The Dalles Mayor Steve Lawrence has made it his priority to ensure the local animal shelter survives, saying the town needs to have dog control.
That’s welcome news to Janna Hage, who was recently asked by the Home at Last Humane Society to help it recover from a ringworm outbreak that shut down operations.
Lawrence said he has to talk to the police chief, city manager and city council about what can be done to ensure the animal shelter stays open. “We can’t have dogs running all over town,” he said. “The Dalles needs animal control and we can not let it die.”
Hage, who founded the Home at Last shelter but left it in 2010, earlier said the outbreak wasn’t the cause of the shelter’s problems, but a symptom of it.
She recently reviewed the shelter’s books since its founding, and traced the downward spiral of the shelter to the decision by Wasco County to stop funding animal control. “That really pulled the rug out from under them,” she said.
The city has continued to fund the shelter, but at greatly reduced rates. In 2012, for example, the shelter got $82,000 from the city and county, a cost they split evenly. It dropped to $26,000 the next year, and has continually reduced to where it gets about $11,000 per year now, solely from the city.
“Now, it’s all on the city and that’s only like $1,100 a month where we used to get $60,000 to $80,000 a year. Big difference, right?” Hage said. She said $80,000 represented the costs of the top two full-time positions.
“It really comes down to, this is a community issue and the community issue can’t be solved on the backs of a few volunteers and a few little fundraisers,” she said. “It’s a community problem and it will continue to be and somebody needs to pick up the tab. That’s what caused this spiral in the first place.”
The good news is that Hage and other volunteers who have stepped up to help out the shelter feel they have turned a corner on the ringworm outbreak.
There have been no new outbreaks and all the animals there have been healing well, she said.
While Hage only wanted her old volunteer crew to help out in the early days as they tackled the ringworm problem, since there was no time to train new people, she said the time has come to accept help from new volunteers.
The help needed now is to deep clean the facility, give it a fresh coat of paint, begin walking dogs again, and help organize the place. Those interested in volunteering can call Annette Nunn at 541-993-5217.
The shelter has about 15 cats and about 15 dogs there right now. Not all of them were infected with ringworm, a fungus that causes round lesions on the skin. It is not fatal, but is a nuisance to contain and treat.
Another 20 cats and 20 dogs were transferred to other shelters last week. They came and picked the ones that were most adoptable, Hage said.
Any new animals that were picked up by police have been taken to a temporary shelter set up in an old fire station at West Sixth and Hostetler, owned by East Cascade Electric. There are just a few animals there.
Hage anticipated the shelter would be back to full operations in two to three weeks.
She said the shelter just hired a part-time front office person, so anyone who wants to foster a dog can call the shelter at 541-296-5189. “Leave a message, she will get back to you,” Hage said.
Lawrence said the shelter needs more funds, and runs on an annual budget of between $240,000 and $360,000. It makes $40,000 a year just in can returns. It has some $60,000 in reserves, he said.
“I believe they need stronger members on the board. I believe they need community fundraising and I believe we need to know the city’s position. We need to make it a community issue,” Lawrence said.
“I want the city to decide, how bad it wants animal control,” he said. That could range from more funding for the shelter to more hours for the animal control position.
Hage said the shelter will not be taking as many animals as it did before. And even then, they were turning away animals.
Hage’s next priority is doing much needed repairs to the 1975 building. “I’m going to be out there looking for contractors and friends to step forward and each take a piece of it because I think we can honestly make the changes we need to that building to make it viable again.”