About PAWS

PAWS stands for the Progressive Animal Welfare Society. We are located in Lynnwood, Washington, with a cat only adoption center called PAWS Cat City in Seattle. PAWS shelters homeless animals, cares for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife until they ready to be returned to the wild, and educates people to be compassionate and respectful of all animals.

PAWS is a non-profit organization. This means that PAWS relies almost entirely on donations of money from people to pay for the food, medicines, electricity and everything else that is needed to take care of the animals.

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PAWS was started in 1967 by a group of women who loved animals. Virginia Knouse, PAWS' co-founder and first volunteer president, and a group of friends believed the answer to the problem of pet overpopulation was spaying and neutering. This dedicated and forward-thinking group banded together to start a thrift store to raise money to pay for spay and neuter surgeries and help prevent unwanted puppies and kittens from being born.

As word spread that PAWS was operating a thrift store to raise money to help animals, people began bringing homeless dogs and cats to the store. Within two years, PAWS opened the PAWS Companion Animal Shelter in Lynnwood, Washington to house, care for and find homes for abandoned, unwanted, homeless companion animals.

PAWS also began receiving injured, sick and orphaned wild animals. In 1981, PAWS opened the PAWS Wildlife Center and officially began providing treatment and care for local wildlife and becoming a voice for protecting habitat and wildlife in Washington and beyond.

Throughout this history, PAWS has also worked to help end the abuse of animals. Advocacy and education remained key elements of PAWS' work. We have spoken out and effected change by helping to pass laws and providing education to help make the world a better place for animals.

Learn more about PAWS' history.
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PAWS Companion Animal Shelter

PAWS operates a shelter in Lynnwood, Washington for dogs and cats. While they wait to be adopted, each dog or cat gets their own cage or kennel, a soft bed, toys, fresh food and water. The dogs are walked at least twice a day on a nature trail. Each of the cats gets time in a small room to exercise and play.

Each year PAWS finds new homes for more than 3,000 dogs and cats. No healthy, adoptable animals are euthanized (put to sleep). When someone wants to adopt an animal, the person goes through an adoption process that helps ensure the animal and person are a good match. PAWS wants to make sure that each animal finds the perfect home to spend the rest of his or her life. See some of the cats and dogs available for adoption.

PAWS Cat City

PAWS also has a cat-only adoption center in Seattle, Washington, called PAWS Cat City. The center has three rooms where cats can climb cat trees and play with each other while waiting to be adopted. Find out more about PAWS Cat City.

Behavior help

In addition to the shelter, PAWS helps families who may be having behavior problems with pets at home. Some of these problems include cats who go to the bathroom outside their litter boxes, or dogs who bark too much. We have a whole library of fact sheets that offer solutions to a problem and a free service where people in Western Washington can call for behavior help.

Learn more about Pets.

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PAWS Wildlife Center

PAWS operates a wildlife rehabilitation center and hospital for local wildlife in Lynnwood, Washington in the same location as the companion animal shelter. Wildlife rehabilitation involves 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.

PAWS receives up to 3,000 animals each year. The center has cared for more than 260 different species including: bears, coyotes, raccoons, seals, eagles, bobcats, robins, sparrows, squirrels and gulls, just to name a few.

The wildlife center includes a veterinary examination room, surgery room, X-ray room, a ward, a nursery for baby birds, and a nursery for baby mammals. There are outdoor cages for large animals like bears, deer, coyotes, hawks and owls, and cages for small animals like squirrels, chipmunks and robins. There are also pools for animals who live in the water, like seals, otters and seabirds.

The PAWS Wildlife Center is staffed by wildlife rehabilitation experts. Some of these people are:

  • Rehabilitator - perform exams and coordinate the care and feeding of the animals during their stay.
  • Veterinarian - performs surgeries, X-rays, examinations and gives medical instructions to the rehabilitators.
  • Naturalist - plans the release of animals when they are healed and helps educate people on how to live peacefully with wildlife.

Each year PAWS also helps thousands of people learn to live peacefully with their wild neighbors, which helps reduce the number of injured and orphaned animals needing care.

Learn more about wild animals.

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Advocacy and education

Advocacy means to take action in different ways to support an idea or cause. Over the years PAWS has helped many animals through advocacy. PAWS helps countless animals through different types of education and by supporting laws and courses of action that protect animals.

Here are just a few of our victories:

  • Helped pass a law in Washington State that bans people from keeping dangerous exotic animals, such as tigers, lions and monkeys, as pets.
  • Helped to pass laws that require shelter animals to be spayed and neutered in King County, the City of Edmonds and the City of Everett.
  • Helped move Ivan, the gorilla to a gorilla colony at Zoo Atlanta. Before he was moved to the zoo, Ivan had spent almost 30 sad years living in a cage by himself in a shopping mall.
  • Halted a bow-and-arrow hunt of tame captive deer.
  • Helped created and coordinate a program to keep Canada Geese safe in Seattle's parks.


PAWS reaches out to and teaches all members of the community, youth to adults, how to be responsible caregivers to companion animals, and how to respect our wild neighbors and the earth that we share.

PAWS works to educate people about animals in many ways:

  • Our educators visit local classrooms, teaching students about compassion for animals.
  • Our magazine, newsletters and website keep people informed about animal issues and PAWS events.
  • We work with television, newspapers, magazines and radio to share messages about animals.
  • We write letters to people, organizations and companies to educate them on animal issues.
  • We speak at meetings, gatherings, workshops and other places to teach about PAWS and animal issues.
  • We work with the government to help create laws that protect animals.

Learn how to help animals.

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PAWS is a charity or non-profit organization. This means PAWS depends on the support of the community. People donate their time and money to help the animals at PAWS.

PAWS hosts fundraisers, which are events that raise money. We have two big events each year. One is a fancy party called PAWS Wild Night, where people attend a dinner and participate in an auction. The other event is PAWSwalk, a dog walk-a-thon and fun festival.

There are also many people who collect donations on their own to help PAWS. Learn more about ways to help the animals at PAWS.

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