Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County

The Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County, Wisconsin, embraces a two-fold mission, helping animals and humans through adoptions and education. The open-admission, no-kill shelter is first and foremost a safe haven for animals in need, but it’s also much, much more.  

For 6-year-old Ayla, HAWS is a peaceful place. It’s where she and her best friend Emma volunteered together. Sadly, Emma passed away, succumbing to brain cancer before her ninth birthday. But Ayla is still a regular visitor, carrying on their shared passion for animals. 

For the animals who call HAWS home, it’s often a second chance at life. Each year, the team at HAWS assists more than 8,000 animals, most often finding them new, forever homes through adoption. Sometimes, however, what is needed is a brief respite while their families get their lives back on track.  

That was the case for two large dogs who found their way to HAWS through the shelter’s Safe Keep program. Their pet parents had lost their home. Rather than relinquish their beloved family pets, HAWS provided free board for the Akita and Labrador dogs, keeping them for a month until the family found stable housing.  

In addition to its four-legged friends, HAWS welcomes more than 35,000 visitors annually. Many participate in pet training and youth education programs, another priority for the organization. “We are dedicated to the education of humane values as a means of improving the lives of all the animals in our community, not just those within our walls,” says Lynn Olenik, executive director for HAWS.  

The hours are long, but Lynn and her team share a common belief: “Anyone who has owned a pet knows the difference that the animal made in their life.”  At HAWS, their mission is to return the favor. 

Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County

For more than 50 years, the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) has been finding homes for homeless animals and educating Waukesha, Wisconsin, residents on animal welfare issues. Today, the shelter accommodates more than 8,000 animals annually, and has grown to include a 77-acre horse farm (soon to be transformed into an education and training resource center) along with an affordable veterinary medical clinic.

Lynn Olenik, executive director for the non-profit, says the group’s balanced approach to animal welfare enables it to impact the animals within the shelter’s walls as well as educate and support pet owners in the community. In addition to traditional animal shelter and adoption services, HAWS offers animal training and behavior classes, a low-cost veterinary clinic and other initiatives designed to help pet owners keep their four-legged friends healthy and happy at home. Olenik credits these efforts, along with a successful spay/neuter program, with a 70% reduction in euthanasia.

Like many non-profits, HAWS relies on a dedicated group of volunteers to carry out its ambitious mission. Cindy Pechanch is one of those hard-working animal lovers, spending hours cleaning litter boxes and walking dogs, in addition to serving on the group’s board of directors. While she’s given hundreds of hours to the organization, Cindy insists she’s gotten far more in return. “Taking in a scared, wounded, shut-down animal and watching them grow into a happy, confident and content critter is the most rewarding process to watch,” Cindy says.

Lynn concurs, but goes one step further, noting the important role animals play in many people’s lives – her own included. “Animals foster good will, create connectivity and are resilient role models for us to emulate,” she says. “From them we can learn and teach compassion, unconditional love and nurturing, which in turn builds character and creates a stronger, kinder community.”