Small but Scrappy

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Redmond’s BrightSide Animal Center does things differently

Chris Bauersfeld has a no-nonsense way of talking that conveys the important work she has to do.  Bauersfeld is executive director of BrightSide Animal Center in Redmond, a shelter that sees a 96-97% save rate for cats and 98-99% for dogs.  “We back up what we say and feel by going high-save,” she says.  “When I got hired it was decided we would no longer euthanize a healthy animal based on space or convenience.  We embrace the idea that all animals deserve a home.”

Known as the Humane Society of Redmond since 1987, BrightSide underwent a transformation four years ago following financial challenges.  A new board and management took over, including Bauersfeld, who provided the philosophy and foundation of conviction that guides the shelter today.  The name change was an effort to let people know things are different.  “What we are doing is such a departure from business as usual that we want the community to relate to us in a new way,” says board member and volunteer Reese Mercer.

Doing things differently means not subjecting dogs to the constant stress of public viewing in the kennel.  People find an animal on Petfinder.com and then schedule a meet and greet with a counselor.  “We will spend hours with that family to feel fully satisfied that they’ve met all of the animals they could,” explains Mercer.  “That helps a lot in ensuring that our placements are sound and they aren’t going to come back to us.”

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BrightSide intakes about 20 dogs and 20 cats each week.  Cats enjoy more open space here than at many traditional catteries.  “It’s an open landscape for the cats,” says Mercer. “That’s a nice existence; when you have an animal in a shelter but it’s not locked up in a cage, it’s interacting with people and becoming more socialized and friendly.”

Some BrightSide efforts are aimed at preventing the build-up of bad habits that can derail an animal’s placement.  For instance, an animal that only relieves itself on an indoor concrete floor may have picked up that habit at a shelter where it had no other choice. 

Chris Bauersfeld began volunteering in vet clinics at age 13, and by age 15 had secured a paid part-time position.  She then became a licensed veterinary technician, and eventually moved on to clinic management.  “Working in the vet field you reach a point where you feel you have to start giving back,” says Bauersfeld.  “You know there are animals that are not cherished by their owners and they deserve to find some comfort somewhere so you begin to devote your time to them.”

Since Bauersfeld took over, BrightSide’s volunteer commitments have skyrocketed.  They currently have 15 full-time employees, but their volunteer hours equate to an additional 15 full-time employees.  “Most are at minimum wage,” says Bauersfeld, “and I’m not paid at the normal scale for an executive director, but these are the things you do when you know it’s making a difference.  We might be small, but we’re scrappy and innovative in how we accomplish things.  You have to be when you don’t have a lot of money.”

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The shelter offers resources to help animals stay in their homes whenever possible.  Bauersfeld told of a man who lost his job and couldn’t afford vet care when his companion of eight years became ill.  “He felt that surrendering the dog would be the only way that he could get the treatment,” says Bauersfeld.  Instead, BrightSide paid for treatment and worked out a payment plan so the dog could be restored to wellness and stay in the home.  “We really, really want people to look to us as a center for the community,” says Bauersfeld.  “We can help them.  We’re here for our community.” 

While BrightSide is an animal shelter, for Bauersfeld, the human side is just as important.  “We keep the animals at the center of everything we do, bearing in mind that people are important in this whole equation,” she explains.  “Most animals don’t get here on their own; there is a human element in this, and we are committed to giving the best public service we can on a budget you wouldn’t wish on anybody.  The resources are always stretched very thin and it’s a challenge.  But it’s a joy when you help re-home an animal, or you help someone take care of their animal that has a major medical problem, or the animal finds its owners again.”

Learn more about BrightSide at RedmondHumane.org or at “BrightSide Animal Center” on Facebook.