Oregon Humane Society

Photos courtesy of OHS

Photos courtesy of OHS

 . . . leading the way

In 1883, when the animal welfare movement was in its infancy, concerned Portlanders founded the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) in response to the brutal beating of a horse on Front Street.  It was one of the first humane societies in the country, and like the handful of others at the time, was largely concerned with protecting draft animals and children from farm and industry abuses.  Much has changed in the 130 years since – changes that OHS has not only witnessed but helped bring about.

As humane shelters grew in number and influence, they struggled with high euthanasia rates.  Shelters were seen as depressing places where animals went to die.  That perception is changing, and OHS is on the leading edge.  “We want to eliminate euthanasia in shelters,” says marketing and communications director Barbara Baugnon.  “In just the 10 years I’ve been here we went from about a 54% save rate on cats to 90%.  Our shelter save rate on all pets is 98%.”

Successes like these are hard-won, and even as the state’s oldest and largest shelter, OHS can’t do it alone.  “In 2009 OHS became part of ASAP – Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland.  We have 10 shelters in the tri-county area and we made an agreement that we would never euthanize a healthy animal without calling each other first,” says Baugnon.  Animals are transferred across town and even state lines, moving animals from overcrowded shelters to facilities with more space and adopters.  Initiatives like these have cut euthanasia rates through the Portland Metro Area and across the state, placing more animals into permanent homes.

OHS Volunteer Deborah Morgan

OHS Volunteer Deborah Morgan

“But you cannot simply adopt yourself out of pet overpopulation,” Baugnon points out.  The problem is much too large and stubborn for any single solution.  Adding to its array of education programs and cruelty investigations, OHS again led the nation when it opened a new medical clinic and training facility, addressing the most common reasons animals end up in shelters.

Many states lag far behind these advances, and OHS tries to model and share its leading-edge best practices.  “We’re part of this bigger force and maybe leading the nation in compassionate care of homeless pets.  We’re happy to be in Oregon where people value homeless pets as much as they do.  This is a haven.”

Oregon Humane Society
1067 NE Columbia Blvd. Portland, OR
503-285-7722 * www.OregonHumane.org