Animal Rehabilitation and Treatment
At some point, all
the planning in the world does not create a no-kill shelter.
There is always a reason that euthanasia sounds reasonable, even
necessary, including age, space concerns, lack of financial resources,
and very often contagious but treatable diseases. With the
exceptions of dangerous disposition and terminal irreversible disease,
we started helping the shelter deal with its problem cases. This
effort evolved into the “H.A.R.T.” (Homeless Animal Rehabilitation and
The number of dogs euthanized in Prineville in 2003 was 108, in 2004
was 80, in 2005 was 85 and in 2006 was 23 (these 23 were severe
disposition problems). The number of cats euthanized in Prineville in
2003 was 616, in 2004 was 479, in 2005 was 274 and in 2006 was 12
(these 12 were F.I.V. or FeLv positive). What made the difference in
2006 was the creation of the H.A.R.T. (Homeless Animal Rehabilitation
and Treatment) Program.
The fostered numbers for the HART are:
- 2006 - 144
- 2007 -
- 2008 - 210
- 2009 - 255
- 2010 - 96
- 2011 - 228
- 2012 - 220
The SNIP House employs a veterinarian and a certified technician.
Many of the animals being euthanized at the shelter were being
euthanized for reversible, treatable diseases as well as age. We
decided to expand our program to include treating all reversibly ill or
injured animals and by fostering all animals that were too young to
alter and adopt. This expansion required veterinary supervision,
the skill of the technician and the commitment of the volunteers.
When the Humane Society of the Ochocos, and sometimes other shelters,
receives or has an ill or injured animal, a call is made to the
H.A.R.T. coordinator. The coordinator contacts the veterinarian
and arranges for immediate foster care. If the animal is
contagious, it goes to a foster home that specializes in that disease
only. For instance, one of our volunteer caregivers now has 22
ringworm cats from 3 shelters in her home (down from 30 a few months
ago). If the animal is extremely ill, treatment and isolation is
provided at the clinic until the animal is stabilized and then the
animal is transferred to the specific foster home that deals with that
disease. For instance, any kitten with upper respiratory disease
currently goes to a volunteer who is a retired medical doctor.
This volunteer works closely with the veterinarian but always has
appropriate medications, IV solutions, decongestants, etc. If a kitten
or puppy comes into the shelter at less than 4 weeks of age, it is sent
to a volunteer's home that provides bottle-feeding. If over 4
weeks, a well kitten/puppy home is provided to give it socialization
skills and to keep it away from the germs that are invariably present
with large numbers of animals. A more unusual recent case is that
of a trapped feral dog now in foster care with an experienced handler.
This myriad of demands requires a committed and dedicated group of
volunteers. Each HART volunteer is trained to deal with one or
more specific diseases. The Shelter volunteers often foster the
healthy animals. Veterinary support is available 24/7 with our
vet and also with a network of private veterinarians who have seen what
we have accomplished and feel the responsibility to help us help these
Our experience has been that this is a self-sustaining program because
the entire staff becomes more enthusiastic with each success. The
demoralization that affects the caregivers in shelters and animal
welfare groups is healed with the certain knowledge that each animal
will be helped, not euthanized. Our volunteer training is
ongoing; everyone receives "time off" to avoid burn out and we
frequently have more volunteers than are needed. Part of this may
be the fact that prior to the HART concept, people who cared about the
animals simply had no place to direct their efforts. Part of it
may be that there is an active retirement community here. Part of
it may be the increasing expectations that shelters do more than house
and kill a community’s unwanted or homeless animals.
The next step for the HART concept is the completion of the HART
Center. The Center has been purchased and the money for the
remodel has been dedicated in a 1031 exchange. The Prineville
Center is directly behind the SNIP Clinic and will include eight
isolation and treatment rooms, a central disinfection system, negative
airflow, and a multitude of ideas garnered from the architect who
designed the isolation units at the regional hospital. It will
have extensive glass walls to separate each isolation room inside and
every room will have exterior windows. The remodel is
approximately half finished and completion is slated for May 2007.
We are also developing a second HART Center in Bend, Oregon (45 miles
away) to serve the shelters there. A long-term lease has been
obtained from Deschutes County by SNIP and the building is being used
for some diseases even as the remodeling changes are made.
Although we never want to substitute the HART Centers for the care that
can be given in individual homes, there is a need for strict isolation
for some diseases. In 2006, this isolation was achieved in vacant
rental properties but the Centers will be far more efficient.
However, the Centers are not the crux of the success of the HART
program. The commitment is the core and the essential element in
the success. The idea that people, with education, appropriate
expectations, and support can care for homeless, ill or injured animals
is a concept that needs to be developed and encouraged. Critical
for our success is the belief that another option, beyond euthanasia,
is almost always available.
The other requirement that is essential is the cooperation with the
shelter management. In the case of SNIP and the Humane Society of
the Ochocos, both boards, both managements, all staff and all
volunteers have been in agreement from the start. We are all
committed to ending unnecessary euthanasia and we have found
cooperation easy and natural to attain this goal. We anticipate
developing like relationships in the case of the shelters in Bend and
Redmond and we are moving forward as the communities understand and
embrace what has been accomplished in Prineville.
We believe that compassion and caring are contagious feelings. There is
tremendous pride in this small town that it has led the way in animal
welfare in Central and Eastern Oregon. Prineville has developed a
model that can be disseminated in a regional and even a national way.
We are pleased with the progress made by SNIP, HART and their related
programs. We believe that our successes and the education and
care programs that we conduct will benefit our communities, law
enforcement departments, social service agencies, families and most
importantly the animals for years to come.