Chair Jessica Vega Pederson calls for a review of Multnomah County Animal Services’ practices as shelter resumes full operations

January 11, 2023

Multnomah County Animal Services Director Erin Grahek answers reporters' questions during the Jan. 11 press conference, with Operations Manager Marian Cannell to her right (in white).
Multnomah County Animal Services today resumed normal operations, ending its week-long hiatus from accepting stray animals. The shelter also formally reopened for in-person adoptions after roughly three years of performing virtual adoptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the direction of Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, all adoption fees will be waived through Feb. 11, 2023, to help mitigate financial barriers to adoption.

The pause in accepting strays was a rare but necessary step that allowed the shelter to position itself to navigate several structural challenges, including adequate staffing and facilities constraints, that were compounded by an influx of lost and stray animals over the holidays. During that time, Animal Services was able to make critical progress toward significantly reducing the population at the shelter, which had reached unsustainable levels. MCAS also developed and prepared processes to return to in-person adoptions while increasing foster and volunteer applications.

“This is a turning point,” said Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “Just a week ago, we were in a crisis with more than 150 animals squeezed into our care. We made the hard decision to pause on accepting strays for a week — and to ask for help. Today, thanks to the incredibly hard work of County staff, our partners in animal welfare and volunteers, the number of pets at the Animal Shelter has been reduced by almost half.”

The Chair added that “I want to assure everyone that we are in no way done working on the longstanding issues at Animal Services.”

So, in addition to continuing to focus her attention and the resources of the organization to support Animal Services, the Chair said her office will direct a review of MCAS practices. That process will bring forward recommendations that will ensure the County gets to the root of the problems that have troubled shelter operations, and will also ensure that MCAS doesn’t find itself in this situation again. This process will include input from members of the community and external partners. 

“We’ll be providing more information on this process in the coming weeks,” Chair Vega Pederson said. “But know that I am committed to improving conditions for the pets at the shelter and for the people who are working so hard to care for them.”

Since the Animal Services shelter in Troutdale started its pause on accepting strays, they coordinated the complex return to full operations, incorporating the support of the community, a small but dedicated army of volunteers, and a partnership with staff from the Chair’s Office, Multnomah County Emergency Management, Facilities, Information Technology, the Department of Community Justice and outside contractors, to help stabilize operations.

Brandy Trotter, a foster advocate and volunteer, with her cat, Mae.
As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, the shelter held 82 total animals in its care, including rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, kittens and cats; dogs accounted for 47 of those animals. This is a marked reduction from the beginning of the year, when there were over 150 animals on site. There have also been 113 new in-person volunteer applications and 75 new foster applications since a public call for assistance was made on Jan. 4. 

Many community members have asked how they can help. MCAS can always use volunteer support, specifically in auxiliary roles such as greeting shelter visitors and cleaning, as well as fostering pets. And as many foster parents attest, providing a safe haven for animals in need is extremely rewarding. Watch shelter foster advocate Brandy Trotter share about the benefits of fostering here

"The work of animal welfare is never complete, and Multnomah County Animal Services is committed to leveraging these current challenges into improvements that will help us better serve our community," said Multnomah County Animal Services Director Erin Grahek. 

“We’re humbled by the continued support of volunteers, community members and staff and their dedication to a shelter that upholds the health, safety and welfare of animals and people in Multnomah County.”