MADRAS, Ore. (AP) -- It's only been a month since the Jefferson County Kennels officially became the Three Rivers Humane Society, but already significant change is underway.
Outdoor heating for the kennels, dog-play areas, and even a new building are all either in the works or in the planning stages for the new year, heralding the start of the nonprofit's efforts to improve the facility.
"The kennels always did a good job of getting adoptions out the door," said Stephen Drynan, executive director of the humane society. "We have the same goal of getting animals into suitable homes, but we also want to up the adoption rates."
Central Oregon Animal Friends, a nonprofit based in Jefferson County, officially took control of the Jefferson County Kennels on Dec. 1. Jefferson County commissioners decided to entrust the formerly county-run kennels to a private organization in November after the resignation earlier in the year of the kennels' only dog control officer. The private nonprofit is run by Drynan, the former director of the Humane Society of the Ochocos in Prineville.
Under the nonprofit, the kennels' name has been changed to the Three Rivers Humane Society, and is operating under a three-year contract with the county. The county is providing the humane society with $40,000 a year for the first two years of the contract, and $34,000 for the third year. The nonprofit, which follows a no-kill policy, also gets free rent in the building, located on Southeast McTaggart Road in Madras. In return the humane society is expected to take in all strays from the county.
"Our thought was that a nonprofit would be able to tap into volunteer resources and fundraising resources that people may not normally want to donate to the government," said Jeff Rasmussen, Jefferson County Administrative Officer. "People pay taxes, and when these places need more help, they may say `Why didn't they (the government) do that?"'
So far, the new humane society has already succeeded at tapping into these resources. It recently secured a grant of $4,000 from 31 Paws of Bend, and also raised $2,800 in donations from the community. The money is going toward the kennels' improvement, which includes running electricity to the 20 outdoor kennels, and also building three fenced play areas for the dogs. The electricity will help keep the outdoor kennels warm during the cold months of winter, and will also keep the dogs' water bowls from freezing. The new upgrade is expected to be functioning by next week.
The play areas are being built using money donated in memory of a Prineville dog shelter volunteer, who requested that in lieu of flowers, money be given to the humane society.
"The dogs here never had a play yard, so that'll be nice because it'll get them out of the kennels and into play groups," Drynan said. "And frankly, a tired dog is a quiet dog."
But while improvements are underway to better the day-to-day lives of shelter dogs, the humane society still isn't accepting cats. This comes at the behest of the county, which requested that the humane society become established before taking on the feline population in Jefferson County.
The humane society will not be able to accept cats for a year, but Drynan said taking in cats is part of the shelter's long-term plan.
"Between us and Warm Springs, feral cats are definitely a big problem," Drynan said. "Cats will eventually be on our radar."
The Cat Rescue, Adoption & Foster Team, a Bend-based cat shelter, will continue to take on many of the stray and feral cats in the area.
"It's always bad when there's no resource for cats in a county," said Janice Sershen, a board member with CRAFT. "Many shelters have territorial boundaries and so they can't take the cats from out there. Luckily, CRAFT isn't limited like that."
Bonnie Baker, the executive director of CRAFT, said many humane societies in the area do not prioritize stray and feral cats.
"It is very frustrating that no groups other than (Humane Society of the Ochocos) and us really want to help the cats around here," Bonnie wrote in an email. "The traditional shelters go out of their way to rescue small dogs from other states . but they never have room for cats."
But while the Three Rivers Humane Society doesn't yet accept cats, it is doing what it can to ease the problem, which includes connecting owners wishing to get their cats adopted with prospective owners looking to adopt.
Aside from building outdoor play areas, the humane society has big plans for the year ahead. Drynan said it is planning to construct an additional building to house more dogs at some point this year. The facility also plans to focus on community involvement in the coming months.
"We really want this to be a community shelter," Drynan said