“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 her friends loved animals, but they knew the only solution to the massive problem of overpopulation was spaying and neutering.
In 1967, the group began raising money for the important surgeries. It was with high hopes that PAWS, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, was born.
So dedicated were the volunteer staff that they worked indefatigably to scrape together any money they could. In fact, they began by holding a rummage sale in an office basement nicknamed “The Cave.” This later became the group’s first thrift store.
Within a few weeks, boxes of kittens and puppies started showing up on their doorstep. Word had gotten out about an animal welfare organization running a store. People hoped PAWS would help the animals they were unable to care for.
“Within two years, PAWS opened our companion animal shelter in what was then rural Lynwood, Washington to house, care for and find homes for lost, abandoned, unwanted, homeless companion animals,” said Mark Gross, PAWS’ President.
However, one day an injured baby deer showed up, brought in by a concerned citizen who had found her in the middle of the road. Though clearly not a cat or dog, the PAWS staff didn’t feel right turning her away. As time went on, seals, raccoons, birds and even bears started arriving. So, in 1981, in response to the growing demand, PAWS opened a wildlife rehabilitation center.
Despite meager beginnings in 1967, PAWS has found loving homes for more than 120,000 cats and dogs, cared for more than 100,000 wild animals, and helped numerous others through advocacy and education.