PAWS veterinarian Bethany Groves in the new surgery room at the newest PAWS location on Saturday, April 20, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

PAWS veterinarian Bethany Groves in the new surgery room at the newest PAWS location on Saturday, April 20, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

New Snohomish hospital makes ‘massive difference’ for wild animals

Lynnwood’s Progressive Animal Welfare Society will soon move animals to its state of the art, 25-acre facility.

SNOHOMISH — On a sunny Saturday morning, hundreds celebrated strides in saving wild animals.

Behind the doors of a new wildlife rehabilitation center in forested Snohomish, thousands of animals will be treated and released every year.

“Our veterinary team will restore an injured owl’s flight, a volunteer will feed dozens of orphaned baby birds and a tiny bear cub will find safe shelter in a facility designed to prepare her for the wild,” said Heidi Wills, the CEO of Progressive Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS.

The new rehabilitation center in Snohomish has been a decades-long dream for PAWS. After purchasing the property in 2014 and breaking ground in 2020, that dream came true Saturday as the organization celebrated the facility’s opening at 13508 Highway 9.

“The realization of this dream means great things for PAWS, but more importantly for the wild animals we all protect,” said Jennifer Convy, the organization’s wildlife director.

The 25-acre property will tremendously expand the center’s capacity and ability to treat animals. PAWS currently operates a wildlife center and animal shelter in north Lynnwood, where it can treat around 5,000 animals per year.

The new facility is expected to treat even more, Convy said.

Bethany Groves, a veterinarian with PAWS, expects her first patients, a couple of black bears, to arrive at her brand new operating room in Snohomish in the next couple weeks.

They’ll be able to try out the new space and tell veterinarians what they think, she joked.

For Groves, the new facility will make a “massive difference.” She will be operating on 200-pound black bears in a surgery center quadruple the size of her old cramped operating room in Lynnwood.

There, veterinary staff could hardly fit a black bear of that size through the door.

As the demand for wild animal care rose, the organization outgrew the Lynnwood facility, Wills said at the ribbon cutting Saturday. The Lynnwood animal adoption center will remain in place, but all of PAWS’ recovery work will transfer to Snohomish.

Everything at the new rehabilitation center is designed with the animals in mind.

Across the property, for example, enclosures are separated by size, type and habitat.

A big one shaped like a hexagon allows room for eagles and falcons to test out their wings following an injury. Since raccoons get scared when backed into corners, their enclosures are circular silos, making it easier to feed and care for them.

Convy’s favorite part about working in wildlife recovery is seeing animals return to their habitats once they have recovered.

Wild animals in all different conditions come to PAWS from across Washington. In 2021, PAWS took in a pair of bear cubs who had been severely injured in a wildfire near Lake Chelan. The cubs stayed in Lynnwood to heal and recover during the hibernation season and were released the next summer.

PAWS has a close relationship with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, so once animals are better, the organization works with the state to release them back to a safe habitat.

“Getting them back into the wild and fixing what was wrong is really helpful,” Convy said.

PAWS is opening its new shelter at the right time, said state Rep. Strom Peterson, a PAWS board member and Snohomish County Council member.

Last week, the state Department of Ecology issued a statewide drought emergency, excluding Everett, Seattle and Tacoma.

This summer, that could mean wildfires, smoke and other severe weather that endanger wild animals, Peterson said.

“And that’s where PAWS kicks into action,” he said. “We’re ready for any emergency that comes.”

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623;; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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