OPINION: Commissioners should improve oversight of animal shelter
Some of you may have watched a recent documentary on OPB, "Shelter Me." It covered activities many animal shelters across the country decided to undertake during COVID-19 when most, sometimes all, of their normal activities had to change.
Many animal shelters around Oregon adjusted their policies to meet the needs of their communities during this time. Our Bonnie L. Hays Animal Shelter closed their doors.
In 2021, the shelter implemented new policies: no longer taking owner-surrenders, finders of found dogs and cats are expected to search for 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 before it arrives and requires a $10 fee per cat/kitten if accepted. That should increase the feral cat communities and help feed the coyotes.
Going forward, Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter's primary objective is "pet reunification." Not adoptions — they decided community animal rescues should be responsible for that.
We agree the rescues in most cases are better at adoptions. The rescues have experience working with animals, the public, and are skilled at adoption activities.
Our County Animal Services doesn't provide the community with spay/neuter programs to help low-income families or people trying to manage feral cat colonies; no pet food banks; no emergency kennels for animals of domestic abuse victims or victims of residential fires; no rabies clinics — things most county animal shelters do.
The shelter only wants to be responsible for reunification of found pets brought to the shelter.
They occasionally adopt an animal from the shelter, mostly the ones people found and want to adopt that are on hold. This new policy is a result of the shelter adopting a portion of one of their trade association policies, National Animal Care & Control Association (NACA).
A county administrator was the shelter managers' supervisor until recently. Now it's the Department of Health & Human Services. Neither had, or has, knowledge of animal shelters or animal control services accept what they are told by the shelter manager.
We have asked the county commissioners for a shelter advisory board. Especially now that a few county rescues have been asked to assume the responsibility for adoptions. The rescues are referred to as "partners" but have no input.
The shelter advisory board would be comprised of people from the rescues, and others involved with animal welfare in the community. We would have realistic animal welfare/shelter policies and community needs addressed and more community involvement.
When the rent moratorium ends, evictions are expected to increase. The NACA trade association has advised their members they will need to prepare for this reality. An emergency foster program may be needed, especially since the shelter isn't accepting owner surrenders as recommended by the NACA trade association policy, but not included in Bonnie Hays shelter managers' new policy.
We are already hearing of more stray cats showing up around apartment complexes. Some are known to have belonged to people that were recently evicted.
The county commissioners need to take action to make Bonnie Hays Shelter/Washington County Animal Services responsive to the needs of Washington County residents and the pets they love. Establishing a shelter advisory board would be the first and most productive step. It's long overdue.
Jan Asher is a Beaverton resident.
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