By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
The Humane Society of Central Oregon is celebrating 60 years of service to the community.
During that time more than a quarter-million dogs and cats, and a menagerie of farm animals, have been reunited with their owners or found new homes.
Thirty years ago, when there were about 26,000 people in Bend, the Humane Society of Central Oregon cared for 4,500 homeless and unwanted animals annually.
“A quarter of a million animals have come through our doors and we provided the care. We’ve reunited animals. We’ve found homes for animals and we’ve literally saved lives,” Lynne Ouchida, Humane Society of Central Oregon Outreach Manager.
Today, with Bend’s population four times as large, the Humane Society cares for 1,500 fewer animals on an annual basis.
Why? Because the attitude toward animals has grown along with the city.
“I have personally seen, particularly for cats, becoming valued members,” Ouchida said. “Whereas historically, most of them were outside and they weren’t taken care of. But as the city of Bend and Deschutes County has grown, that receptiveness to being responsible caretakers of animals reduces our numbers.”
Humane Society managers say public perceptions about animals has evolved over the decades.
It used to be pet owners let animals fend for themselves with often tragic results.
Nowadays, people take animals into their homes and care for them as part of a family.
“Thanks to our community for supporting us, and for giving us the chance to serve the animals but also the people who love their animals,” Ouchida said.
The Humane Society has evolved too, making the shelter an inviting place for rescued animals and people looking to adopt.
“If you come into our shelter, you see it’s light, bright. The animals are upfront in their kennels, wanting to be interacted with,” said Sabrina Slusser, HSCO Executive Director.
“We have an amazing volunteer crew, both here and down at the thrift store and at our spay neuter clinic that pour their hearts into these animals and help us get them ready for adoption.”
HSCO programs and services have expanded and changed to meet the needs of the people and animals in the community.
In 2018, HSCO added the Bend Spay+Neuter Project to the organization, now HSCO’s Bend+Spay Neuter Clinic.
Currently, HSCO’s programs include adoptions, reuniting lost pets with their family, spay and neuter assistance, vaccine and microchip clinics, HOPE Pet Food Bank, community cat program, cremation services, humane education, youth and adult volunteerism and more. Donations provide housing, medical care, behavioral training and adoption for over 3,000 homeless, abandoned, neglected and abused animals annually at HSCO.
In 2020, HSCO expanded the HOPE Pet Food Bank to help people keep their pets during the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
To reach those suffering from food insecurity for themselves and their pets, the program expanded into the tri-county area with pet food being distributed to human food banks. The shelter continues to provide essential services to the community throughout the pandemic.
HSCO will celebrate the human-animal bond and share stories about successful rescues and adoptions throughout their 60th anniversary year.