Pamplin Media Group – OPINION: Commissioners should improve oversight of animal shelters

Jan Asher: “Creating a shelter advisory committee would be the first and most productive step.

Some of you may have watched a recent OPB documentary, “Shelter Me”. It covered activities that many animal shelters across the country decided to undertake during COVID-19 when most, sometimes all, of their normal operations had to change.

Many Oregon animal shelters have adjusted their policies to meet the needs of their communities during this time. Our Bonnie L. Hays Animal Sanctuary has closed.

In 2021, the shelter implemented new policies: no longer accepting surrenders from owners, people who find found dogs and cats must research their owners before contacting the shelter. Found dogs are welcome at the shelter. They will only consider a healthy, socialized cat that must have an appointment prior to arrival and will charge a $10 fee per cat/kitten if accepted. This should increase feral cat communities and help feed coyotes.

Going forward, Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter‘s primary focus is “pet reunification”. Not adoptions – they decided that community animal rescues should be responsible.

We agree that rescues in most cases are better in adoptions. Rescuers have experience working with animals, the public and are proficient in adoption activities.

Our county animal services do not provide community neutering programs to help low-income families or people trying to manage feral cat colonies; no pet food banks; no emergency kennels for animals that are victims of domestic violence or victims of residential fires; no rabies clinics – which most county animal shelters do.

The shelter only wants to be responsible for the collection of found animals brought to the shelter.

They occasionally adopt an animal from the shelter, mainly those that people have found and want to adopt and are waiting. This new policy is the result of the shelter adopting part of one of its trade association policies, the National Animal Care & Control Association (NACA).

A county administrator was the supervisor of shelter managers until recently. Now it’s the Department of Health and Human Services. Neither had or is aware of animal shelters or animal control services accepting what the director of the shelter tells them.

We asked county commissioners to create a shelter advisory board. Especially now that a few county rescues have been asked to take responsibility for adoptions. Rescues are referred to as “partners” but have no contribution.

The shelter’s advisory board would be made up of people from rescues and others involved in animal welfare in the community. We would have realistic animal welfare and shelter policies, community needs taken into account and greater community involvement.

When the rent moratorium ends, evictions are expected to increase. The trade association NACA has informed its members that they will have to prepare for this reality. An emergency foster program may be necessary, especially since the shelter does not accept owner dropouts as recommended by NACA trade association policy, but not included in the new shelter manager policy Bonnie Hays.

We are already hearing about more stray cats appearing around apartment complexes. Some are known to have belonged to recently deported people.

County commissioners must take action to ensure Bonnie Hays Shelter/Washington County Animal Services meets the needs of Washington County residents and the animals they love. Establishing a shelter advisory council would be the first and most productive step. It’s been long overdue.

Jan Asher is a resident of Beaverton.

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