PAWS Chicago: Tackling Pet Overpopulation in Chicago, Illinois

Based in Chicago, Illinois, PAWS Chicago is revolutionizing the animal welfare movement. With a long-term goal of sustainability, the program has built their vision of a no-kill Chicago through education, pro-activity, innovation, and through reliance on the community.

Who Are PAWS Chicago?

Like many groundbreaking movements, the PAWS Chicago effort to create a no-kill nation, began with a single vision – to stop the needless suffering of animals. In 1998, the founders of PAWS Chicago, Paula and Alexis Fasseas, began their campaign against the neglect and needless euthanasia of more than 40,000 pets by targeting their local town of Chicago.

What began as a simple adoption event in the streets of Chicago was quickly spurred on by the Fasseas’ passion for a no-kill nation. Through engaging local media and continued campaigns to educate the public about how they could help the plight of homeless pets, PAWS Chicago matured into a movement that would forever change the city of Chicago. A movement with hopes of someday changing the entire nation!

What Does PAWS Chicago Do?

PAWS Chicago is focused on building no kill communities nationwide, beginning with the city of Chicago. Understanding that for no kill communities to thrive, something must be done about the homeless pet population, PAWS Chicago supports their mission through educational programs, spay and neuter practices, and the creation of sustainable solutions for homeless pets.

The PAWS Chicago Adoption Program

Part of what drove the Fasseas’ to push so hard for animal welfare was the incredible 40,000 pets per year that were being euthanized by Chicago animal shelters. The vast number of these pets were healthy, adoptable animals that by virtue of space limitations, were being condemned to death.

To tackle this heartless euthanasia practice, PAWS Chicago set about developing a standardized evaluation system. This system, designed to evaluate all shelter animals based on a standardized set of criteria would classify which animals were unhealthy and untreatable and only those animals would be euthanized.

PAWS Chicago enforces this standardized evaluation system within their own adoption program and has managed to maintain a save rate that is consistently above 96%.

Spay and Neuter Programs

Although the immediate impact of a standardized evaluation system for shelter pets is obvious, it’s not sustainable without supportive measures. One such supportive measure is promoting spay and neuter programs among pet owners while also making these programs affordable.

Taking this concept one step further, PAWS Chicago uses targeted geographic data to promote free and low cost mobile spay and neuter programs. This data allows them to target areas where homeless pets are prolific as well as areas where pet owners are unable to afford such preventative care.

According to PAWS Chicago statistics, in 2016 they were able to perform 17,236 spay and neuter surgeries and 75% of those surgeries were provided free of charge. This incredible achievement has resulted in an immediate reduction of the number of pets ending up in Chicago shelters.

Food Bank Donations

Another important contribution that PAWS Chicago makes to the city of Chicago is their donation of food to pet pantries. These food donations provide pet food free of charge to those experiencing financial hardship. Emergency provisions like this help to prevent pet owners from relinquishing their pets to local shelters when finances are stretched. Less pets in the shelter means less pets that PAWS have to fight to save!

Community Engagement

Part of what makes PAWS Chicago so effective is their relentless incorporation of the community into their efforts. This includes educating the public on responsible pet ownership, mobilizing volunteers, and circulating the PAWS Chicago magazine.

Adoption events held in populous areas of Chicago serve to promote adoption of homeless pets, but also to recruit volunteers, and spread awareness of the plight of homeless pets.

Media advertisements, social media campaigns, and website postings serve to promote responsible pet ownership among the public, spread the word of homeless pets needing adoption, and to rally volunteers.

PAWS Chicago Magazine, a publication released seasonally, highlights the efforts of PAWS Chicago. Serving to draw attention to the PAWS Chicago organization, the magazine also focuses on the larger issues of animal welfare and the need for a nationwide adoption of a no-kill policy.

Lastly, educational programs target local communities to spread awareness of how pet overpopulation occurs, how it can be prevented, and how individuals can make a difference in community efforts.

Sustainable Solutions

Community education, affordable solutions, and standardized evaluation processes are all crucial to the success of the PAWS Chicago campaign. All of these things, however, depend upon sustainability. To maintain their efforts, PAWS Chicago not only needs to make every dollar count, but they also need to plan their solutions around long-term projections. This is made possible through reliance upon volunteer resources, the resourcefulness of spending, and accountability for spending via full transparency of all company financials.

The Impact of PAWS Chicago

With all their efforts to promote a no-kill community in the city of Chicago, just how effective have PAWS Chicago been?

  • Since its inception, PAWS Chicago has managed to reduce the euthanasia rate in the city of Chicago by an incredible 80%!
  • The program has performed more than 17,700 spay and neuter surgeries a year for the past three years.
  • PAWS Chicago have provided over 23,000 free health checks and over 31,000 free or subsidized blood tests, vaccines, and microchips for pets in the Chicago area.
  • Over 280 colonies of cats have been trapped, neutered, and released every year for the last three years by TNR volunteers.
  • More than 22,000lbs of pet food have been distributed to local pet food banks by the PAWS program every year for the past three years.
  • Over 120 foster families have been made available to provide temporary homes for homeless pets every year for the past three years.
  • More than 98,000 hours of volunteer involvement have been logged every year for the past three years!

Can the PAWS Chicago Efforts Expand Nationwide?

Is it possible that the efforts of PAWS Chicago can expand nationwide and reduce the total number of homeless pets in the U.S.? The statistics for the past three years of PAWS Chicago’s efforts seem to indicate that it is possible, but it is certainly a giant leap from one major city to 50 states. Still, animal welfare advocates nationwide maintain hope.