Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart Launches Volunteer Partnership with PAWS Chicago

Feb 17, 2023Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Chicago, IL – PAWS Chicago, the Midwest’s largest comprehensive No Kill animal welfare organization, and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart today announced a volunteer program that supports the need for more PAWS animal-handling volunteers while serving as a wellness initiative for Sheriff’s Office staff.

Through the program, Sheriff’s Office employees will walk dogs and participate in cat enrichment activities at the PAWS Chicago Medical Center, the largest homeless pet hospital in the United States. The program will help PAWS Chicago meet a rising need for volunteers, because while adoptions and other animal welfare programs have now returned to pre-pandemic levels, volunteer hours have not.

“We care for hundreds of pets each day, ranging from the homeless pets that receive medical care on their path to adoption to the many more that receive free and low-cost services we offer to the public,” said PAWS Chicago CEO Susanna Wickham. “A robust volunteer program is an essential part of us meeting the community’s needs, and we are still working to regain the volunteer hours we lost during the pandemic.”

With over 2,000 Sheriff’s Office employees located just a mile away from the nation’s premier homeless pet hospital, the new program will support a growing need at PAWS Chicago: more volunteers to help with socialization of healing pets. It will also help animal-loving staff at the Sheriff’s Office reduce stress and decompress while giving back to the community.

“We reached out to PAWS after hearing about their recent disaster relief rescue effort, because we wanted to help those pets on their path to finding homes,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. “We quickly realized there was an opportunity to provide a much larger program and benefit to our staff and PAWS Chicago.”

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office’s first-of-its-kind customized volunteer partnership with PAWS Chicago trims the volunteer training time and focuses efforts on dog walking and cat enrichment, which are in great need at the Medical Center due to the high volume of pets served.

Several employees of the Sheriff’s Office have already undergone training and begun the volunteer program, with many more expressing interest in attending orientation in the coming weeks.

The PAWS Chicago Medical Center examines every animal brought to the organization and provides all necessary treatments. The facility performed over 15,000 spay and neuter operations last year and PAWS Chicago recently passed a milestone of 300,000 such procedures in its 25-year history. The 30,000-square-foot hospital can house more than 200 pets, which allows PAWS Chicago to rescue pets from high-kill shelters in 13 different states, such as the rescue of 33 puppies and dogs from Houston area following a tornado that closed one Texas shelter.

For information on volunteering with PAWS Chicago, email

About PAWS Chicago:
PAWS Chicago (Pets Are Worth Saving) is a national model in No Kill animal sheltering, committed to bringing an end to the killing of homeless cats and dogs. As Chicagoland’s largest No Kill animal welfare organization, and one of the largest in the nation, PAWS has led the reduction of the number of homeless pets killed in the city by over 92% since its founding in 1997.

PAWS Chicago finds homes for 5,000 dogs and cats annually through its adoption centers and operates one of the largest high volume free and low-cost spay/neuter clinics in the country, performing
thousands of spay/neuter surgeries every year for communities that need the most help in controlling pet population. In 2020, PAWS opened the nation’s premier medical hospital for homeless pets which
provides treatment for sick and injured dogs and cats in Chicagoland and from shelter partners in 13 states where pets are most at risk of euthanasia.

Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest independent evaluator, has rated PAWS Chicago at its highest 4-star ranking for 19 consecutive years—an accomplishment that less than 1% of the charities in the
nation have reached. For more information, visit and follow PAWS Chicago on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.