Local shelter stretches its paws across Kitsap

Mark Hufford, Marylou Zimmerman and Tori Dotson look over the new PAWS location that will soon open at Pleasant Beach Village in Lynwood. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Mark Hufford, Marylou Zimmerman and Tori Dotson look over the new PAWS location that will soon open at Pleasant Beach Village in Lynwood.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap has been finding new homes for furry friends for nearly four decades.

Their good work became so well-known that a local good samaritan decided to help the shelter find a new home of its own.

That’s what happened when Tori Dotson, who serves on PAWS’ board and works at Windermere Real Estate, approached the shelter with a proposition.

PAWS staff refer to it as “the magic wand moment,” when Dotson offered two locations that Windermere was sitting on at the same rent and operational costs as their current site.

And just like magic, PAWS was moving on up.

“We happen to be a large group of animal supporters and it’s just that simple,” Dotson said. “That space on Miller Road was less than optimal.”

PAWS is now expanding to the two new locations. It has already set up shop at one location on the corner of Lindvog Road and Highway 104 in Kingston.

By the end of March the shelter hopes to move into its new island location at the emerging Pleasant Beach Village in Lynwood.

It will be a dramatic improvement from the 300-square foot operation currently located on Miller Road. The Kingston locale is 900-square feet, while the new Bainbridge site will be 800-square feet.

The island PAWS will boast a kitten zone for newly minted felines. It will also have separate units for cats with special needs and will be actively ventilated to create a healthier environment for the residents.

There will also be a room for free-roaming cats to play and hang out. The room includes bubble windows that expand into the next office space; that happens to be the Windermere offices. The real estate company will have a few extra faces looking over their shoulders while they work.

PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap began in 1975 as the Progressive Animal Welfare Society. Since then the nonprofit has been rescuing cats and finding them new homes.

Mark Hufford, executive director for PAWS, estimates that the shelter will be able to increase cat adoptions by 250 to 300 per year because of the greater presence.

But it’s not just about adoptions. The new PAWS will bear a boutique feel to fit in with its neighbors. Organizers want it to be a destination and not just a shelter.

“It’s a pleasant place to come to,” said Marylou Zimmerman, program director for PAWS. “You can come and hang out and pet a cat for a while, even if you aren’t looking to adopt a cat.”

“You can get your fur fix,” she said.

The space remains under construction but is steadily on its way toward completion.

The move isn’t entirely, or magically, free, however. The shelter has to raise $90,000 for the expansion.

While the nonprofit has already raised approximately half that amount, PAWS is asking for community help to put it over the hump. Donations are being accepted on its website,

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