Read frequently asked questions and answers about Multnomah County Animal Services.

MCAS is requesting support from the public to adopt, volunteer, and foster.

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Here are some current frequently asked questions (FAQs) and their answers.

Q: When will the results of the Animal Services Review be released?

A: Phase 1 - 3 of the Animal Services Review is complete. 

MCAS Work Plan Project Management Dashboard

View Official Review Documents

Q: Does the 2016 or 2018 audit indicate that animals at MCAS were not receiving food, water, or cleaning?

A: The 2016 audit raised concerns of inadequate staffing levels for national cleaning and feeding guidelines, but maintained "The animal housing areas appeared clean despite the staffing challenges they faced."

The Multnomah County audit of Animal Services from 2016 or the 2018 update did not report inadequate feeding or cleaning, and does not mention issues with fresh water.

This is an important distinction in the audit. Staffing levels and their impact are an ongoing shared concern for MCAS.

Q: How do I adopt a pet now?

A. View available animals online, and either visit the shelter to adopt an animal, or request to meet adoptable pets in foster care.

View adoptable pets

Learn about the adoption process

Q: What volunteer support is needed?

A: Multnomah County Animal Services is seeking short-term and long-term volunteers, of all skill levels.

Volunteers can assist with a variety of operational tasks. Please visit: multcopets.org/volunteer-shelter

Apply to volunteer

Q: Are volunteers allowed to post to social media about MCAS or speak to the media?

A: Volunteers have a right to express their views and opinions, speak with elected officials, and provide input and feedback in good faith to benefit the animals and people we serve. However, volunteers are not allowed to speak on behalf of MCAS, and must maintain client confidentiality.

Volunteers have the right to express their personal views and opinions on social media or to the media, and a civic mandate to address their elected representatives to appeal for improvements and change. Those who engage in these activities- whether supportive or critical of MCAS practices and activities as an organization- are not censured, limited, or prevented from volunteering. MCAS leaders also welcome direct input and feedback from volunteers. Critical thinking and good faith expressions of concerns and opinions are necessary for a healthy debate, and can lead to positive outcomes and change for the welfare of animals and the public we serve.

The MCAS volunteer agreement restricts volunteers from speaking on behalf of MCAS or Multnomah County, or from presenting their views or opinions as official positions of MCAS. Volunteers also agree to protect and respect the privacy of clients, partners and employees, and to maintain confidentiality about clients served by MCAS, and animals in protective custody.

Q: What do I need to do to foster a pet?

A: Apply to foster online. Complete a short application, and then choose foster animals from e-mailed foster requests.

Apply to become a foster volunteer

After you apply to foster a pet, it may take several weeks to be added to the foster list and begin to receive email notifications of animals available for you to foster. Thank you for your support and patience during this process!

Q: Are there job openings at MCAS? 

A: There are veterinary job position openings, and may be others.

Jobs are posted on multco.us/jobs, and on multcopets.org

View Career Opportunities at MCAS

View Jobs on Multco.us/Jobs

Q: Are there salary or wage issues?

A: Filling available positions and retaining employees is a primary challenge. Openings are available. A staffing study for FY 2024 recommends additional positions for cleaning, feeding, and enrichment.

In response to audit reports beginning in 2016, the number of animal care FTE positions were increased to add feline and canine care coordinator positions. Funding for a high-level management position was liquidated after a vacancy, and redistributed to add two other animal care technician positions.

A staffing study for the FY 2024 budget was conducted based on recent shelter population trends, and national cleaning, feeding, and enrichment guidelines. It revealed that additional staff positions and volunteers are needed.

As a result of frequent employee turnover before and during the pandemic, MCAS has not been considered fully-staffed since additional positions were added in response to the audit. The ongoing nationwide staffing crisis has exacerbated this issue, particularly for veterinary professional availability.

MCAS lost 22 employees through attrition in 2022 alone, including 12 front-line animal care staff. MCAS has 59 budgeted positions total, including 42 full-time employees, 12 on-call employees, and 5 part-time employees. As of February 2023, 10 positions are vacant. These ongoing losses are significant for an essential care-giving agency.

Employee vacancies in Animal Care and Animal Health teams have reached critical levels, impacting capacity of available staff to meet the needs of shelter animals, or consistently provide spay / neuter surgeries or non-essential veterinary care prior to adoption.

Compensation for non-management Animal Services staff is negotiated and set by AFSCME Local 88, and is subject to regular position evaluations and cost of living adjustments.

Salaries and compensation for all county positions are posted online.

Management positions at Multnomah County are set at the county level for all departments and divisions, based on levels of oversight and responsibility. An additional challenge is that all MCAS management positions have experienced significant turnover since the initial 2016 audit report, with many positions remaining vacant for extended periods of time during the recruitment process, and many leadership positions reopening multiple times.

Q: What specifically is being done to improve conditions? What is the plan? What is working? What is failing? What does MCAS need from supporters?

A: MCAS is seeking community support, and receiving support from Multnomah County leadership

View Official Review Documents

Q: What is MCAS doing to find positive outcomes for animals? Are animals being euthanized?

A: MCAS works to find positive outcomes for animals, and reports monthly intakes and outcomes, including euthanasia.

MCAS reports monthly intakes and outcomes by animal type online. MCAS strives to find positive outcomes for animals in its care, and makes every effort to reunite found pets with their people, or place animals for adoption, and works closely with regional animal shelters and rescues to transfer animals. Our recent efforts in January 2023 to find positive placements for animals and reduce the shelter population were successful thanks to intervention from county leadership, support from the community, and the work of our animal welfare partners.

Monthly euthanasia rates for all animal species typically range from 8 - 16%, and include cases of injured wildlife brought in by animal services officers, injured or severely sick cats, and other domestic animals at the recommendation of a veterinarian, or behavioral issues which would make an animal unsafe to place back into the community.

Q: Why have shelter euthanasia rates increased since 2016?

A: While live-release rates are still approximately 90% overall, there are multiple factors at work to impact euthanasia over time. Changes include critical staff loss, more comprehensive reporting on the shelter population, altered intake criteria for cats, emergency operational changes which impacted the adoption process and volunteer program, and a rebalancing of our placement philosophy.

  • Critical staff loss. Attrition for animal care was / is significant. This impacts the level of enrichment and care, the time to move an animal through the shelter (length of stay), which increases the likelihood of illness or behavioral issues, and staff have reduced capacity to manage those issues. Because many of the same staff are cleaning kennels AND performing adoptions - capacity to perform adoptions or focus on other outcomes reduces with decreased staffing levels. Increased workload and impacts to morale further lead to more attrition, compounding the issues.
  • Changes / Differences in reporting methods. In 2016, MCAS was reporting on outcomes for dogs and cats only, and per the Asilomar method- excluding cases of owner-requested euthanasia, or found animals humanely euthanized at contracted emergency veterinary hospitals in the community. Our monthly reports are comprehensive, and include other species, and cases of wildlife- who generally are brought in by Animal Services officers due to injury. The euthanasia rate is unadjusted. December 2022 is also not representative of totals for the year, but reflects a considerably high shelter census with reduced staffing.
  • Cats - Modifying our intake for cats to only accept sick or injured found adult cats brought the general population down, but we continued to serve approximately the same number of sick or injured, and fewer healthy cats- so there were lower intake numbers overall but a higher percentage of animals considered for humane euthanasia.
  • Pandemic changes - Emergency operational changes made during the pandemic, including closing for adoptions, and suspending in-shelter volunteer activities impacted length of stay, positive outcome opportunities, and volunteer-supported enrichment. While MCAS built more robust foster and transfer networks in response, these events fundamentally impacted our sheltering model and support systems in place.
  • Online adoptions vs. in person - When MCAS opened for adoptions virtually, the adoption process was extended due to the amount of time it took to complete, and increased the demands on staff tasked with caring for animals and performing adoptions with fewer staff. These same factors impacted the bandwidth to open the shelter for adoptions without a major increase in support- which we received in January 2023. A longer adoption process increased length of stay.
  • Capacity to address special needs - The group that meets for rounds review is first considering ways to address health, behavior, or placement options before euthanasia is considered. Euthanasia decisions may vary based on the available personnel or service resources of the shelter to find placement options and/or manage health and behavior issues.
  • Placement philosophy - It is the responsibility of Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) to find positive outcomes for the animals in its care, either through returning animals to their known owners, or finding adoption or transfer placements for them. However, it is also the responsibility of MCAS to provide reasonable protections for the community against potentially dangerous or dangerous dogs. These roles and responsibilities must exist in equilibrium, and not without debate, adjustment over time, ongoing review against animal welfare best practices, and advocacy from stakeholders to provide arguments for one side or the other.
    • After 2016, there were internal concerns about the pendulum swinging too far in favor of placing dogs back into the community with safety concerns. There were cases of dogs adopted into the community who were later picked up as “loose aggressive dogs” by Animal Services Officers, who voiced their concerns about this trend. This issue was reported in the 2018 follow-up to the 2016 audit.

Q: Why is MCAS providing vouchers to spay or neuter adopted pets instead of performing the surgery before adoption? How does it work? What is the timeframe?

A: MCAS is temporarily providing spay / neuter vouchers until more veterinary staff are available to provide these services at the shelter prior to adoption.

In 2022, 255 animals, or 14% of adopted animals were not able to receive spay or neuter surgery prior to adoption.

For animals adopted between June and December 2022, all adopters should receive a voucher in the mail by mid-January 2023 at the latest. Now, vouchers are issued at the time of adoption for animals still in need of surgery.

Beginning in summer 2022, due to reduced veterinary staff availability, some animals were placed into foster-to-adopt arrangements until the animals could be scheduled for spay/neuter surgery. However, it became increasingly clear over time that MCAS would not have the immediate capacity to clear this backlog of surgeries and also meet the need to provide surgery for ongoing adoptions. In response, pending adoptions were finalized, and Multnomah County began a procurement process for contracted veterinary clinics to provide these outstanding surgeries.

As a public agency, Multnomah County has a set procurement process and requirements. It took several months to complete contracting with one veterinary provider, and an additional provider was finalized later. Vouchers were mailed to adopters still in need of surgery, but staggered by order of urgency and adoption date so that veterinary providers would not be overwhelmed with the demand of adopters trying to schedule surgeries all at once. This is a reflection of the immense challenges in getting services scheduled through the vendor and the decrease in staffing — across the country — in veterinarian care.

MCAS intends to resume pre-adoption spay/neuter surgery for all animals as soon as our veterinary capacity allows. However, the pilot program established to contract with other veterinary providers may continue in order to provide urgent or supplementary services in the future.

Q: When will MCAS have a new shelter?

A: Multnomah County has plans for a new Animal Services facility

The facility Multnomah County Animal Services is using for an animal shelter in Troutdale is a former jail building that was part of the greater Edgefield Center, developed in the 1960s. 

While recent updates were made to improve the safety and functionality of the building - including updated kennel fronts and a small addition to the veterinary facilities- it is not considered an ideal building or location to serve the animals and people of our community.

Multnomah County Animal Services maintains a “Shelter Dreams Fund” to construct a new animal shelter.

A timeline or location has not been established. Multnomah County leadership is in the process of researching the best locations and layout for a modern, accessible Animal Services facility that will meet the present and future needs of the community, and its design and function will be informed by current animal welfare best-practices.

Q: What should adopters do if they’re concerned about an animal’s behavior? What happens if an animal bites?

A: Adoption Counselors provide guidance for introducing new animals, managing behavior, and taking appropriate precautions and considerations. MCAS can support adopters with behavioral concerns, and allows adoption returns. MCAS considers the circumstances of bites for future outcomes, and discloses known history to adopters and transfer partners.

Adoption counselors review any known or observed behaviors with adopters and provide guidance during the adoption process, or post-adoption as needed. Observations in a shelter environment are not considered reliable predictors of behaviors in a new home. MCAS is not familiar with the behavioral history or temperament of found animals, and advises adopters to take appropriate precautions and considerations with a new and unknown pet.

MCAS encourages adopters to contact the shelter with any behavioral or medical concerns post-adoption. MCAS can provide treatment or allow adoption returns for full-refunds within 14 days of adoption, or within 30 days of adoption without refunds. Returns after that time period are considered owner-surrenders, but prioritized when there is a safety concern.

If an animal has known bites, MCAS considers the nature, circumstances, and severity of the bite, and incorporates potential contributing factors into future placement decisions and adoption consultations. Known bites are disclosed to adopters or transfer partners. MCAS does not automatically euthanize an animal after a bite, although humane euthanasia may be considered in instances where a review determines an animal would not be manageable or safe to place back into the community based on known behaviors or history.

Q: Why is MCAS not allowing or requiring dog to dog meets prior to adoption?

A: Animal welfare experts no longer consider formal behavior evaluations in the shelter environment to be effective predictors of behavior or success in the home, including temperament tests, or using in-shelter dog-to-dog meetings as litmus tests for adoption placement.

MCAS conducted regular dog to dog meets at the shelter prior to closing during the pandemic, and these forms of introductions were often a requirement at many animal shelters. 

MCAS acknowledges current animal welfare industry guidelines from Dr. Emily Weiss and the ASPCA that formal animal behavior evaluations in a shelter environment are not an effective predictor of animal behavior in a home. Dr. Weiss previously developed multiple behavior tests and resources widely used in the animal sheltering community. These updated findings have influenced shelter practices involving formalized temperament tests, views of behavior evaluations, and simulated or actual dog-to-dog meets. 

Animal introductions may take a significant amount of time and patience for adjustment, with considerations about stressors or resources in the environment that should be managed to mitigate potential conflict.

MCAS provides guidance to new adopters about how to introduce adopted animals to new environments, people, or pets after adoption. Guidance is provided in person during adoption consultations and in the MCAS Adoptions Handbooks given to new adopters. 

Additionally, any known behaviors or observations about animals in the shelter are disclosed to adopters, and MCAS advises that history and behaviors of found animals are not known or fully learned during their time at the shelter.

Staff and volunteers regularly record significant observations about animal behaviors, preferences, and interactions with people and animals during the course of an animal's intake, shelter stay, experiences in a foster home, or activities in and out of the kennel. Activities may include controlled introductions with other animals of the same species. These points in time may help to determine an animal's default behaviors and preferences as a whole, but are not considered definitive of behavior and temperament in and of themselves.

Q: Are animals ever adopted before an owner can reclaim them?

A: MCAS holds all found animals for a period of time set by county ordinance. MCAS seeks positive placements for animals after the stray hold ends.

MCAS observes stray hold times set by county ordinance, which is three (3) days for animals without identification, and six (6) days for animals with a license or microchip. MCAS takes due diligence to return found animals to their owners, and seeks positive outcomes for animals if they are not reclaimed during the set timeframe. We make these determinations to find positive placements as soon as possible in the interest of the animals and the capacity of our shelter and foster system.

If an animal is available for adoption or being considered for transfers, they may still be reclaimed by their owners. However, finalized adoptions take precedence over a former owner attempting to reclaim an animal after the stray hold period ends.

While the majority of found dogs are reclaimed, nearly every dog adopted once belonged to someone else. Scenarios where former owners attempt to reclaim animals after the stray hold period has ended and the animal has been adopted - while rare - can be extremely difficult under any circumstances for all parties involved.

Q: Is adoption information, including the names and contact information of adopters, public record?

A: As a public agency, most records at MCAS, including adoption records, are legally considered public records, and are subject to production in public records requests.

Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) is subject to Oregon public records laws. Every person has a right to inspect any nonexempt public record of a public body.

Examples of What Can Be Requested

  • Pet license
  • Owner / Adopter contact information
  • Quarantine report
  • Citation / Notice of infraction (NOI)
  • Incident report
  • Appeal hearing audio recording
  • Digital photograph
  • Case file (may contain any of, but is not limited to, the above documents)
  • Other documents and records by request

Learn more about public records requests

Q: Why did MCAS only use approximately $9M of its $12.7M Budget last year?

A: The gaps in the MCAS projected vs actual budget are primarily due to staff position vacancies 

Like most workplaces, the most significant expense category for MCAS is personnel. The impact to MCAS from staff turnover is significant. Additionally, reduced staff capacity in Animal Health results in reduced veterinary service capacity, which impacts expenses.

Q: When are you bringing back the mobile vaccine clinics?

A: MCAS is focused on changes to shelter operations before this outreach continues, but services are available in the community.

MCAS regularly hosted Good Neighbor Vet Clinics prior to the pandemic. Current veterinary capacity in our community, and urgent operational needs at MCAS have presented some challenges to resuming this or a similar program in the near future. However, these services are still available nearby in the community.

Foster volunteer Brandy and Emergency Management Analyst Alice with a kitten
Foster volunteer Brandy and Emergency Management Analyst Alice with a kitten