2007 marks a very special milestone in PAWS' history. This year, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our founding. In 1967, a small group of visionaries saw the desperate plight of homeless animals in our community and knew they had to act. The task they embarked upon was monumental, and I am still in awe of their vision, energy, and tenacity.
Let's step back for a moment and picture what life was like for companion animals in the late 1960s. Male pets were almost never neutered, and so fathered countless litters left to uncertain futures: "free to a good home." Females were usually only spayed after they'd had at least one litter. The number of homeless puppies and kittens was staggering and far exceeded the homes seeking to adopt. Left to fend for themselves, it was a vicious circle for these poor animals. Thankfully, through the hard work of our founders and several generations of PAWS' staff and volunteers—and the friendship and financial support of the community— much has changed since those "dark days."
Of course, over the past four decades, PAWS has evolved to serve many other animals. Since its creation in 1981, PAWS Wildlife Center—then known as Help Our Wildlife, or HOWL—has cared for more than 97,000 injured and orphaned wild animals. Just as importantly, we've played a leading role in the advancement of the wildlife rehabilitation profession. Did you know that PAWS developed many of the standards of care now in place at rehabilitation centers across the country and overseas?
And before there was a shelter or even a spay-neuter program, at the very core of PAWS was advocacy. Since day one, we have been a leading voice for animals in the Pacific Northwest. PAWS has an impressive track-record of raising awareness of animal issues and giving citizens the tools they need to create a better world for animals.
Sometimes I wonder if the ultimate measure of PAWS' success is that we put ourselves "out of business"—when there are no more homeless companion animals, no more injured or orphaned wild animals, when all creatures are treated with dignity and respect. Clearly our work is not yet done.
As a member of the PAWS family, you should feel extremely proud of everything we have accomplished together. And, I hope you are inspired and energized by these successes to continue this vitally important work along with us.
As always, my heartfelt thanks. Here's to the next 40 years!