BANKING ON DOGS AND CATS  Paula Fasseas is all business
Home Defining No-Kill No-Kill Resources Shelter Law


Paula Fasseas is all business. The hard-driving bank executive spends fourteen hour work days meeting with corporate movers and shakers, high-powered politicos, high-society trendsetters, and dog and cat adoption volunteers. Huh?

Paula is the Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Bank Group, but her passion is homeless dogs and cats. Increasingly, she has put her considerable time, talent, and influence to work on their behalf.

It all started four years ago when Paula's daughter began volunteering at a local animal shelter. Says Paula, "until then, I had never really thought about the plight of abandoned animals, and certainly hadn't donated time or money to an animal welfare cause. But my daughter said I needed to get involved because too many healthy animals were dying in our shelters."

Paula gathered the facts and went to work on the problem. For starters, she asked her bank group to purchase 300 spay/neuter vouchers from local animal shelters. The six banks gave them away to customers free of charge.

Then, in 1998, Paula organized a high-profile adoption event and invited every animal shelter in the area to participate. She persuaded all of the department stores and upscale specialty stores on prestigious Michigan Avenue to offer windows or in-store space to showcase adoptable animals, and Angels With Tails was born. The event saturated the local media, especially TV, and every animal who attended was adopted--one hundred and ten in all. Angels With Tails has since become a highly anticipated annual event.

Paula didn't stop there. She formed her own organization, PAWS Chicago, and with the help of the Metropolitan Bank Group, opened the PAWS Adoption Center downtown. The all-volunteer no-kill facility focuses on cats because they're easier to place in the downtown high-rise neighborhood. Dogs get their due on weekends when many of the organization's 1,200 volunteers take shelter dogs awaiting adoption to upscale shopping malls. The dogs have been so popular at stores like Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales and Marshall Fields that more and more malls are requesting visits. Last year, PAWS Chicago rescued 300 cats and 200 dogs from local shelters and placed them in loving new homes through the Cat Adoption Center and offsite adoption program.

But Paula still wasn't satisfied that she was doing enough to help animals. In December 2000, she opened the brand-new, 3,000 square foot, high-volume Lurie Family Spay/Neuter Clinic. Says Paula, "We did a study to determine which neighborhoods were responsible for the highest number of strays. We chose one of the highest as the location for the clinic. In addition to providing spay/neuter, we also provide testing and vaccinations at a cost to the client between $5-$35. Upstairs, we've built a humane education center and we employ a full-time Humane Education Director. Our clinic has been extremely well received and well used. We're averaging twenty-two surgeries per day."

When asked to identify the keys to her success, Paula ticks off four: "having a business background and knowing how to get the most bang for a buck; having the ability to attract so many volunteers and utilize them almost exclusively; targeting the solution and reaching for it; and going into the business community and asking them for help. It's true that I know a lot of Chicago's business leaders but you don't have to be well connected. We received a big donation from a Chicago sports team without any contact there. If you can articulate the need, many businesses will respond."

Paula's goal is to help end the killing of healthy, adoptable animals in Chicago. She's tracking euthanasia data from the city's Department of Animal Care and Control to monitor progress towards the goal and has seen death numbers decline from 41,000 to 36,000 in the last year alone.

As for PAWS Chicago, "Our immediate goal is to get the Lurie Family Spay/Neuter Clinic endowed. Once that's done, we want to set up spay/neuter and education facilities in two or three other Chicago neighborhoods with the hopes that these clinics can be a model for the nation." If the past is any indication, it's a done deal.

Reprinted from

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