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The St. Helens shelter placed 174 animals last year and is the only adoption agency in Columbia County.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: COLUMBIA HUMANE SOCIETY - Lisa Beggio, executive director of the Columbia Humane Society, alongside Oliver, who has found a home. The Columbia Humane Society in St. Helens will not let a pandemic keep it from being a safe haven for cats and dogs ready to be adopted.

The society's mission is to train and re-home adoptable pets. It is the only adoption agency in Columbia County.

"We serve all of Columbia County but we also take dogs from, basically, all over the world, as well," said Lisa Beggio, executive director of the Columbia Humane Society.

As an example, the society at one time worked with a group called Wings of Rescue Israel. Dogs were rescued in Israel and were brought to the St. Helens facility to care for and re-home.

The number of dogs and cats can vary throughout the year, but at press time, the shelter was taking care of about 25 cats and 9 dogs.

The Columbia Humane Society is a no-kill facility.

"No-kill does not mean that we don't euthanize. No-kill means we don't euthanize for space or time," Beggio explained. "We will euthanize for severe medical reasons and severe behavioral reasons."

Examples may include a dog or cat with advanced cancer or an animal that is not safe to be out in the community.

Even though the animals at the St. Helens shelter may not be in traditional homes, the shelter provides many of the same comforts a home can provide.

"Our kennels are closed to the public, so you can't just come," Beggio said. "Our program is very customized to each of the animals that we have. They do have indoor kennels with in-floor radiant heat. They have all their beddings, their blankets, their toys.

"They have outdoor kennels as well, that are customed with their toys and stuff that they like to have out there."

Beggio added, "Everything is customized to what the dog likes. Everything is very regimented, as far as we try and do things at the same time every day so that they're on a continuing schedule."

The three staff members, including Beggio, stay close to their furry companions, and she feels in a way like they become a big family.

"It's very hard not to get attached to them when you're working so hands-on and so close to them," Beggio said. "Sometimes we'll take them on little day trips. We'll take them here or take them there."

Shelter staff may even temporarily bring pets to their own homes as a change of scenery, or if a cat or dog needs to recover from a medical procedure.

The Columbia Humane Society has weathered the pandemic well so far.

"We were very guarded with our placements," Beggio said. "We saw a lot of facilities that were doing very rash placements with people who were home and were not working — but the questions weren't being asked, 'What's going to happen when you go back to work?'"

Beggio elaborated: "Right now, nationwide, we're in a huge crisis with the amount of animals that are being surrendered back to shelters because of that. The numbers are astronomical. They're being returned back to shelters because people are now getting back to their regular lives and realize all of a sudden that, 'Hey, Fido's not working out.'"

Beggio's shelter placed 173 animals last year.

"The adopters we did have, because of our adoption process (by appointment only), we've been very, very impressed with the adopters that we have because they're willing to put in the work prior to," Beggio said. "We were also being able to spend more time sitting down and talking to the adopters, and doing more home visits just to check where the animals were going."

Beggio expects this process will continue, even if the pandemic subsides, because it's better for the animals.

Persons interested in contacting the Columbia Humane Society can do so in a couple of ways. You can visit its website at columbiahumane.com. The best bet is to follow the shelter on Facebook, at Facebook.com/columbiahumane. You can also call 503-397-4353 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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