History of PAWS

Centre County PAWS was founded in December 1980 by eight members of the local community. These individuals included Deb Bezilla, Jan Doolittle, Toni Duchi, Ann McMichael, Nancy Miller, Shirley Verhaeg, Gladys Zelinsky and Hollis Zelinsky. It was envisioned that PAWS would serve as an alternative to the local SPCA which was the only animal shelter in the region. 

For the first 15 years, these volunteers worked out of their homes to find suitable adopters for cats and kittens. PAWS developed relationships with several veterinary practices to provide free or low-cost medical care for the cats. Fred and Lee Metzger of Metzger Animal Hospital generously provided a 850 square foot prefabricated building next to their practice to house a small number of cats and, on the weekends, it was used for showings to potential adopters. 

After 10 years in the building next to Metzger Animal Hospital, it became clear that PAWS needed more space for the growing number of animals in their care. A fund drive was initiated to raise $1.5 million to build a larger facility. The University Area Joint Authority provided land for the facility and in September of 2006 we broke ground for our new home at 1401 Trout Road in State College.

The facility now consists of over 13,500 square feet. For comparison's sake, the original building was only the size of the current lobby. The new building allowed PAWS to begin housing dogs in addition to cats. As it did during its initial years, PAWS continues to maintain a strong and vital foster network to further increase the number of animals we can assist. 

In addition to growing in building size, PAWS has developed numerous outreach programs to support its mission. Of particular note is our Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP), which allows us to provide financial assistance for this service to both owned animals and community cats. When SNAP began it provided about $1,000 annually in assistance. In 2023, PAWS provided over $80,000 to Centre County residents for spay/neuter assistance. 

In 2007, PAWS hired its first paid employee, Lisa Bahr, who currently serves as our Executive Director overseeing an organization of over twenty staff members, hundreds of volunteers, and an annual operating budget in excess of $1 million. PAWS strives to be Centre County’s premier organization in promoting animal welfare and safety with compassion through adoption, sheltering, education, and community assistance.