Bear, seen being scratched by Bark House Manager Nicole Miller, was the first dog surrendered to Olympic Peninsula Humane Society in 2023 and remains in the shelter as of press time. Staff said larger dogs typically take longer to adopt as Sequim’s population tends to prefer smaller dogs. OPHS and other rescue agencies are seeing more pet owners trying to surrender their pets, too, despite facilities being full. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
Bear, seen being scratched by Bark House Manager Nicole Miller, was the first dog surrendered to Olympic Peninsula Humane Society in 2023 and remains in the shelter as of press time. Staff said larger dogs typically take longer to adopt as Sequim’s population tends to prefer smaller dogs. OPHS and other rescue agencies are seeing more pet owners trying to surrender their pets, too, despite facilities being full. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Bear, seen being scratched by Bark House Manager Nicole Miller, was the first dog surrendered to Olympic Peninsula Humane Society in 2023 and remains in the shelter as of press time. Staff said larger dogs typically take longer to adopt as Sequim’s population tends to prefer smaller dogs. OPHS and other rescue agencies are seeing more pet owners trying to surrender their pets, too, despite facilities being full. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group) Bear, seen being scratched by Bark House Manager Nicole Miller, was the first dog surrendered to Olympic Peninsula Humane Society in 2023 and remains in the shelter as of press time. Staff said larger dogs typically take longer to adopt as Sequim’s population tends to prefer smaller dogs. OPHS and other rescue agencies are seeing more pet owners trying to surrender their pets, too, despite facilities being full. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Peninsula pet agencies say surrender rates are on rise

Rescues seek more people to adopt, foster

Rescue agencies in Clallam County report pet owners are trying to surrender their cats and dogs at higher rates than usual.

The Olympic Peninsula Humane Society’s cat and dog facilities in Sequim and Port Angeles have been at capacity for months, OPHS executive director Luanne Hinkle said, and they’ve depended on foster families to care for additional animals as they await spots to open via adoption.

The Bark House at 1743 Old Olympic Highway in Port Angeles hosts 42 kennels, but it was caring for 99 dogs as of earlier this month while Kitty City, at 91 S. Boyce Road in Sequim, was caring for 93 cats. About 30 animals are on a waiting list and more surrender requests come in daily, Hinkle said.

“We need the community to understand that we can only properly care for so many animals at a time with the housing, staff and volunteers we have,” she said.

Staff with Welfare for Animal Guild (WAG) report they’ve been taking about 10 calls a week for people to surrender their dogs.

“Adoptions have been few and far between,” a WAG staffer said.

Its Halfway Home Ranch at 751 McComb Road in Sequim was also full with 24 dogs and some foster families were taking on dogs too, staff report.

Peninsula Friends of Animals, 257509 U.S. Highway 101 in Port Angeles, has also experienced a “huge influx of calls from the public for both intake and adoption calls,” particularly since the Humane Society temporarily closed for safety reasons for illness concerns, according to PFOA shelter director Nancy Campbell.

“This puts a lot of pressure on all of us in rescue, but we try our best to respond to this added load and work together to help the animals who need care in spite of the difficulties involved,” Campbell said.

As a cageless, no-kill, private 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Campbell said PFOA always operates at capacity with no city or county contracts or funding with support from volunteers to maintain operations.

Rescue agency leaders said there’s been a range of reasons for people to surrender their pets. Hinkle said it’s due in part to increased expenses and that access to care has become prohibitive for residents as many local animal clinics are not taking on new clients due to staffers’ increased work loads.

They also saw a surge in adoptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, and as people returned to the workplace, animals now in adulthood may have developed separation anxiety, leading to unwanted behavior.

Surrendered animals at the Humane Society can have lengthy stays, too, Hinkle said, particularly larger dogs, under-socialized animals and those with medical conditions.

Bark House manager Nicole Miller said they have a few dogs who have been in the facility since 2021 awaiting adoption.

Campbell said a lack of spaying and neutering services during the pandemic led to more animals in the community. PFOA had to discontinue its monthly community spay/neuter clinic for low-income families after 25 years with Sequim Animal Hospital during the pandemic, but Campbell said personnel look to get it back up and running as soon as possible.

WAG staff/volunteers echoed the largest issue is the cost factor with one saying via email “the economy has changed, and more and more people need financial help for basic vet care and food.”

At the Humane Society, Hinkle said some owners have become angry and belligerent with staffers when they cannot accept a pet the same day due to space.

“People assume when they get ready to surrender, they want it right away, but we’re full and can’t take them,” she said.

“It’s really tragic that people think when they need to surrender a dog, we won’t help them. We aren’t like that. We want to help everyone and every animal.”

Hinkle said staffers face misconceptions that their full capacity is due to saving animals from high-kill shelters. However, she said by Oct. 31, 30 percent of the intakes were pets surrendered by owners.

The shelter also has taken in 432 stray pets in the last nine months, she said, and her staff estimate 60 percent of these intakes were surrendered by their owners for monetary issues, behavioral issues and/or other issues such as renting restrictions with pets.

“They either have to get rid of the animal or move,” Hinkle said. “We’re in a housing crisis, and we’re also in a rental crisis, and it’s even harder to find a place that rents and allows animals.”

To complicate adoption issues, Hinkle said the senior population in the Sequim area prefers smaller dogs, but most of those are spoken for before they even make it to the Bark House.

Partnerships between animal welfare agencies and rescues have been going great though, Hinkle said.

So far this year, the Humane Society has transferred 30 animals that were not finding a new home at their facilities to other rescues in hopes of finding homes.

“We all work together for the best interest of the animals,” she said.

One hindrance to the Humane Society’s adoption numbers has been concerns of the contagious and deadly canine parvovirus and the feline panleukopenia virus that’s led staff to close facilities off and on to the public since March, Hinkle said.

The Bark House reopened Dec. 1 after a few weeks closed to the public and held an adoption event in Port Angeles a day later, Miller said.

During closures, they’ve been unable to adopt animals out from the shelter unless they’ve been at a foster home and tested and cleared, she said.

Hinkle said parvo can last up to a year in the ground, and to help stymie its spread, staff change garb between each kennel while cleaning them a few times a day with a special chemical to kill the virus.

“It’s a lot of stress and work for staff,” she said.

WAG officials said anyone coming into their facility must step in a chemical solution to prevent any spread of the virus.

Campbell said PFOA will have visitors step in a solution, too, depending on community circumstances.

All three local agencies have screening, spay/neuter and vaccination provisions for their animals before allowing them to be adopted, they report.

Expanding the Bark House another 550 square feet is something the Humane Society’s leaders plan to do in 2024, Hinkle said, to create more isolation and respite care space.

To encourage adoption, the Humane Society is reducing its adoption fees up to 50 percent through Dec. 31. It includes spay/neuter, vaccines, parvovirus testing, worming and flea prevention, a microchip and a health check/exam.

Staff ask renters to have landlord approval obtained and/or lease agreement handy. Call the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society at 360-457-8206 or visit ophumanesociety.org.

PFOA also offers an Emergency Pet Food Bank to low-income pet guardians with calls increasing for pet food, staff said. For more about Peninsula Friends of Animals, call 360-452-0414 or visit safehavenpfoa.org.

For more about Welfare for Animals Guild, visit wagsequimwa.com or call 360-460-6258.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at matthew.nash@sequimgazette.com.

More in News

John Brewer.
Former editor and publisher of PDN dies

John Brewer, 76, was instrumental in community

Randy Perry and Judy Reandeau Stipe, volunteer executive director of Sequim Museum & Arts, hold aloft a banner from "The Boys in the Boat" film Perry purchased and is loaning to the museum. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)
‘Boys in the Boat’ banner to be loaned to museum

Sequim man purchases item shown in film at auction

Charisse Deschenes, first hired by the city of Sequim in 2014, departed this week after 10 years in various roles, including most recently deputy city manager/community and economic development director. (City of Sequim)
Deputy manager leaves Sequim

Community, economic development position open

Hoko River project seeks salmon recovery and habitat restoration

Salmon coaltion takes lead in collaboration with Makah, Lower Elwha tribes

Clallam Transit’s zero-fare program off to successful start

Ridership is up and problems are down, general manager says

Motor rider airlifted to Seattle hospital after wreck

A Gig Harbor man was airlifted to a Seattle hospital… Continue reading

Traffic light project to begin Monday

Work crews from Titan Earthwork, LLC will begin a… Continue reading

From left to right are Indigo Gould, Hazel Windstorm, Eli Hill, Stuart Dow, Mateu Yearian and Hugh Wentzel.
Port Townsend Knowledge Bowl team wins consecutive state championships

The Knowledge Bowl team from Port Townsend High School has… Continue reading

Bob Edgington of 2 Grade LLC excavating, which donated its resources, pulls dirt from around the base of an orca sculpture at the Dream Playground at Erickson Playfield on Thursday during site preparation to rebuild the Port Angeles play facility, which was partially destroyed by an arson fire on Dec. 20. A community build for the replacement playground is scheduled for May 15-19 with numerous volunteer slots available. Signups are available at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/904084DA4AC23A5F85-47934048-dream#/. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Site preparation at Dream Playground

Bob Edgington of 2 Grade LLC excavating, which donated its resources, pulls… Continue reading

Rayonier Inc. is selling more than 115,000 acres in four units across the West Olympic Peninsula last week as the company looks to sell $1 billion worth of assets. (Courtesy photo / Rayonier Inc.)
Rayonier to sell West End timberland

Plans call for debt restructuring; bids due in June