"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.


Read our 2011—2016 timeline.

Read our 2000—2010 timeline.

Read our 1967—1999 timeline.