Multnomah County completes Phase Three Animal Services Review, concludes multi-stage analysis

Multnomah County, Ore. (Sept. 20, 2023)  Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson today announced that Phase Three of the Animal Services Review has been completed, marking the final step in a multi-stage analysis designed to make immediate improvements at the shelter and develop a detailed plan to implement outstanding recommendations. 

Among the changes made so far: the hiring of seven new animal care staff, a revamped management team and the recruitment of a project manager hired to implement process improvements, transparency and accountability.

Chair Vega Pederson launched the three-part review of the Animal Services Division in February 2023 as the shelter grappled with longstanding need for reform, a surge in animal intakes and staff vacancies. 

“I believe every animal receiving services from Multnomah County deserves to be treated with the same dignity, respect and care we provide across all of our services,” said Chair Vega Pederson. “Taking the time over these past months to truly understand the systemic shifts needed to bring meaningful and lasting changes to Animal Services will be worth the payoff in more enrichment and briefer stays in the shelter for animals, a better environment for staff and volunteers, and systems and policies that contribute to increased public safety overall. The dedication and commitment to continued improvement I’ve seen from all of the MCAS staff makes me confident we are on the right track and hopeful for the future.”  

Phase Three combines the findings from Phase One — including a survey of all previous audits, reports and recommendations conducted over the past six years, the development of budgetary and staffing recommendations and a summary of an environmental scan of shelter operations — with input gathered from volunteers, current and former staff, partner agencies and members of the public during Phase Two. The result provides a plan to enact earlier recommendations while establishing a continuous quality improvement framework for the shelter’s operations moving forward. 

All told, 106 outstanding recommendations were identified through this process and have been assigned to 31 projects where staff will carry their implementation forward. Those projects have been grouped into six distinct work areas including: 

  1.  Safety and wellbeing of pets in our care;
  2.  Policy and procedure standardization and accountability;
  3.  Volunteer management, hiring and onboarding, and rightsizing staffing levels with identifiable methodology;
  4.  Culture change, change management and transparency;
  5.  Facilities and plant improvements and plans; and
  6.  Data integrity and quality analysis. 

The final phase also provides a summary of the review from Chair Vega Pederson’s office, and a report-out of the review’s findings. A briefing of the review will be held at the regular Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 11 a.m.

"While there is much work to be done to build the Animal Services Division that our community expects and deserves, the Phase Three report is a solid step in the right direction,” said Director of Community Services Margi Bradway. “Since the beginning of the Chair’s review, many changes have already been made for the better, including significantly improving our adoption and pathway planning efforts; establishing new enrichment programs for the animals in our care; and expanding the spay/neuter programs that prevent the birth of unwanted animals. This was all done under the leadership of MCAS Director Erin Grahek and, going forward, Director Grahek and I are committed to working with MCAS’ staff and dedicated volunteers to implement the recommendations and continually improve our practices." 

Following this review, the next steps are to advance the projects identified in this report while continuing to establish a culture at MCAS in which those improvements are embedded and sustained. This is one of the primary differences between this review and previous audits and recommendations. 

The goal is for the community, staff and volunteers to see a marked improvement in the safety, health and wellbeing of the animals in Multnomah County’s care. The primary ways that Animal Services will measure this progress include a decrease in length of stay for individual animals, maintaining the shelter’s live release rate of 90% (the industry standard), increased public safety and interaction with the community, a cultural shift toward a change management mentality for everyone providing services to animals and increased metrics around the enrichment that is offered and that is possible. 

Official Animal Services reports, audits and Review Phases are posted and available here.

Read MCAS Review Phase 3 Executive Summary here

Read MCAS Review Phase 3 Strategic Plan here.

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 26, was briefed on the completion of the Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) Review, centered on a strategic plan for improvements at Animal Services that shows which recommendations have been implemented so far and sets specific dates to complete the rest of the ongoing work.

More about the September 26 Board Briefing

MCAS Dog with a Ball