• Susan Houser

Worth Watching — Portland Metro Area

[NOTE: The Worth Watching category lists communities whose animal shelter systems are doing substantially better than average, but have not reported a sustained (for one year or more) 90%+ live release rate. These communities are not counted in the running total in the blog’s subtitle. For more about the Worth Watching category, see the Worth Watching page link in the blog’s header.]

The city of Portland, Oregon, has a population of 584,000 people. It is the county seat of Multnomah County, which has 735,000 people. The Portland metro area (which includes part of the state of Washington) has almost 2.3 million people.

The Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland (ASAP) is a coalition of six organizations, some of which are municipal and some private, that provide animal sheltering in the Portland metro area. The municipal members of the coalition (shelters that are responsible for stray intake) are Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS) (serving the city of Portland and Multnomah County), the Bonnie L. Hays Shelter (BLH) (serving Washington County), and Clackamas County Dog Services. The private members of the coalition are the Oregon Humane Society, the Humane Society for Southwest Washington (HSSW) (which works with Clark County Animal Control), and the Cat Adoption Team. Together these six organizations serve four counties — Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, and Clark — containing about 2 million people. ASAP estimates that its six members care for 90% of the animals needing sheltering in the four counties.

The ASAP coalition increased the live release rate for the metro area from 62% in 2006 to 79% in 2011. Maddie’s Fund has reported that the coalition had an 85% live release rate for 2012, with a combined intake of almost 32,000 animals. If the coalition were to achieve the same percentage improvement in 2013 that it had in 2012, they would finish the year at a 90% or better live release rate.

Coalitions such as ASAP are becoming a trend, as more and more municipal shelters seek out and work closely with private partners. In such situations it makes no sense to look at the individual shelters in isolation, and you have to look at the community coalition as a whole to get an accurate idea of what is going on. For example, the Clackamas County municipal shelter does not pick up stray cats and does not accept owner surrendered cats, but it offers cats for adoption that have been taken in by other area organizations. Conversely, the Cat Adoption Team takes in cats but not dogs. MCAS and BLH accept owner surrenders only when they have room, but owner surrenders are accepted by HSSW, and by OHS unless they are aggressive or medically unfit for adoption.

People ask me from time to time why I list communities rather than individual shelters, and coalitions such as ASAP are the reason why. Even in cases where there is no formal coalition, you cannot evaluate a municipal shelter without knowing what else is going on in the community. In particular, people often want to criticize a municipal shelter for having a waiting list for owner surrenders or otherwise limiting surrenders, but if there are non-profits in the area who take in owner surrenders, then such criticisms are missing an important part of the picture.

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