Beacon in animal welfare


In the ongoing fight against animal cruelty, neglect, overpopulation, and homelessness, Petlandia is a beacon of justice and compassion. Here, we have a long history of passing laws and supporting programs that save lives.

Milestone for Oregon Humane Society

As the region’s oldest animal welfare organization, OHS has been fighting animal cruelty since before Portland had paved streets. This year, as the organization marks its 150th birthday, its Portland shelter achieves some of the highest pet adoption numbers in the western US and supports Oregon’s only dedicated team of animal cruelty investigators.

In 1884 and 1885, when mistreated horses used in farming and transportation were a common concern, OHS helped pass the first statewide humane laws. Legislators signed a law imposing a $100 fine and/or 60 days in jail for “Whoever overdrives, overloads, deprives of necessary sustenance, or cruelly beats” an animal.

Today, OHS Staff Attorney and Investigative Lead Emily Lewis says the region’s animal-friendly laws make Oregon a leader. Senate Bill 6 is a celebrated example, and one of Lewis’ favorites in her seven years at OHS. In that groundbreaking 2013 bill, lawmakers increased penalties for certain crimes against animals. It’s significant, she says, in that it “captures Oregonians’ reverence and respect for animals, acknowledging that they’re sentient, and experience pain, stress, and fear. They’re not just regular evidence in a case.”

Oregon is progressive for adding to the list of violations that are felonies, Lewis continues. “If someone has a prior conviction for certain domestic violence crimes, it can make an animal abuse crime a felony versus a misdemeanor. Also, if committed in front of a minor, that’s acknowledged.”

Lewis says she can’t imagine working in any other part of the country, but even in humane-minded Oregon, there’s always more to do. One example is the Oregon pre-conviction forfeiture law, which lets judges and humane agencies put animals in new homes while their alleged abusers await trial. In the past, shelters sometimes held animals in limbo for months or years while the legal wheels slowly turned. “Almost every year we work to make it stronger and more applicable to the cases and issues we’re seeing,” Lewis says.

At the shelter and on her unique team of law enforcement officers, Lewis says, “We’re always looking to help more.”

Fences for Fido.JPG

Fences for Fido  Unleashes a Humane Trend

When a dozen Portland friends teamed up in May 2009 to build a free fenced yard for a dog named Chopper, they unleashed more than a dog. The friendly yellow Lab mix had watched the world go by from the end of a chain because his family couldn’t afford to fence their corner lot.

When news outlets picked up Chopper’s story, urgent pleas to help other dogs flooded in, citing dogs who had languished alone on chains, exposed to the elements, sometimes for many years.

Volunteers — this writer included — recall that the work took on a life of its own. As they formed the Portland-based nonprofit, Fences For Fido, and scrambled to meet the unrelenting need, the momentum seemed to pick them up and run with them.

Less than a decade later, that group of friends has ballooned to several hundred volunteers who’ve unleashed more than 1800 dogs in Oregon and SW Washington. They’ve also helped change Oregon tether laws and inspired others across the country to follow suit.

Oregon House Bill 2783 took effect January 1, 2014, restricting the number of hours a dog could be tethered to a stationary object and clarifies legal requirements for appropriate animal housing, bedding, and care.

In the years since, states and communities across the US have seen a proliferation of 90-plus laws either limiting or fully banning the practice of keeping dogs on chains. Fences For Fido volunteers supported many of those changes, guiding activists, providing sample bill language, and sharing tips through the group’s outreach effort, dubbed “Unchained Planet.”


Multnomah County  Folds Up the Circus Tent

Responding to pleas from animal advocates and a flood of testimony and letters from residents, Multnomah County Commissioners voted unanimously July 12 to ban circuses and traveling shows that use exotic animals.

Local resident Andrea Kozil launched the effort in March, approaching Commissioner Sharon Meieran with proposed language for an ordinance. “Wild or exotic animals used in traveling animal displays suffer severe and extended confinement,” Kozil says, and the acts perpetuate the demand for the sale and breeding of the animals. After visiting an exotic animal show to see the practices for herself, Meieran told Kozil she’d champion the ban.

Portland resident Kelly Peterson, who works for the Humane Society of the United States, says her organization counts a total of 137 US communities and four states with similar bans. “I’m so pleased that Multnomah County has been added to such a distinguished list, especially since Oregon continues to be ranked as the second most animal-friendly state in the nation.”

- Michelle Blake

Fences For Fido unchains 1000th dog

Portland-based, all-volunteer nonprofit Fences For Fido (FFF) builds fences free of charge for families with dogs living outdoors on chains. The organization reached a great milestone March 28, unchaining its 1000th fido in Gaston, Oregon.

“Cupcake,” a sweet Shepherd mix, was given a fence, as well as a new insulated doghouse by 6th grade students at Chehalem Valley Middle School in Newberg.  The build took place on the eve of FFF’s 6th anniversary.

"Each dog we unchain is known and loved regardless of the number," says FFF Founder, Kelly Peterson.  "The number is important and symbolic only because it demonstrates what we have accomplished together."

Those accomplishments include helping put in effect Oregon's Anti-Tethering Law (HB 2783) a year ago.  The law has been instrumental in helping animal control and law enforcement see to the untethering of many dogs, including Cupcake. 

Mission to Unchain Dogs Rises to New Levels

Shadow with Melinda

Shadow with Melinda

For 10 years, a sweet yellow lab in rural Yamhill County spent all of his days and nights on a zip line on his owner’s unfenced property. While he was cared for, life on the tether was monotonous and restricted.

Melinda Miller, client outreach volunteer for Fences For Fido (FFF) approached the family in 2013 and offered them a free fence for their dog. That’s what FFF has done without judgment for six years, and later this year will unchain its 1000th canine.

Unfortunately, the family said no to the fence. They didn’t feel their dog needed it.

So the Lab stayed tethered — until Miller approached the family again the next year. This time, she had support for her cause in the form of Oregon House Bill 2783. Pushed by a coalition of animal welfare groups including FFF, the bill became law January 1, 2014, prohibiting the chaining of dogs for more than 10 hours at a time. It also restricts tethering, such as the yellow Lab endured, to no more than 15 hours.

At first, the family didn’t believe Miller when she told them about the law. But she sent them a copy of the new statute as proof — and this past July, the yellow Lab got his fence.

 “While FFF will always be respectful and patient with our families, we must be reflective of the needs of our community,” says FFF founder Kelly Peterson. “To that end, we needed to elevate the standards of care, asking our families to search out ways to better meet the needs of their four-legged family members yet not absolving our own responsibility as an organization to be there for them.”

In truth, laws are a critical component to solving the overarching problem of chaining. Peterson feels that’s especially important as FFF expands to other areas.

“It has helped us reach out to more people who were perhaps simply unaware of the new law or uneasy about our offer of a free fence before the new law,” she says. “Fences For Fido is positioned to help families that are struggling to be in compliance and who want better for their four-legged family members. Bottom line, we are a resource for people and their pets.”

It’s certainly a great resource as far as the dogs are concerned. On the day he was released into his newly fenced yard, the old yellow Lab in Yamhill County ran around like a puppy. 

“I didn’t think he’d be so happy,” admitted his once-reluctant owner. 

• FENCES FOR FIDO 503-621-9225 •

Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality and copywriter for Entercom Radio as well as the new Managing Editor for Spot Magazine. She shares a home and couch space with her three rescue pooches Lucy, Bailey, and Ginny--as well as Bryon, the stray man she married six years ago.


Photo Credit: BlackNewf Photography

Photo Credit: BlackNewf Photography

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Fences For Fido mourns “First Fido”


The dog that was the first to be unchained by animal welfare organization Fences For Fido passed away in January due to complications from cancer.  Chopper, a yellow Lab mix, had spent several years chained to a tree in a NE Portland yard before a small group of women got together in May 2009 to build a fence so he could run free.  Inspired, the women continued their work of unchaining dogs and educating the public on the dangers and cruelty of chaining, leading to a cause that has, to date, freed more than 650 dogs from tethers and chains.  “He leaves a legacy that still grows,” says a statement on the FFF website, “We will always remember the big yellow dog who started it all.”  Read more at