The work of the Portland Animal Welfare (PAW) Team began in the early 1990s, long before it became an official organization.
Aware of Portland’s burgeoning homeless population, those living in one of the most pet friendly cities in the U.S. were alarmed to witness the increasing numbers of pets living on Portland’s streets and in homeless camps. Among them were a number of compassionate, community minded veterinarians who began working individually to provide critically needed veterinary care to these animals on an informal, ad hoc basis.
As these vets became aware of each other, they pooled their time and resources, creating a network to recruit more medical professionals. Individual acts of healing and humanity coalesced into today’s PAW Team as one-by-one, veterinarians, certified veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, groomers, volunteers, supporters and donors stepped forward to offer free vet exams, vaccinations , spay/neuter and other surgical services, prescription medicine, food and supplies to the companion animals of those in need.
Operating on a shoe-string budget, four-legged clients were seen and treated in makeshift clinics located in basements, lobbies, courtyards and sidewalks, in abandoned grocery stores and warehouses, and in a variety of parks and homeless encampments.
Commitment, dedication and teamwork on the part of veterinary professionals, volunteers, supporters and donors is the key to its success in alleviating suffering and saving the lives of thousands of beloved pets. The PAW Team, named in their honor, became an official non-profit organization in 2003.
As the Portland area’s homeless population now reaches crisis levels, the vital work of the PAW Team is becoming ever more urgent and essential to the community.
This is evident at each of the PAW Team’s clinics, as diverse crowds of people, including families with children in strollers, young people, individual adults, seniors, and the disabled, some with canes or walkers, some in wheelchairs wait in line for their turn to be seen. Their beloved pets, seeking comfort and care, wait patiently with them on leashes and laps, in arms and carriers.
Since its inception, PAW Team has established itself as one of the only sources of free veterinary care for the pets of people who are experiencing homelessness or living in extreme poverty. Hundreds of them rely on us to provide life-enhancing, lifesaving medical care to their beloved companion animals. We are proud to play a unique, vital role in contributing to the strength and integrity of our community’s social safety net.