By: Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

When and sometimes even before a disaster strikes, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) acts as a safety net for impacted pets and wildlife.

“Whether it’s taking in severely matted and scared dogs from a puppy mill in Eastern Washington, birds harmed by an oil spill in Seattle, or animals displaced by natural disasters like wildfires and hurricanes, PAWS is there, ready to help,” said PAWS.

The Lynnwood nonprofit providing wildlife rehabilitation, animal sheltering and adoption services, and educational programs is a part of a national network of shelters approved to accept animals from impacted communities during emergencies and disasters. As a receiving agency for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Emergency Placement Partner program and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Field Investigations and Response Team, overseeing rescue and transport work, PAWS is ready to accept animals at a moment’s notice.

“PAWS has a long history of collaborative relationships with other animal organizations,” said PAWS Shelter Operations Manager Lisa Hockins. “Our partnership with the ASPCA and HSUS is just one example of this. As a receiving agency, when a disaster or some other type of multiple animal event happens, PAWS receives an email from HSUS or ASPCA asking if we can help with animals. In the case of a shelter having to move animals out to make space for displaced animals from a natural disaster, we usually are able to take in a large number on fairly short notice.”

Despite dozens of wildfires sparking in Eastern Washington over Labor Day Weekend, displacing the wildlife of the area, PAWS has not received any requests to house displaced animals. For the most part, there is not much movement from the Eastern wildfires to PAWS, says spokesperson Lauran Follis.

The closest participation with wildfire disaster relief that PAWS has had the opportunity to be involved in was on October 8, 2017, when eight cats from California arrived after wildfires struck. PAWS’ ability to house the cats, transported from the Humane Society of the North Bay in Vallejo, California, allowed the California shelter to have occupancy to provide temporary housing for pets separated from their families because of the fires.

“It’s what is called a clear the shelter effort,” explained Follis. “It’s clearing out the shelters so the animals that are affected by whatever the disaster is can be safely housed until they can be reunited with their families.”

Usually, the emergency wildlife work PAWS is involved in is oil spills, says Follis. In October of 2015, during the White Center oil spill, an oil spill in a King County stormwater retention pond, PAWS Wildlife Center assisted in the rescue of over 30 oiled birds from what appeared to be about 100 gallons of used cooking oil in partnership with Focus Wildlife International.

When Hurricane Harvey was anticipated to hit the Gulf Coast in 2017, PAWS reached out to their partners in Texas, offering to take in animals before the storm arrived, allowing for occupancy of prospective animals expected to be impacted by the storm. As a receiving agency, they again stood ready for (HSUS) and the ASPCA’s emergency placement networks. Between August 31 and September 30, 2017, PAWS took in 61 dogs and 16 cats- a total of 77 animals.

PAWS has also historically participated in Flood Disaster Relief. On June 8, 2019, the animal shelter received an emergency airlift from Arkansas, the precious cargo touching down at Everett airport Paine Field. That day they took in 20 dogs and 24 cats airlifted from shelters impacted by the record-breaking devasting Arkansas River Flood.

Sometimes, disastrous circumstances help animals find their forever homes. In October of 2018, four dogs rescued from a Korean dog meat farm by Humane Society International made their way to PAWS. In just a matter of days, all four dogs were adopted.

To learn more about PAWS, visit https://www.paws.org/.

Erin Freeman

I graduated from Washington State University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a specialization in rhetoric and professional writing. I also received a minor in political science. I joined the Lynnwood Times in February of 2020. To me, community newspapers affirm a sense of community by connecting people through the coverage of local stories and current events.

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