Frequently Asked Questions and Answers - January 2023

As MCAS responds to a shelter population and staffing crisis, we want to thank you, our supporters and stakeholders, for making a difference. We appreciate the extraordinary efforts of volunteers, donors, adopters, community partners, Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Multnomah County leadership, as well as Emergency Management personnel to support shelter animals and find positive outcomes.

We remain committed to transparency surrounding our actions and operations, and the process of reviewing and addressing contributing issues to the ongoing situation, and above all— implementing solutions for the wellbeing of the animals in our care and for the community we serve.

While the immediate shelter population surge is resolved, we know that there are long-term systemic issues to address concerning staff retention, and managing flow and care for the shelter population.

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: 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

Request to meet animals in foster care 

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, including cleaning animal enclosures, greeting shelter visitors, helping with laundry and dishes, assisting adopters and more. Our current top priority, which does not require training, is daily animal enclosure cleaning.

The shelter is also looking for volunteers with more specialized experience around animal handling. There will be training opportunities available. There is an ongoing need for dog walking, enrichment for dogs and cats, and introducing animals to potential adopters. For more detailed information on volunteering and requirements please visit: multcopets.org/volunteer-shelter

Apply to volunteer

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 animal care openings soon.

MCAS has openings for full-time and on-call Certified Veterinary Technicians (CVT), and full-time and on-call Veterinarians. MCAS recently posted job openings for Animal Care Technician positions and is in the process of reviewing applications and taking next steps for employment.

Additional positions may be available soon, and will be 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: Funding is available to staff MCAS at current recommended levels. Filling available positions and retaining employees is a primary challenge.

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.

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.

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 & Emergency Management

While staffing levels have been an ongoing concern for MCAS, the current nationwide employment crisis has exacerbated the issue.

In May 2022, MCAS enlisted the support of Oregon Humane Society, who provided emergency volunteers to support shelter operations of cleaning and feeding, and hosted an adoption event to provide immediate relief so that MCAS could hire and train new animal care staff members.

In January 2023, MCAS requested immediate support from Multnomah County leadership to provide additional staffing support, and to temporarily modify operations. MCAS suspended non-emergency intake of found animals from January 4 until January 11.

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson dispatched personnel from Multnomah County Emergency Management to provide on-site support, who coordinated with other county departments and divisions to help MCAS reduce its immediate shelter population, and prepare to reopen for in-person adoptions on January 11.

While the immediate situation is resolved, we know that there are long-term systemic issues to address concerning staff retention, and managing flow and care for the shelter population.

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

Commissioner Vega Pederson will coordinate a review of MCAS operations with public involvement and input, revisit recent audit reports from 2016 and 2018, and identify specific strategies and recommendations to address ongoing issues based on the findings of the review. Read the statement from Chair Jessica Vega Pederson.

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 paused intake of found animals in January 2023 to prevent euthanizing animals for space.

MCAS reports monthly intakes and outcomes by animal type online. MCAS had a live-release rate of 92% for dogs and puppies in November, and 87% in December 2022. 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 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.

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: Does MCAS have a behaviorist on staff? 

A: MCAS has staff experienced with canine behavior, but canine behaviorists are rare.

MCAS does not have certified applied animal behaviorists or board-certified veterinary behaviorists on staff. There are very few board-certified veterinary behaviorists, which also presents challenges. MCAS does have staff members at multiple levels and volunteers who have a variety of experience levels working with behavior, both privately and within a shelter.

Q: How does MCAS provide enrichment to dogs?

A. MCAS provides material enrichment, including toys and treats, but staffing levels have impacted other enrichment activities.

MCAS provides toys and treats to shelter animals, many of which are donated, but staffing levels and suspension of in-shelter volunteer activities during the pandemic impacted other forms of enrichment, including time outside of kennels and playgroups for dogs. Volunteers assist with walking dogs regularly.

While issues surrounding capacity to provide enrichment existed long prior to the pandemic, crisis-level attrition and hiring challenges have since exacerbated those issues, similar to other care-giving career environments with high-stress and compassion fatigue. 

MCAS has focused on providing essential care and services during the staffing crisis, but is in active discussions to build capacity for enrichment for all shelter animals.

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