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News / Life / Pets & Wildlife

Animal shelters in Vancouver, Washougal, Longview create network, set holiday pet adoption Saturday

By Jeffrey Mize, Columbian staff reporter, and
Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: December 12, 2019, 6:01am
6 Photos
Rian Ulsh, dog care and training assistant at the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society in Washougal, plays with a puppy named Finn on Wednesday afternoon.
Rian Ulsh, dog care and training assistant at the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society in Washougal, plays with a puppy named Finn on Wednesday afternoon. (Samuel Wilson/ for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

Three Humane Societies have formed a regional network to save money, boost animal care and help would-be pet owners find that perfect dog, cat or rabbit.

The Humane Society for Southwest Washington in Vancouver, the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society in Washougal and the Humane Society of Cowlitz County in Longview have agreed to pool their resources by forming the Humane Southwest Network.

The network’s first public event will be “All They Want For Christmas Is You,” a holiday pet adoption from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Photos of animals from all three shelters will be displayed on each Humane Society’s website. Each shelter will offer a 25 percent discount on regular adoption fees for cats and dogs, 3 years and older. There also will be a 25 percent adoption discount for rabbits.

All three shelters will adjust their Saturday hours so they are open for the seven-hour event.

“It’s basically a one-day, multiple-shelter event,” said Megan Collins, executive director of the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society. “The goal is to send all the animals home for the holidays.”

In keeping with the holiday theme, each pet will go to its new home with a stocking, sewn by volunteers and stuffed with a handmade ornament, toys and treats.

“It’s unlike any other adoption event as our shelters are collaborating to create better outcomes for animals across Southwest Washington,” Charmaine Nawrocki, executive director of the Humane Society of Cowlitz County, said in a statement. “This one-day discounted celebration is a holiday gift for adoptive families and individuals and a special present for our entire region’s collective animals.”

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Collins said the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society will have 11 puppies, two adult dogs, 30-plus kittens and 20-plus cats for adoption Saturday. Each animal will go home with the first approved adopter, she said.

“They will all be available and ready to go home that day,” Collins said. “We are expecting to have quite a crowd. … It’s kind of first-come, first-served.”

Network agreement

Stacey Graham, president of the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, said the three agencies developed a collaborative agreement to guide the new network.

The document, which was adopted in fall 2018, outlines programs and services that could be shared to improve efficiency and effectiveness, including animal transport, veterinary services, fundraising support, community outreach, volunteer training, educational programs and cremation services.

The three agencies also have a separate mutual aid and assistance agreement to collaborate during disasters, emergencies and contagious disease outbreaks.

Graham mentioned several other ways the three agencies may work cooperatively in the future, including staff training and financial and accounting services.

“We sort of look at it as the sky’s the limit,” she said.

The network already has developed a three-year strategic plan, developed a logo and brand identity, linked websites for adoptable and lost and found animals, and developed a Humane Southwest Network calendar.

Graham said the network is seeking grant funding to develop a separate website.

The regional network will allow each Humane Society to remain independent while saving money.

“Organizations have worked together, but it’s basically been through mergers,” Collins said. “This is totally different.”

The West Columbia Gorge Humane Society is the smallest of the three partners and takes in about 750 animals a year, Collins said. In comparison, the Humane Society for Southwest Washington took in nearly 7,300 puppies, dogs, kittens and cats in 2018, plus another 344 other animals.

“There is no ego with any of us,” Collins said. “There is no one that says, ‘We are the big shelter or we are the boutique shelter or we are no kill.’ None of that goes on.

“At the end of the day,” she added, “we decided we really care about the animals in our community and we are stronger together.”

Sharing services

The Humane Society for Southwest Washington has a much larger clinic and surgical unit. The Washougal shelter now sends all of its spay-neuter operations and other surgeries to the Vancouver shelter on Northeast 192nd Avenue.

“Because they do it at a much higher volume, it’s cheaper than if we did it on our own,” Collins said.

The Longview shelter often is at capacity for cats, which means felines can be transferred to a different shelter, she said.

“We just have a lot of foot traffic that comes through,” Collins said. “We just have a lot more capacity for cats than Cowlitz does.”

An animal that, for whatever reason, is not getting much interest at one shelter can be transferred to a different one and get quickly adopted, she said. An Australian shepherd or other breed of herding dog might be adopted quicker in Longview because of the more rural nature of Cowlitz County, she said.

“We have done a lot over the past year with the partnership, just getting things established,” Collins said.

“I know that 2020 is going to be just as exciting. We have a lot of work to do together. Everyone on the team is prepared to roll up their sleeves and continue working on behalf of the animals.”

Columbian staff reporter
Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith