Centre County PAWS Creates Safe Space For Local Animals

With October being “Adopt A Shelter Dog” Month, Centre County PAWS is emphasizing its presence now more than ever.

Centre County PAWS, State College’s non-profit animal shelter, dates back to 1980 when eight individuals formed a shelter focused on creating a foster-based rescue for cats. Years after its opening, PAWS moved into a building near Metzger Animal Hospital and expanded its care to more animals that required it.

Following major growth for the shelter, it secured a new facility in September 2007 in which it currently resides. This August, the shelter proudly showcased its newly expanded facility with a “Patio Party.” The event was pieced together by Lisa Bahr, who was hired as its first-ever paid employee. Bahr is now the executive director for PAWS and has been with the shelter for 15 years.

In 2020, PAWS celebrated its 40th anniversary as a shelter. Bahr was eager to share how prevalent its main mission is many years later.

“Our main mission is to promote animal welfare and safety with compassion,” Bahr said. “We do that through sheltering, adoption, and education.”

Bahr elaborated on the specific forms of help and opportunities offered to the community. Through spay and neuter assistance, food supply, and serving as another helping hand, PAWS can help guide individuals and families to help their pets live healthily.

“We are taking animals in need of assistance in the community and finding new homes for them, and wherever possible, helping people who love their animals keep them in their homes,” Bahr said.

The volunteers and staff at PAWS are well-versed in finding the best fit families for its “cat or dog family member.” Families are paired with animals that can adjust healthily to their lifestyles.

“We get to know the animals fairly well with our setup here, so we want to pair them up confidently,” Bahr said.

PAWS also looks for families and individuals in return that will regularly vet their animals. Meaning, they will have annual and current vet appointments.

The animals should also be “indoor-only members of the family,” especially cats. If you hope to adopt a cat from PAWS, they shouldn’t be declawed after adoption.


When families and individuals come in to meet the animals, there are “meet and greet” rooms dedicated to forming a warm and welcoming environment for both people and animals. Within the facility, they have decompression rooms where cats and dogs can reduce stress and become at ease within their space.

Centre County PAWS’ meet and greet room

Adoption is not the only thing PAWS is known for. The shelter is also a place where volunteer work is readily available and widely encouraged.

“We are always in need of good volunteers who are committed to our mission,” Bahr said. “It’s a lot of hard work and we have a lot of volunteers who are willing to do just that.”

For individuals willing to volunteer, the shelter asks that you select one section of the program you would like to work in. From the cats or dog side to the front desk, there are many opportunities available.

“The vast majority of our volunteers are working on the actual animal care for our cats and dogs,” Bahr said.

Currently, more than 700 volunteers are trained within PAWS. About 200 of those volunteers do “the bulk of day-to-day work.” All volunteers and staffers are “constantly trying to promote adopting their animals.”

The shelter holds a medical director that helps take care of any medical needs the animals may have. Along with injuries, PAWS takes care of cats like Big Grizzly, who has feline immunodeficiency virus, also known as FIV.

Big Grizzly
Staff Member Eva Khalil And Salami

Staff member Eva Khalil says that no shelter compares to the kindness and good-hearted environment PAWS creates.

“Everyone who is here is so passionate about [the animals]. They are so in love with the idea of loving these cats and dogs,” Khalil said. “It is so amazing to see the abundant care the volunteers have.”

A moving piece within volunteering is a program called Pet Partners. You can apply to help give the cats attention throughout your time there, sit with them, and make sure they are receiving the pets they look forward to.

Frito and Josie

One of the most important and valuable elements of PAWS that Bahr couldn’t stress enough was the unlimited number of foster homes and families they welcome. The facility is a temporary home for some animals, so whenever possible, PAWS is searching for home-like environments for animals.

You can apply to become a foster home either online or by stopping at its facility.

“We could not get enough fosters,” Bahr said. “If you are interested and are worried about only fostering for the summer or winter, we can use you.”


On November 7, PAWS will host a fundraiser event called “Tennis Ball Toss.” People can purchase a tennis ball and write their associated number on the ball. The dogs will then pick the winning balls within the fundraiser for prizes. Anyone can get involved with the event by purchasing tennis balls.

“It is nice now that we have the memorial patio. We did it for our 40th anniversary, but we also built it for people to have the opportunity to memorialize a person or a special pet,” Bahr said.

The fulfillment and spark that runs throughout the shelter show how safe the environment is for not only the animals but for everyone who walks in those doors.


If you would like to be a part of Centre County PAWS’ journey, keep up with its website, Facebook, and Instagram. To become an active volunteer, potential foster home, or adoptee, visit its website for more information.

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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