Instead of Building a Shelter and Expecting People to Come, PAWS Chicago is Bringing Their Shelter Resources Directly to the People

PAWS Chicago started a new community outreach program in Englewood last December to go door-to-door and help people help their pets.


I joined PAWS Chicago PAWS Outreach for Life last week for the first time and am still trying to wrap my head around what happened. It’s what I’ve been doing here and wanting in my own Humboldt Park neighborhood for years with TNR – going door-to-door and talking to neighbors face-to-face about the animals that they are seeing, and giving them the resources to help them. Being by myself mostly, my resources are obviously limited, but I do what I can with my neighbors’ support, your support, and utilizing the best of my own abilities, which is mostly TNR – Trap, Neuter, Return. When the neighbors have questions about caring for their indoor pets or other animal issues, I let them know the resources available elsewhere in the city.


PAWS Chicago is offering to help anyone with any pets in zip code 60621, Englewood, with whatever they need for their animals, and going directly to the source by visiting people’s homes. That includes spay/neuter services, additional vet care, animal behavior advice, transport, pet care supplies, working with landlords to help people keep their pets, TNR for outdoor colonies, admission for found strays and litters, on-site dog training classes, and more. They chose Englewood because it is currently Chicago’s most impoverished, underserved neighborhood, with a median annual income of around $11,000 per household. Additionally, there are very few local vet resources there. Last year I volunteered a few times with my friend George of Chicago TNR who does TNR and cat rescue all over Englewood and other south side neighborhoods utilizing PAWS’ Lurie Clinic. We saw a lot of outdoor cats there.


Laurie Maxwell runs the program for PAWS. She came from The Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, and modeled this after their own Pets for Life program in Chicago’s West Lawndale/Garfield Park area that has been running since 2011.


Laurie explained that instead of building a shelter and expecting people to come, they are bringing the shelter resources directly to them. It’s very ambitious and it seems to be working. So far over 95% or so of the people they talked to want these services and are working with PAWS to get them. That success rate was very obvious last week when we visited everyone.


I met up with Laurie and another volunteer named Dee at Kusanya Cafe and we hit the ground running. Laurie took us on follow-up visits to homes that she already has a relationship with, as well as visiting new homes.


The first stop was visiting two kittens that were spayed the previous week at PAWS Chicago’s Lurie Spay/Neuter Clinic. Their owners had questions about kitten care, and had expressed concerns the week prior about litter box issues. So Laurie came prepared with litter box supplies, kitten food, and cat behavior advice.


The next stop was visiting a female pit bull named Precious that now had kennel cough after being at Chicago Animal Care and Control, CACC. Someone turned Precious into CACC as a stray, but the owners paid the fees and got her out. They could not afford the vet services for the cough, and there was alo something wrong with Precious’ skin. Laurie made arrangements to pick up the dog the following week for vet care, and provided dog food. In addition, while we were talking to Precious’ owner, a cat wandered into the room to check us out. When we found out the cat was not spayed yet, Laurie made arrangements to also pick up the cat and take her to their vet.


We visited a home with a pit bull family. The owner came out with a shoebox full of puppies. The puppies were only five days old. IMG_0341

The owner agreed to keep the puppies until they’re weaned, and then PAWS will admit them into their adoption program, and fix the adult dogs. This man touched my heart. He is raising his two daughters, nine and ten, by himself. He was so grateful and gracious while talking to Laurie.


In between, we knocked on doors, and found a home that neighbors told us about that was “filled with cats and dogs.” We managed to talk to the owner on the phone, but did not go inside because she wasn’t home yet. Laurie made arrangements to try again the following week.


We also saw at least eight cats outside in various places. This one was obviously friendly, and we found her owner. She agreed to have the cat picked up to be spayed the following week, in addition to her two dogs. IMG_0347

We visited another man who is caring for his English bull dog in the basement of his old apartment. He had to move to a new place and his new landlord does not allow pets. He visits his dog five times a day in the old place. Laurie also gave him supplies, and is working on getting his landlord to allow him to be together with his dog. We all took his dog out for a walk together, and it was clear they were family to each other.


One of our last stops was with a young man named Nick and his rambunctious six-month old pit bull. Laurie has been giving him on-site dog behavior lessons, and Nick showed us his progress. The dog was also spayed by PAWS. The other week Nick also found a chihuahua abandoned for three weeks in his stairwell. PAWS admitted that dog into their adoption pgroam.


Nick bought his pit bull from a breeder in Indiana. He tried to adopt another dog from an open intake shelter, but was turned down because he didn’t have a fence. So he bought a dog instead, from a breeder all too willing to give it to him. He said his friends also want to breed his dog, but he refuses now, and is an advocate for spay/neuter for all peoples’ pets. Perhaps now his friends will be calling PAWS as well.


There was so much more that happened within these few hours. I wish I had taken more photos but there was so much going on. I am planning on returning again to volunteer this Thursday. For a list of their events and volunteer opportunities, please visit the PAWS Chicago PAWS for Life Outreach page.



Kelly Restivo says:

Very very nice. Makes me happy. There are so many good people out there and if we all help each other it is a much nicer place.

Vanessa says:

Thanks for the kind words, Kelly!

Marlene Kirby says:

Thank you PAWS. This plan is much needed in Englewood. I used to work there. Animals all over needing help.

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