Animal Aid PDX Celebrates 50 Years

THANK YOU TO SHERWOOD FAMILY PET CLINIC FOR SPONSORING THIS STORY!

The Grassroots Organization Gets a Mid-Life TransFURmation

It doesn’t get much more grassroots than a nonprofit whose mission sprouted on the grounds of Laurelhurst Park in Portland. It was there that Animal Aid’s founders, Jack and Kathryn Hurd, began rescuing abandoned pets and rehabilitating injured wildlife in 1969. The couple not only opened their hearts and home to these animals, but gave them a voice through Jack’s career as a radio talk show host.

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“As listeners tuned into Jack’s show, learned the plight of the animals the Hurds were saving, and shared their own stories and struggles as pet guardians, the concept of Animal Aid took shape,” said the shelter’s Director of Operations, Paige España.

The Hurds’ first step in assisting the community was to enlist the help of local veterinarians and pet supply stores who were willing to offer their services and products at a reduced rate. Jack and Kathryn paid for some expenses from their own pocket, and eventually Jack’s listeners began to donate as well. Over time, the couple acquired a core team of volunteers to help with fostering, adoptions, delivering food, and whatever else came up.

Flash forward to today, and the now 50-year-old rescue is still driven by the compassion of its volunteers, supporters, and a small dedicated staff. Animal Aid is focused on providing individualized care and a lifelong commitment to each of its animals, including those referred to as “Heartstrings pets”—those with special medical or behavioral needs.

Animal Aid PDX today. The organization also operates a free-roam shelter for cats, a network of foster homes for dogs and cats, and two partnership programs to help fun urgent veterinary care and dog spay/neuter surgeries.

Animal Aid PDX today. The organization also operates a free-roam shelter for cats, a network of foster homes for dogs and cats, and two partnership programs to help fun urgent veterinary care and dog spay/neuter surgeries.

“We’re focused on quality over quantity, which to us means providing as much time and resources to each animal as they need and working diligently to make thoughtful adoptions that result in forever homes...homes where their personality and needs are the right match for a family’s expectations and capacity” España explained.

To accomplish their mission, Animal Aid operates a free-roam shelter for cats, a network of foster homes for dogs and cats, and two partnership programs to provide funding for urgent vet care and canine spay/neuter services.

“One of the really cool things we’ve been able to do is carry forward the collaborative relationship with local veterinarians that the Hurds helped establish 50 years ago, and our Animal Aid Cares Fund is a direct link to that,” said España. “Through this program, we partner with vet clinics to provide a monthly stipend they can pass along to their clients facing urgent and overwhelming medical or behavioral expenses.”

Many changes have taken place for the nonprofit over the decades, and particularly in the last two years as they embarked on a full shelter remodel, adding several new animal care rooms and renovating all existing spaces to allow the organization to increase its rescue capacity by 25 percent.

“We looked at all the ways we could improve our programming, and increasing our rescue capacity was at the top of the list. As a result of our renovations, we can do just that, in addition to increased enrichment for cats and dogs and improved work spaces for volunteers and staff. We’re just putting the final touches on everything, and already we’re seeing a positive impact on our ability to serve the homeless cats and dogs in our community.”

— Beth Ernst, Animal Aid Board President

In order to make the upgrades possible, Animal Aid kicked off their Shelter TransFURmation Remodel Capital Campaign in 2017, offering supporters the chance to help pay for the renovations with naming opportunities in recognition of their sponsorship. Learn more at AnimalAidPDX.org/campaign or by attending Animal Aid’s open house on July 20th that will mark the official unveiling of the remodel.

In addition to their open house, be sure to mark your calendars for Animal Aid’s 50th anniversary party, Apawllo 50, when the rescue will celebrate in style.

“Animal Aid’s roots stem from building connections with others, animals and humans alike. So whether you can join us at our open house this summer, our 50th anniversary party this fall, or drop by the shelter for a visit sometime in between, we’re excited to welcome everyone to our rescue and celebrate this commemorative year with the community that made it possible.”
— Paige España, Animal Aid Operations Director





Saving Lives takes a Village

We are the Village 

How to have a broken heart 

Bob Webster’s heart swelled for every adoptable dog he met. Browsing kennels from Salem to Portland, he saw the wonderful qualities in every set of puppy-dog eyes looking back at him. “They could be loved. They could be loving somebody right now. From an adopter’s perspective it’s hard. I want to help them all.” 

Single, active, 40-something Bob is an experienced adopter and lives on a large property with no kids or other pets. At 6’7” he seemed perfect for a gentle giant of a dog, especially one in need of extra attention.   

Bob was determined to use his unique situation to help a hard-luck case, which he found online with a regional rescue: an adult Rottweiler mix who had been in foster care for a long time. For this dog, the rescue required a commitment to working with a professional dog trainer. Bob dove into the challenge, working around the clock on training and socialization, which his new pal learned quickly.  

Then the unfathomable happened. In a surprise encounter with another dog, there was a terrible fight. Bob got hurt trying to break it up, and it proved fatal for both dogs. The second dog died from his injuries. Bob’s dog — after extensive heart-wrenching discussions with the rescue group, the trainer and the veterinarian — was euthanized.  

Bob (who is not using his real name here) is devastated. The life he tried to save is gone, along with another. 

The life and death struggle of rescue  

Shelters and rescues maintain detailed data on animals received, adopted, euthanized, returned after adoption, or transferred to other facilities. They have no means of tracking how every dog or cat fares in life after adoption, but outcomes like Bob’s are exceptional. 

While Bob’s case is unusual, it does highlight one important, sobering truth: adopters engage in a transaction unlike any other. A life hangs in the balance.  

Given increasing save rates and declining euthanasia rates in the Northwest, these days few dogs or cats die while waiting for adoption. Now, they live or die based on whether they can overcome the health or behavioral problems that made them homeless in the first place. 

“Everyone needs to know that there are no time limits in shelters in our area, so people don't need to ‘save’ dogs from shelters,” says BJ Anderson, executive director at Willamette Humane Society in Salem. There is no clock ticking, no “pull date” for shelter animals in our region. Thanks to hard-won save rates and collaborative efforts between shelters and rescue groups, the old “time limit” idea is an outdated one.  

Old challenges have been replaced by new ones. Anderson says, “Our shelter sees two trends in our local dog population: younger, larger, poorly-socialized dogs with mild to moderate behavior issues that impact adoptability; and geriatric, cute, desirable dogs with compound medical issues that require a lot of resources to be considered adoption candidates.”  

In the new model of cooperation, agencies can shift animals around the region to give them the best chance for rehabilitation and adoptability. 

Diane Young operates one of those agencies, Salem Dogs, which handles special-needs animals. Under her watch, dogs get medical and behavioral care while she searches out adopters most suited to their needs. Often, the ideal family isn’t the first one to express interest. “Adopting a young Border Collie to a sedate senior citizen home is usually not a good idea,” says Young. “Same with placing fragile dogs in homes with young children. Adopters need to cooperate with rescues to make the best match.”  

This brings front and center a primary pain-point between rescuers and adopters.  

“We have had people yell at us when we explain a particular dog would not be a good fit for them,” says Bobbi Roach, who volunteers with Oregon Dog Rescue in Tualatin. She wishes she could tell every adopter: “Please trust the rescue volunteers that work with the dogs every day.” 

Flexibility is key  

Roach likens her job to playing matchmaker between friends. “It’s a very real challenge, and often leads to fits of hair-pulling and head-banging,” she says. Adopters might arrive with their hearts set on a floppy-eared dog, but, “That floppy-eared dog may not like your children. You live in an apartment and Floppy Ear has severe separation anxiety, which will not endear him or you to your neighbors while you’re gone nine hours a day. You have a cat, you say? Floppy Ear hates cats.” 

The future of saving lives 

Pacific Northwest shelters are winning in the mission of saving lives. The Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland, combining animal welfare resources in the Metro Area, has achieved an 89 percent drop in euthanasia rates in nine years. Just down the freeway, Willamette Humane receives half as many animals as it did a decade ago, and saves a larger percentage of those. 

Professionals like Anderson are now tackling the next life-saving challenge: preventing animals from becoming homeless in the first place. This will require a shift in expectations. “We live very busy lives and expect our pets to accommodate our schedules — to be quiet when left alone and grasp housetraining in 24 hours; to always get along with kids and cats and dogs, and to never have issues like resource guarding.” With more families properly prepared to handle behavioral challenges, veterinary expenses, and the pitfalls of moving with pets, shelters will move beyond being the “halfway houses for pets surrendered due to lack of resources or knowledge,” and more will stay in their homes for life. 

The Citizen’s Life-Saving Toolkit 

In the work of saving more lives, it takes a village, a city, a state, a region. Here is advice from our rescue experts on how every individual can lend a hand: 

1.     Advocate, but do it with care. “The social media fervor for rescue isn’t really doing the best it could,” says BJ Anderson. It may help to share adoptable pets on Facebook, but only if your post links directly to details about the animal’s current status. Remember too that California municipal shelters with higher euthanasia rates don’t reflect our local reality.  

2.     Remember the most basic things are the most effective. “Adopt a rescue dog, spay/neuter every dog and cat, license/chip every dog and cat, keep ID on at all times, and comply with leash laws,” says Diane Young. 

3.     If you’re looking to adopt a dog or cat, “trust what volunteers tell you,” cautions Bobbi Roach. “If it’s a good match, they’ll be more than happy to adopt to you.” 

4.     Expect the unexpected. Pet-friendly rental deposits and landlord restrictions can be steep. Veterinary expenses can run into the hundreds and thousands, especially as pets age. BJ Anderson hopes veterinary insurance will become the norm to help people budget. For eye-opening price ranges on everything from grooming to pet sitting to emergency surgery, visit howmuchisit.org/dog-costs


Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know that she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.

Coastal hotels donate to local humane societies

Hallmark Resorts, a Spot reader fav for coastal getaways, is now donating a portion of proceeds from pet fees to Oregon Coast rescue organizations.  Both the Lincoln and Clatsop County Animal Shelters will receive five percent of monies received from pet fees at Hallmark’s Newport and Cannon Beach resort locations.  “We see the love and care that our customers bestow on their pets when they stay with us, but unfortunately not every animal receives this kind of support.  Therefore, we make this gesture on behalf of our customers who value their pets as members of their family,” says Kirby Blankenship, vp of operations for Hallmark Inns Resorts.  

The resort has been pet-friendly since it opened its doors 60 years ago.  Dogs receive their own sheet and towel, a custom water bottle for trips to the beach, a frisbee and treats.  The resorts also offer wash-down stations and pet exercise areas.  Learn more at HallmarkInns.com.

Your Oregon Tax Refund Can Help Homeless Animals

Portland, OR - Oregonians can turn their 2013 Oregon state income tax refund into dog food; cat food; heck even rat food! With April 15 looming, Oregonians who have a refund coming can use the Oregon state tax form to easily donate all or part of that refund to the Oregon Humane Society.

Oregon's state income tax form let's you directly select OHS as a charity to receive all or party of your Oregon tax refund. Go to line 62 (Form 40) or line 80 (Form 40N and 40P), and select the Oregon Humane Society as your charity of choice.

Don't forget to tell your tax preparer that you want to make a gift via charitable check-off. Donations help the Oregon Humane Society adopt companion animals from across the state into new homes, investigate hundreds of animal cruelty complaints, provide pet food for families in need and much
more.

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The Oregon Humane Society is the Northwest's oldest and largest humane society. OHS relies on donations to support its adoption, education, and animal cruelty investigation programs. Visit oregonhumane.org<http://www.oregonhumane.org/> for more information.
 

Great save!

The Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP) reports that the six largest public and private animal shelters in the Portland/Vancouver Metro area have saved 91 percent of all cats and dogs that arrived through their doors in 2013, an unprecedented number that’s nearly double the national average.  Since forming in 2006, participating ASAP shelters have decreased euthanasia rates by 76 percent, thanks mostly to the community of dedicated veterinarians, rescue groups, volunteers, donors and of course, adopters.  ASAP has also decreased the number of cats going into area shelters by 35 percent, due primarily to the highly successful “Spay and Save” program that has altered more than 41,000 feral, stray and privately-homed cats. 

“The people of the Portland Metro area take great pride in being green.  They should equally take credit for creating and working on sustaining one of the safest community for pets in the United States.” says Debbie Wood, Manager of the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter/Washington County Animal Services.  “Our residents are working on solutions with the shelters — be it getting behavior training or advice to keep pets in the family, getting their animals sterilized to avoid adding to the shelter population, and supporting their shelters through adoption, fostering, volunteering or donating money.”  Learn more at ASAPMetro.org.

Best Friends offers new sleepovers

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Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary in Angel Canyon, NV is a popular pilgrimage for many animal lovers, and now there’s a new way visitors can soak up the love of its rescued residents.  Whether staying at a sanctuary cottage or at a nearby pet-friendly hotel, visitors can sleep over with a deserving cat or dog who’ll benefit from the one-on-one time and a break from the shelter.  The arrangement does two important things:  provides the animal snuggle time (and you too while away from your own pack!), as well as revealing valuable insights on how a dog or cat does in a home-like environment away from Cat World or Dogtown at Best Friends.

Anyone who can’t do a sleepover but would still like to spend time with an adoptable, can instead make a date to take a shelter dogs into town, out for lunch, or even on a hike.  Learn more at BestFriends.org.

The struttin’ returns this September!

The first Strut Your Mutt event in Portland was a huge success last year, and organizers are gearing up for an even bigger turnout this fall when peeps and their furry companions converge at Sellwood’s Riverfront Park Sept. 28.  The event features a leisurely walk, followed by a fun-filled festival with pet contests, activities and the chance to schmooze with fellow pet lovers and pros.  Sponsored by Best Friends Animal Society, the event is part of a national fundraiser comprised of like events held across the country — all aimed at raising $1.5 million for homeless pets.

Local rescue organizations such as Family Dogs New Life, Born Again Pit Bull Rescue, My Way Home Dog Rescue and the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society are already getting their packs together in hopes of topping last year’s collective take of nearly $30,000 for local rescues and shelters.  To learn more about volunteering or organizing a pack of your own, visit StrutYourMutt.org.

Ranked top 3 for saving lives, Portland shelters win a million

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Six animal shelters in the Portland/Vancouver area, all members of the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP), have won a Maddie’s Fund® Community Lifesaving Award totaling $1 million.  The prestigious award is given only to communities that have saved all healthy shelter dogs and cats for multiple years and demonstrate the ability to sustain this adoption guarantee” for healthy pets in the future.  Winners must also exemplify strength in collaboration and strategic initiatives that could serve as a model across the US.

Award funds were presented in May by Maddie’s Fund President Richard Avanzino at the Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter (Washington County Animal Services).  The executive directors of all six ASAP shelters and other ASAP member organizations were in attendance. 

The award funds are being allocated to the six shelters based on adoption and transfer numbers while some monies will be pooled for future collaborative projects to further benefit shelter animals,” says Britta Bavaresco, co-founder of ASAP.  This generous funding is a huge boost for the community and helps our shelters meet the ongoing needs of our homeless pets, while saving even more lives by focusing on medical transfers and treatments, behavior training, adoption promotions and special efforts for hard-to-place pets.”

We are thrilled to be recognized for our life-saving efforts by Maddie’s Fund,” says Mike Oswald, Director of Multnomah County Animal ServicesEstablishing a safety net for our community’s homeless cats and dogs has been a priority for all of us.  ASAP’s life-saving commitment ranges from Troutdale to Battle Ground, from Cornelius to Damascus, and is changing the whole region, not just the City of Portland.  This grant helps animals throughout the whole metro area.”

Euthanasia in metro-area shelters dropped a dramatic 65% percent from 2006 to 2012, thanks to the efforts of ASAP.  With nearly 34,000 cats and dogs entering the six shelters last year, the community’s live release rate was a fantastic 85%, compared to the national average rate of about 50%.  Nine out of 10 dogs, and eight out of 10 cats left animal shelters alive, and no healthy, social cat or dog has been euthanized since 2010.  For metro areas with over 2 million people, this puts Portland in the top three safest communities for homeless animals, alongside New York City and Denver.