Caring for Pets during COVID-19 Crisis

by Oregon Humane Society
Caring for Pets during COVID-19 Crisis

Oregon Humane Society transferred 43 dogs and 33 cats to our shelter in late July at the request of Multnomah County Animal Services. Multnomah County Animal Services is the taxpayer-funded county animal shelter serving the Portland, OR community. The animals were transported through the OHS Second Chance Program, which includes partnerships with agencies around the state to help ensure timely assistance during large-scale rescues and natural disasters.

These 76 pets are related to an ongoing case, but are not part of an active investigation. "Multnomah County is already caring for more than 100 animals from the case and needed support for these additional animals," OHS said in a statement on the influx of furry friends.

After arriving at OHS, the cats and dogs were examined and scheduled to receive any necessary medical care from the OHS veterinary team before being available for adoption.

"While this was a lot of animals to take into our shelter at one time, our team was able to mobilize quickly to prepare our facility and solicit extra help from volunteers," says Sharon Harmon, OHS President and CEO. "We are grateful for the work of Multnomah County Animal Services and glad we were able to help out with this situation."

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Alone, in pain and wandering the streets of La Grande, poor Walter needed a miracle. His luck began to turn when a good Samaritan began to care for him in September.  But a trip to the vet uncovered some terrible news. Walter was suffering from a painful dental disease called stomatitis. The condition is difficult to treat and requires repeated, and often expensive, dental procedures. The good Samaritan who had been caring for him was no longer able to afford his challenging medical condition. So, in January, Walter found himself at Blue Mountain Humane in LaGrande. 

OHS’s Second Chance Program frequently works with Blue Mountain Humane so when the call came in to help, Walter’s case was reviewed by the OHS medical team and he was scheduled to be transported to Portland.

When Walter arrived, it was clear that his stomatitis was severe. He’d already had 17 teeth extracted and it was determined that the only way to alleviate his pain was to remove his remaining 13 teeth. His recovery was challenging, but after a few days of love and care in the OHS Medical Center he began to turn the corner. The team would coax him to eat and gave him special accommodations to make him comfortable.  He then spent a few weeks in foster care while his mouth continued to heal from oral surgery.

With all the surgeries behind him, Walter was ready for the next happy and healthy chapter in his life. A blog post featuring adoption-ready Walter was put on our website in February, drawing the attention of potential adopters, including Enny. Enny specifically wanted to adopt a cat who was having a harder time finding home. When Enny came into the shelter, they sat calmly and quietly with Walter, just letting him be while softly petting his head and gently reassuring him that better days were ahead. “I have a really nice window that you can sit and look out.”

As the paperwork was finalized, Enny got emotional. “Let’s get you home before I start to cry.”

Thank you for your support of the pets in our shelter and community, and for helping Walter find his happy ever after.

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Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon faced another massive challenge. Wildfires were raging across the state — roaring through the Santiam Canyon, decimating towns in Southern Oregon and the coast range, and creeping dangerously close to some of the most densely populated areas in Oregon.

Oregon Humane Society’s Incident Command team, already meeting regularly, shifted their focus to wildfire response.

“We deployed all of our resources to meet the specific needs in the affected communities,” says Jennifer Barta, OHS staff member who led planning through the wildfire incident. “We approached the response in three distinct ways.”

  1. OHS collaborated with agencies in the Portland metro-area to help pet owners from Clackamas County – sending teams into the field to deliver supplies, setting up kennels and caring for animals at evacuation sites.
  2. OHS worked with partners around the state to transport shelter pets to Portland so space and resources were freed up to help pets and people directly impacted by the fires.
  3. OHS supplied pet food and supplies so evacuees could keep their pets with them. OHS also provided emergency boarding as a last resort for pet owners who were not able to stay with their pet.

In addition, stray cats from Clackamas County were brought to OHS for medical treatment and daily care until their owners could be located.

“But, we couldn’t forget that we were still operating during a global health crisis, so we always had to put our plans through that filter,” says Brian August, OHS Chief Operating Officer. “For example, if we were sending responders to an evacuation site, we made sure they had masks and could stay six feet apart if they were in the same vehicle, or we planned for separate vehicles.”

“Every aspect of managing operations during the wildfire was a challenge,” says Chase Patterson, OHS Operations Director and member of the Incident Command Team. “When we were bringing transports of pets to OHS, we had to make sure our processes kept employees safe from COVID-19 and the smoky air.”

To keep the hazardous air out of the shelter, dog walks were suspended and special indoor areas for potty breaks were set up. The OHS maintenance team brought in extra filters and air scrubbers to keep staff, adopters and the animals safe.

Although the wildfires in Oregon have subsided, OHS continues to be a resource to both pets and people in our community. To help pet owners impacted by COVID, job loss, or other factors, OHS is hosting a pet food bank on Dec. 1-2 where free pet food is available to those that need it.

“Our goal is to continue to support pet owners in our community in any way we can. By hosting this Pet Food Bank, we hope to give those who are struggling one less thing to worry about this holiday season," said Sharon Harmon, OHS President and CEO, in a statement.

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Sancho and Jason
Sancho and Jason

Even during a pandemic, the need to care for shelter pets and find them new homes continues. This spring, our adoption process went to appointment-only to help keep adopters and staff safe during the crisis. This has reduced the number of pets being adopted at this time; but each and every adoption made is a cause to celebrate.

The adoption journey of a dog name Sancho is just one happy adoption story that occurred in the middle of a pandemic. Sancho, a seven-year-old German shepherd-mix, was rescued by the Sheriff’s Office in neighboring Clackamas County. Sancho was emaciated, his skin was raw and inflamed, and he was missing much of his hair. He was brought to Clackamas County Dog Services, where it was quickly determined he needed medical and behavior care before he could be adopted into a loving home. Knowing that OHS has the resources to provide personalized care to a dog like Sancho, Clackamas County Animal Services asked OHS if we could admit and care for Sancho.

Once Sancho arrived at OHS, he was examined by forensic veterinarians working with the Investigations team. They determined he’d been starved and had chronic skin allergies that had been neglected for a long time. The Medical team went to work, putting Sancho on a feeding plan to help him gain weight at a healthy pace. They also began to treat his skin issues, but his condition was severe. Sancho would need lifelong, specialized care.

Months after he was treated and ready for adoption, Sancho still hadn’t found the right person. The noise and activity in the shelter was stressful for him. Staff and volunteers worked hard to help him cope. He played fetch each morning and went on multiple walks every day. And he joined the OHS Running Team, a program where volunteers take high-energy dogs on multi-mile runs.

Then COVID-19 hit, and everything changed. With adoptions now appointment-only, many pets were moved to foster homes. Sancho was chosen to go to foster care, but he needed the right person to care for him and his unique needs. OHS put out a call for emergency foster homes, and an OHS volunteer named Jason responded.

Jason’s restaurants temporarily closed because of the pandemic, and so he had the perfect opportunity to look after a pet in need. This was Jason’s first time fostering an animal, and he was nervous. But OHS provided Jason with the training and supplies for him to feel confident in his new role as Foster Parent. Virtual consultations with OHS trainers helped Jason understand and manage Sancho’s stress around other dogs. Plus, OHS veterinarians gave him clear instructions to treat Sancho’s skin condition.

After months of devoting time to Sancho’s care and training, Jason and Sancho became inseparable. Jason decided to make it permanent and this June, adopted Sancho, giving him a forever home.

Thank you for your support of the pets in our shelter and community, and for helping Sancho find a loving home and family.

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Organization Information

Oregon Humane Society

Location: Portland, Oregon - USA
Project Leader:
Marsha Chrest
Portland, Oregon United States
$1,606 raised of $50,000 goal
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