LITTLE VILLAGE — Animals are front and center at PAWS Chicago — including at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday to celebrate the completion of its medical center expansion.
People and pups gathered in front of a mural outside PAWS’ Medical Center & Lurie Clinic, 3516 W. 26th St., for the ceremony.
What was at one time a bank building, then a PAWS spay and neuter clinic, is now a 30,000-square-foot full-service hospital that can treat 200 cats and dogs on any given day and provide community care to several hundred more in its community clinic, said PAWS founder Paula Fasseas. The center will treat animals from Chicago and 13 high-kill states.
“These animals are now able to take advantage of a full-service hospital, which includes in-house bloodwork, ultrasounds, full X-rays, oxygen therapy and IV care,” said Dr. Kathryn Heigel-Meyer, senior veterinarian of shelter medicine.
PAWS’ mission at its founding in 1997 was to spay and neuter as many cats and dogs as possible because that’s where the greatest need was, Fasseas said. The group has conducted thousands of low-cost spay and neuter procedures that have helped reduce the city’s animal euthanasia rate by 91 percent, according to the shelter.
Now, the hospital can take its no-kill mission a step further and save animals that would have been euthanized either because they couldn’t be treated or got sick in the shelters, Fasseas said.
Among many upgrades, the medical center has tripled the number of isolation rooms — going from 30 to 90 — to treat animals who come into the hospital with highly contagious diseases.
“We spent four years constructing it because we’ve stayed open the whole time, so it’s been a huge project with amazing staff and amazing volunteers,” Fasseas said.
A medical center operating at the scale of PAWS — which will be able to serve 25,000 cats and dogs each year — is unique, said PAWS CEO Susanna Homan.
“In addition to all the homeless pets that come through here that become adoptable through PAWS, we do community medicine,” she said. “We offer free and low-cost vaccines and spay and neuter for free in the community and to people who live in low-income ZIP codes.”
Comptroller Susana Mendoza and Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) were also on hand for the opening.
“How we treat our most vulnerable, including our animals, is a reflection of who we are as a city,” Rodriguez said. The drop in animals being euthanized “is really attributable to PAWS Chicago and the animal rights community.”
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