All of us at Multnomah County Animal Services consider ourselves lucky that our work involves dogs, cats and the occasional bird, rabbit or reptile that shows up here at the county shelter in Troutdale. We care about each of the 8,000-plus dogs and cats that arrive each year, and also consider ourselves fortunate to be part of a large animal-loving community in the area that’s committed to providing the best possible care for those dogs and cats.
The county shelter is unique among local animal shelters because we are an open-admission facility. That means we accept all breeds of dogs and cats, regardless of health or whether they can be adopted out. We take responsibility for all animals. No exceptions.
While that combination presents the county’s shelter with distinctive challenges when it comes to finding homes for animals, the shelter is proud to report steady, long-term gains in live release rates for the hundreds of dogs and cats that arrive every month.
The gains that have been achieved over the past several years couldn’t have been made without the strong support of our community. And we will continue working with the county’s big community of animal lovers to build on those gains so that every healthy, treatable and manageable animal that comes to the shelter finds a home.
Please read on if you want answers to frequently asked questions about the shelter’s “live release” rates for dogs and cats, how professionals at the shelter assess and treat our animals and what role all of us in the community can play in continuing to improve our services for the cats and dogs we love.
OK. Let’s start with the basics. What services does Multnomah County Animal Services provide?
Our mission is to protect the health, safety and welfare of animals and people in Multnomah County. That mission includes dealing with animal nuisance complaints; helping animal owners through our lost-and-found services to reunite them with their pets; working with all our community partners to adopt out animals; licensing animals; and encouraging the community to spay and neuter their dogs and cats. Underlying much of our work is our commitment to improving our “live release” rates, sometimes referred to as “save rates,” for dogs and cats.
How are live release rates calculated?
The live release rate is calculated by dividing the total number of live outcomes (adoptions, outgoing transfers, and return to owners) by total outcomes.
What’s the most recent live release rate for dogs at the shelter?
90.3% in 2012.
How’s that compare to years past?
It’s up 27.5% from 2006.
What’s the most recent live release rate for cats at the shelter?
61.5% in 2012..
How’s that compare to years past?
It’s up 63.6 percent from 2006.
How has the shelter achieved those gains?
Staff members and volunteers have worked in partnership with the community to put in place proven programs over the past few years. Among the efforts that have been the most successful are transfers of dogs and cats to community partners such as private shelters, rescue groups and private foster homes for high-needs animals. Staff and volunteers also are constantly learning new ways to lessen stress for dogs and cats at the shelter and finding ways to enrich the experience here for animals, such as our Open Paw training program.
Why the difference in live release rates between dogs and cats?
Dog intake has declined by nearly one-half over the past 20 years, a significant improvement we think is a credit to dog owners heeding the message of the need to spay and neuter their pets. Cat intake over that same time period has increased, meaning there are great gains we can achieve as a community by increasing the spay/neuter rates for cats. Dog owners are also more likely to license their pets than cat owners are, so there are also gains to be made in that area for cats.
Where does the “live release” calculation come from?
From the Asilomar Accords.
I’ve never heard of the Asilomar Accords. What’s that?
In August 2004, a group of animal welfare industry leaders from across the nation convened at the Asilomar retreat center in California. Among the reasons for that meeting was to create goals focused on significantly reducing the euthanasia of healthy and treatable companion animals in the United States. The purpose of the Accords and the “live release rate” is to create a uniform system for communities to get a better understanding of lifesaving shelter progress and to get a big-picture view of progress nationwide.
So who besides Multnomah County’s animal shelter uses this calculation from Asilomar?
Hundreds of public and private animal shelters nationwide, including the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP), have agreed to use this commonly accepted calculation to measure their progress towards ending the euthanasia of healthy, treatable and manageable dogs and cats.
Who’s in the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland besides Multnomah County Animal Services?
The alliance is a coalition of all the area’s public and private shelters, and the veterinary community. Among its founders besides Multnomah County Animal Services are the Oregon Humane Society, the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, the Portland Veterinary Medical Association, the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon, the Cat Adoption Team, Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs, and Southwest Veterinary Medical Association, Washington County Animal Services and Clackamas County Dog Services.
When dogs and cats are brought to the county shelter, how does the shelter decide if they’re healthy, treatable and manageable?
Every dog and cat that can be handled safely gets a health exam. Dogs also get a behavior assessment to determine if they can be adopted safely into a new home. If the dog is treatable and assessed as rehabilitatable or manageable, options may include transfer to one of the shelter’s partner organizations in our community, placement into a foster home, training within the shelter or additional medical tests.
There is no nationally recognized formal assessment for cats. But shelter staff tracks all cats’ behavior with notes, updated daily during the 3-to-6-day period when the cat is being held for an owner to claim. Options for treatable cats assessed as rehabilitatable or manageable also may include transfer to one of the shelter’s partner organizations in our community, placement in a foster home, training within the shelter or additional medical tests.
The term, "rehabilitatable" covers all dogs and cats that aren’t "healthy," but that are likely to become "healthy," if given care equivalent to care typically provided by reasonable and caring pet owners/guardians. The term "manageable" covers all dogs and cats that aren’t "healthy" and that are unlikely to become "healthy," but that would likely maintain a satisfactory quality of life, if given care equivalent to the care typically provided by reasonable and caring owners/guardians.
What options are there for sick animals?
Multnomah County Animal Services was the first shelter in the area accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association in 2006. And we have a full-time veterinarian and three certified veterinarian technicians. For special medical needs, the shelter uses Dolly’s Fund that is supported by private donations from our community. The shelter’s community partner organizations also help by sometimes accepting dogs and cats requiring special medical care.
Is there a euthanasia date at the shelter?
No. Adoptable animals are given as much time as needed to be placed in a home or to be transferred to one of our community adoption partner agencies.
Why are some animals eventually euthanized?
We care about all the animals that come in to our open-admission shelter and work to find space for all of them. And we also work with our many community partners to find placements for dogs and cats in homes, or with other animal organizations or foster homes. Since 2009, the shelter has ended the euthanasia of healthy dogs and cats and -- working with its community partners -– is building on years of gains with live release rates for treatable animals. But some dogs and cats are humanely euthanized when it’s determined based on the nationally accepted Asilomar Accords that they have health problems endangering the rest of the shelter’s animal population, or are determined to be too dangerous for the community. Because our public mission of protecting the health, safety and welfare of both animals and people is unique, there are some animals deemed too unsafe to keep in the shelter population or to release in the public.
So is the shelter a “no-kill” shelter?
The short answer is no. The more comprehensive answer is we work hard to find homes for each animal that comes to our community shelter. But our unique status as an open-admission public shelter means we are legally and uniquely required to accept every animal that comes here, even the ones other shelters turn away because of problems with health or behavior. We are working with those shelters and all of our community partners to help every animal. And each of you also can help.
How can I help?
Opt to adopt from our open-admission shelter, which takes in all dogs and cats regardless of their age, breed, health or personality. Each animal asks only for a person to give it tender loving care. You can be that person.
OK. I’ve read all this. Now what?
If you opt to adopt a dog or cat, the shelter has trained professionals who will work hard to find the animal that’s the best fit for you. The shelter is open every day except Mondays and holidays. Dog adoption fees are $120, and $60 for dogs six years and older. Cat adoptions are $50 for cats six months and older. For two kittens under six months of age, the cost is $100 for the first kitten and $50 for the second; or $100 for one kitten under six months.
What if I already have a dog or cat and don’t want another?
Then please consider spaying or neutering your pet in order to prevent unwanted animals. The Spay & Save program through the Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland offers spay and neuter service for $10 to residents of Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Clark counties who are getting government assistance. Reduced rates of $49 for spay and $33 for neuter are also available for low-income residents who don’t get government assistance.
Anything else I should do if I already have a dog or cat?
Yes, please license your animal. Doing so increases the chances of your animal’s safe return and also provides the shelter with revenues that enable staff and volunteers to provide the best care for animals. All of the revenues we get from licensing go toward helping to pay for animal care at the shelter. Current estimates are that less than one-third of dogs and less than one-sixth of cats in the county have licenses, which run as low as $25 for a spay/neutered dog and $12 for a spay-neutered cat.
Any final thoughts?
The shelter is proud of the gains we’ve made with the community’s help over the past several years in increasing the live release rates for cats and dogs. With the help of our fellow animal lovers in the community, we’re committed to continuing those gains and to building upon them. If you have any more questions, please call us at 503-988-7387 or drop by for a visit. We’d love to have you visit.