Emma Clifford’s opinion letter in the August 16th Source (“Bend Can Do Better By Its Animals”) struck a chord with me and many other readers of the Source magazine – as plans for ‘no-kill’ (or ‘high-save’) already do exist within pockets of our Central Oregon community.
Since December 2008, the blueprint for a ‘no-kill’ solution began at Humane Society of Redmond (HSR) with new shelter leadership determined to move this small, scrappy and often-overlooked shelter out of the dark ages and into the light with an approach to sheltering more consistent with community values. The shelter was reborn around a new mission that values every community animal who enters the shelter as deserving a chance to leave the shelter with a secure future.
Approximately 1200 dogs and 1000 cats enter shelter doors each year, as kennel space is available. When shelter kennels are full, instead of making room to receive a new animal by killing ones ‘less adoptable’, a waiting list (generally 2 days to 2 weeks for dogs, and 4 to 6 weeks for cats) serves to eventually accommodate all in need. Shelter staff have found this approach also serves to put some responsibility back on the public—HSR is not a convenient “on demand” pet drop off station.
The shelter is a vital resource to community pet owners. It performs over 2,300 low-cost spays/neuters each year, provides low-cost veterinary care (as a last resort to those for whom otherwise euthanasia would be the only option), troubleshoots challenges in the home. The shelter staff often lends a sympathetic ear and assurances to those who’ve lost a family member, and must now surrender their relative’s cherished pet at the shelter.
Innovative programs and dedication to mission yield one of the highest save rates in the country. Last year 97% of the animals who entered the shelter, found their way into new homes throughout Central Oregon. (Animals are only put down when hopelessly sick and beyond medical intervention, or when behavior can absolutely not be rehabilitated and they pose a danger to society.)
What’s most impressive is this high save rate is accompanied by one of the Lowest Cost per Animal ratios in the state, thanks to a proud and dedicated core of volunteers who have stepped up to run vital programs in place of paid staff.
Volunteers fueled by passion and belief in the mission, spearhead key programs such as foster care, including “fospice” (care for the old or the ill who need a soft place to land), shelter enrichment to keep animals engaged, a dog buddy program providing walks and play time activities so that ‘every dog, every day’ interacts outside their kennel with a human, off-site cat adoptions, a new ‘dog gone’ program innovated by volunteers to help those less adoptable to find homes, and top-notch professional trainers who religiously donate their time to animals in-shelter and post-adoption.
This small, dedicated community organization is on the right path, but it’s a gargantuan struggle every year to stay on track and there’s still much work to be done. New blood and resources, excitement about the mission and a collective vision of what can be done for our community pets and their people are needed to fully realize a no-kill community for all of Central Oregon.
I implore those on the sidelines to get involved and be a part of the solution. Offer your skills and resources, your dollars, your talents or your time. The seed has been planted at the Redmond shelter. Working together we truly can become a no-kill community.
Reese Mercer, Humane Society of Redmond volunteer