covering our community

Portland’s pet network

A web of metro area shelters joins to increase adoption and reduce euthanasia.

by Enid Spitz

The newest litter of Chihuahua puppies at OHS. Photo by Enid Spitz

The newest litter of Chihuahua puppies at OHS. Photo by Enid Spitz

Close to 150 dogs rescued from Marion County found a new home at the Oregon Humane Society last week. Past rescues brought lines of eager adopters and immediate pet placements, but this time the display in OHS’s entryway still boasts very few “adopted” stickers.

Unplaced dogs may end up tracing their way through Portland’s interconnected web of shelters–there are as many as 20 within the metro area.

At OHS hundreds of dogs find kennel homes in one of four “pods” the public can browse; Family Dogs New Life has fenced enclosures where “packs” run together; and The Pixie Project houses just 16 dogs in a boutique-style shelter. An adoptable dog could find itself in any of these spaces due to the networking efforts of local shelters, an initiative aimed at reducing euthanasia rates.

photo by Enid Spitz

photo by Enid Spitz

“We created this coalition as part of a five year plan. Now shelters are communicating to take in animals and publicizing spaying and neutering,” said Chase Patterson from OHS.

In 2011 OHS said its dog adoption rate was 99 percent, about four times higher than national averages.

“7,000 million dogs are euthanized every year,” said Pixie Project founder Amy Sacks, “Is there a problem with overpopulation? Yes. It’s not a question, it’s a fact.”

Ironically, those in the pet placement business want their industry to shrink.

“Kitten season is a depressing time of year,” Pixie Project worker Shannon Roche said. “For every litter getting adopted one is getting put down somewhere.”

"Kitten season is a depressing time of year" photo by Enid Spitz

“Kitten season is a depressing time of year” photo by Enid Spitz

Saturday afternoon looks hopeful for OHS staff though; the parking lot is full, hundreds funnel through the kennels petting dogs through the bars, and the green pod’s puppies draw an awing crowd.

With an average stay of 11 days for dogs and 3 for puppies, according to Patterson, the likelihood new rescue animals will find permanent homes is still high.

Across town, The Pixie Project shelter is just as busy. At its newly reopened space, adopters meet with Sacks over tea and paperwork in the sunny lobby.

Many Pixie Project animals once came from OHS or one of the other county shelters.

“We have the privilege of getting to choose which animals we take in, but the county shelters just have to accept every animal, every stray that they find,” Roche said. “So of course they get overwhelmed.”

OHS receives large animal influxes based on calls from county sheriff departments or their own licensed investigators.

“Of course it has an impact on our resources, but this shelter is built for a larger number of animals,”  “We can easily house 200 to 250 dogs on a given day.”

photo by Enid Spitz

photo by Enid Spitz

Many shelters are also dedicating space to medical facilities. OHS has the first clinic of its kind in nation, where OHSU veterinary students perform clinical hours and research, according to Patterson. The Pixie Project will open its own in-house clinic in two weeks, offering inexpensive spay and neuter procedures for low-income pet owners, Roche said.

Portland’s interconnected shelter network hopes such projects will reduce overpopulation increase those “adopted” stickers.

“I wish we couldn’t get enough pets to fill up,” Roche said, “but there is never a shortage of animals.”

OHS rescue dogs ready for adoption. Photo by Enid Spitz

OHS rescue dogs ready for adoption. Photo by Enid Spitz

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