PAWS CEO Heidi Wills on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

PAWS CEO Heidi Wills on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

At PAWS in Lynnwood, the animals come first

PAWS staff are preparing for a major expansion, with a new wildlife center opening on 25 acres in Snohomish.

LYNNWOOD — The air had the snap of an early winter chill Monday morning, but that didn’t stop volunteers at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society from coming in to look after the animals living at the Lynnwood campus.

“Everybody here just really cares,” said volunteer Darci Dellinger. “And it’s all about putting the animals first.”

Thousands of animals pass through the Progressive Animal Welfare Society each year. Founded in 1967, the nonprofit houses an animal shelter and wildlife center at its Lynnwood headquarters. There’s also a cats-only satellite location in Seattle’s University District, appropriately named Cat City.

A PAWS volunteer plays with a cat at their shelter on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A PAWS volunteer plays with a cat at their shelter on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Now, PAWS staff are preparing for a major expansion. Early next year, the wildlife center will move from the 7-acre Lynnwood location to a 25-acre property in Snohomish.

It’s going to make a big difference. Space is precious at the current center, where the surgery room is only 85 square feet. At the new facility, CEO Heidi Wills said, it will be 450 square feet.

The move will allow the Lynnwood animal shelter to grow as well. Wills hopes to open a pet food pantry, for instance, for those who need it.

A cat doodle on one of the volunteer chores boards at PAWS on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A cat doodle on one of the volunteer chores boards at PAWS on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

PAWS accepts dogs and cats from around the country through partnerships with other shelters facing overcrowding. Wills estimates 70% of the pets adopted out from PAWS are from places where they could otherwise have been euthanized.

“When people adopt an animal from PAWS or any animal shelter or rescue facility, they’re literally saving a life,” Wills said.

PAWS practices euthanasia only in rare cases of severe health or behavior issues.

Last year, 98.5% of animals in the PAWS shelters were adopted, Wills said.

Meanwhile, wildlife center staff care for injured or orphaned animals before they’re released again into the wild. The over 160 species served by the center range from black bears to harbor seals.

Junior, a dog being adopted by a PAWS volunteer, pays down in his kennel on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Junior, a dog being adopted by a PAWS volunteer, pays down in his kennel on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

As the region has coped with unusual summer heat waves, the center has seen its impact. After wildfires in the summer of 2021, they took in bears with serious burns.

“Their paw pads had been burned so severely they couldn’t walk on their paws,” Wills said. “They were found crawling on their elbows in the forest.”

This year, the center has several bear cubs Wills suspects were orphaned by wildfires.

Aurora, a cat with a pending adoption, at PAWS on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Aurora, a cat with a pending adoption, at PAWS on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

On top of the animal rescue work, PAWS also partners with schools and Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops to teach kids about animals, as well as providing summer workshops for teens and preteens.

The program teaches how to support animal populations, like by cleaning up parks or keeping cats inside to protect birds.

For those interested in helping, there are multiple options. People can volunteer in the shelter and wildlife center, or at their own homes by fostering a dog or a cat. About 400 people currently foster animals from PAWS.

Benny, left, and Button, right, both currently up for adoption, play in the dog pen area at PAWS on Monday, Nov. 27, 2021 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Benny, left, and Button, right, both currently up for adoption, play in the dog pen area at PAWS on Monday, Nov. 27, 2021 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Foster manager Brittany Cannon said the shelter works with people who can only foster a pet for a limited time, for as little as a single day.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for foster parents to help,” she said.

Donations are essential to keeping operations going at PAWS. Dogs and cats cost PAWS about $110 per day, Wills said.

A door covered in photographs of some of the wildlife the PAWS Wildlife Center have helped on Monday, Nov. 27, 2021 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A door covered in photographs of some of the wildlife the PAWS Wildlife Center have helped on Monday, Nov. 27, 2021 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“The services we provide are very crucial and important and life-saving. But they are costly,” she said. “Our hope is that over the holidays when people think about a way that they can make a difference in our community in a very real and tangible way” they think of PAWS.

By donating, she said, “they’re literally saving lives.”

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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