

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Will the wildlife in my neighborhood starve if I don’t feed them?
No. In fact, feeding wildlife can be detrimental for them.

  • When wild animals begin to depend on humans for food, their foraging skills may be diminished.
  • They may also lose their healthy fear of humans, which is important to their survival. An animal who no longer fears humans is also far more likely to come into conflict with them.
  • The food that humans tend to feed wildlife, such as leftovers from the dinner table, can cause serious health problems.
  • When food is easily available, wild animals may congregate in unusually large numbers. They may also produce more offspring, further increasing population density, and causing imbalances. This may also result in aggressive behavior among the animals and/or facilitate the spread of disease.
  • Feeding migratory animals may interfere with the animals’ awareness of seasonal changes in natural food supplies that tell them it is time to migrate.

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