On Thursday, June 13, the Washington County Animal Protection Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) received the prestigious Cameron Award for the best community collaboration in Washington County.
“This is the first time this award has been given to an effort that helps animals,” says Deborah Wood, manager of Animal Services and co-chair of the MDT. “We are thrilled that our ground-breaking work is being recognized in the community.”
The MDT addresses the interaction between animal abuse and other kinds of violence, such as domestic violence and child abuse. “Our goal is to break the cycle of abuse, and make sure that people who are committing these crimes are brought to justice,” says Deputy District Attorney Andrew Freeman the other co-chair of the MDT.
The MDT brings together the many organizations needed to respond to animal crimes in Washington County. Members include the Washington County District Attorney’s Office, Washington County Animal Services, the Domestic Violence Resource Center, the Beaverton Police Department, the Hillsboro Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Animal Aid, The Little Dog Laughed animal-assisted therapy program, the Oregon Department of Human Services, the Washington County Juvenile Services Department, and others.
Some of the accomplishments of the MDT include:
● Made Monika’s House, a domestic violence shelter operated by the Domestic Violence Resource Center, pet-friendly. This is the only pet-friendly domestic violence shelter in the Portland area. “We care for all the victims of domestic violence,” says Andie Davenport, manager of Monika’s House.
● Provided a safe haven for pets whose owners do not go to Monika’s House. “We know that about 65 percent of domestic violence victims report staying behind, or returning to an abuser, to protect their pets,” says Wood. “The Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter and one of our partnering nonprofits will provide housing for an animal if there is no alternative for the animal.”
● Had unprecedented success in prosecuting animal crimes. “Law enforcement officers have been trained to investigate these crimes,” says Freeman. “We also have veterinarians at the Bonnie Hays shelter and at the Oregon Humane Society that provide detailed, professional forensic examinations of animals that have been harmed. Because of the work of all aspects of these investigations, we have seen a huge increase in cases we can file.” In the past year, more than 20 charges have been filed. More than half the offenders spent time in jail. The conviction rate for the past year has been 100 percent.
● Provided specialized therapy dog visits. As a result of the issues identified by the MDT, member Linda Keast formed The Little Dog Laughed, a therapy dog program specifically designed to give children tools to end the cycle of violence. “The children train the dogs to do tricks with clicker training – it’s fun for both the kids and the dogs,” says Keast. In families in which the model for control has often been abuse, this gentle, joyful approach provides powerful lessons for children to learn. The Little Dog Laughed volunteers provide these services at domestic violence shelters as well as other programs for at-risk children.
About the Cameron Award
Since 2005 the Cameron Award has been presented annually by the Vision Action Network to organizations and individuals that embrace collaboration and epitomize a commitment to working across multiple sectors of the community. The Award is named after former Washington County Administrator Charlie Cameron to honor his leadership and to inspire others to embrace the collaborative vision he repeatedly demonstrated.
The Vision Action Network is a private nonprofit organization committed to the promotion and support of collaborative community-based problem solving in Washington County. For more information about the Vision Action Network and the Cameron Award, go to www.visionactionnetwork.org.
The Vision Action Network produced this wonderful short video that was aired for the first time at the ceremony: