News Item | PAWS Chicago

Building the Future

Jun 01, 2017

Underdog Enrichment Center Construction in Progress

This summer, PAWS Chicago is launching its newest expansion to save lives. The Underdog Enrichment Center will open next door to the Pippen Fasseas Adoption Center in Lincoln Park. It is a specially designed environment where PAWS Underdogs—those who are fearful, shy, under-socialized and behaviorally challenged—will receive the care they need. These dogs have often survived abuse or neglect and need confidence building, reassurance, structure and love.

In most shelters, these dogs would not be given the training and socialization they need to become well-adjusted family pets, but PAWS Chicago’s No Kill commitment means every pet is given the individual treatment and rehabilitation needed to not just survive but thrive.

Underdogs tend to be overstimulated in the bustling Adoption Center, where there is a constant buzz of activity with dogs and people frequently passing by their suites. In many instances, this action inhibits their socialization and prevents progress. Because of their challenges, it takes longer to find the right adopters, so they are often at PAWS for six months or longer.

The new Underdog Enrichment Center will give these special guests a quiet environment away from Adoption Center crowds. Inside the Center is the Real Life Room, which simulates a home environment to help our Underdogs acclimate and socialize to family living, as well as private play space and larger housing areas.

Under the direction of PAWS Director of Canine Training & Behavior, Joan Harris, and Head Trainer Sharon Cierniak, each Underdog receives an individual behavior modification plan taking into consideration history and needs. The daily training and socialization regimen is implemented by our trained Level 3 volunteers.

“Diamonds in the rough” is what volunteer Wayne Gailis calls them. “After nine years of experience in Dog Town, I appreciate and love these dogs,” said Gailis. “They are Underdogs because of what people have done to them or not done for them. In spite of the fact that they have been neglected and abused, they are forgiving, and given the right environment with people who are willing to train and work with them, they become some of our most loyal, loving companions.”

Click here to see larger image of space blueprints


Contact Meg Damato at or 773-697-5207.

Read this article on page 9 of the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of the PAWS Chicago magazine.