Nonprofit volunteer group taking non-enforcement duties, namely returning lost pets to their owners, off the plate of officers

As a huge dog lover, Denise Bacon knows how heart-wrenching it can be to lose a pet.

As a volunteer with Lost and Found Pets of Newberg-Dundee Oregon, a nonprofit entity that began reconnecting lost pets with their owners in January, she also knows how rewarding it can be to return a furry friend to its family. SETH GORDON - Rebecca Wallis (left) and Denise Bacon play with Ruger, an 11-week old German Shepherd-Malanois puppy that Wallis is fostering as part of the nonprofit Family Pet Partners program. Family Pet Partners is the parent organization to Lost and Found Pets of Newberg-Dundee, a volunteer organization that is providing animal services in partnership with the Newberg-Dundee Police Department.

As a Newberg City Council member, Bacon also has an unique perspective on the partnership the organization has created with the Newberg-Dundee Police Department to provide animal services — basically animal control without the enforcement piece — not only to Newberg and Dundee but the eastern half of Yamhill County.

"At the end of the day, really what is the most important thing? It's getting that pet home." Bacon said. "It's important for the citizens. It's important for the animal."

The model is a response to the dwindling funding for animal control services by law enforcement agencies. The NDPD, for example, eliminated its dog control officer position in 2014, after which point it fell to the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office.

This past spring, however, the county announced that it would no longer provide those services (aside from in the four municipalities for which it is contracted to provide law enforcement) after June 30.

The Lost and Found group operates under the umbrella of Family Pet Partners, a nonprofit whose main mission has been to keep pets with their families when unforeseen circumstances threaten to separate them, like steep veterinary bills, since it was founded by Rebecca Wallis in 2014.

Because it was already working to facilitate the return of lost pets in the area, mostly through its Facebook page, Wallis felt the group was well positioned to help provide many of the services that were set to fall upon the NDPD's plate, so she reached out to see how it could help.

"We were just lucky that Rebecca and her group stepped up," NDPD Capt. Jeff Kosmicki said.

Now, the NDPD's involvement is limited to dispatch taking calls from the public when lost animals are found or creating disturbances or creating a record when the Lost and Found group responds to a situation directly. Because it is certified as an animal rescue organization, the group meets the legal regulations set by the state for providing those services.

Volunteers like Bacon are dispatched to collect the animal, the vast majority of which are dogs, and are equipped with chip scanners so the dog's owners can be identified and contacted, as well as with animal control equipment like catching poles. They will take possession of the animal and return it when the owner has been located.

It usually takes about two hours from beginning to end and with as many as four calls per day. That's a lot of time that NDPD officers can spend tending to much higher priorities.

"It's a nice marriage," Kosmicki said. "It works really well. It's almost seamless."

It's also much more streamlined for the pet owner, who can contact either the NDPD's non-emergency dispatch (503-538-8321) or the Lost and Found group directly (971-264-0909 or via Facebook message) to see if their animal has been found. The pet owner also gets their animal back without having to pay impound fees and or fines, which was often the case when lost animals ended up in the local shelter under the old system.

"I think it's a great model," Wallis said. "I think what we are going to be able to do in Newberg and Dundee is show that it can work with a well-run volunteer program, a core group of people who really know what they're doing, and create a relationship with the police department that's respectful."

Bacon said she also appreciates that the new system involves the whole community, which serves as the group's eyes and ears on the ground and reports incidents.

"I love it," Bacon said. "I love the concept. I love being a volunteer."

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