Animal Shelter on May ballot

Annette McGee Rasch
IVN Senior Contributing Writer

The Josephine County Animal Shelter is literally crumbling. There are only 32 kennels – and despite a 74% increase in dog intakes in the last 9 years, no new kennels have been added since 1978. Space and safety are huge problems.
“Our county is facing a crisis of pet overpopulation,” said Josephine County Animal Shelter Manager Laura Jensen. “We’re operating at about 200% capacity now, which is not sustainable. We’re facing significant increases of euthanasia and if that happens, we could lose both volunteers and staff. Then we’d have to euthanize even more – the situation just spirals.” The shelter finally achieved ‘no-kill’ status back in 2018 and Jensen says no one wants to return to the grim days when young healthy animals were routinely euthanized.
The shelter often floods when it rains. The kennels are not sealed and cannot be fully sanitized. The septic system is failing and trenches full of urine and feces frequently won’t drain. The concrete walls are cracked and crumbling. The facility lacks proper ventilation and there’s no air conditioning in the kennels. Space is grossly limited, which increases health and safety risks from overcrowding. Three hundred animal dishes are washed daily in small sinks and there’s only one tiny medical room for the entire facility.
Measure 17-117 would cost homeowners 0.47 cents per assessed $1,000 of home value, for no more than five years. The levy would provide funding to renovate and expand the existing structure on Brookside Blvd. in Grants Pass, creating an 18,000 square foot facility that would double the capacity to house both dogs and cats; and would also fund operational costs for both the animal shelter and animal control services. (None of the funds are used for anything else – so while Animal Control falls under the supervision of the Sheriff’s department, the funds are not shared.)
“The levy’s passage would allow us to continue responding to calls and our adoption program would continue to offer these pets a second chance,” Jensen said. “Just since 2020 animal control calls have gone up 90%. We can’t keep up – we’ve already discontinued some of our services and will have to make even more cuts unless something changes.”
Everything costs more as well, including foods, vaccines, medicines, spay and neuter surgeries and more. Volunteers already shoulder a huge part of the burden – the JoCo shelter has one of the lowest staff-to-animal ratios in the state.
The regional veterinarian shortage has also added to sky-rocketing pet populations. The levy’s passage would also enable the shelter to hire an in-house veterinarian. “We spay and neuter about 1,000 dogs and cats each year,” Jensen said. “If we have our own vet, then 1,000 more surgeries will be available county-wide, which helps everybody.”
“Some people see this as a new tax, but they need to understand that this is a critical service that everybody benefits from,” said Nancy Lindquist, local animal advocate and president of The Toby Fund.
“There’s a lot of animals suffering out there because there’s no room at the inn and there’s a huge number of people who don’t take responsibility,” Lindquist said, adding that intakes from the Illinois Valley are the highest in the county. “Without the levy, there’d be a snowball effect, where the number of free ranging animals breeding and spreading disease increases. Or, if your life situation critically changes, there’ll be no place to surrender your animals to. The saddest thing of all is when older people pass away and the daughter-in-law takes the animal to the shelter. But what happens if there is no room?”

The lack of spaying and neutering, homelessness, poverty, unemployment, pandemic impacts, cruelty and negligence, aging populations, veterinary shortages, housing shortages and the lack of education always take their toll on the voiceless ones at the bottom of the heap: the animals. Yet most cultures throughout human history have held that fair and humane treatments toward domesticated animals are a civic, social and moral responsibility. Many famous figures throughout history have voiced this duty:

“We must remember that our actions toward animals reflect our humanity, it is our responsibility to be compassionate and kind,” said primatologist Jane Goodall. Almost 1,000 years earlier, Saint Francis of Assisi said, “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” German philosopher Immanuel Kant said, “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Mahatma Gandhi took that statement further, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.”
Shelter Friends Dog Adoption Coordinator Raleigh Smith summarizes the ‘perfect storm’ aspects of the current situation: “The cause of the increased intake of animals at our shelter is multifold: COVID-19, a growing population and exploding veterinary costs. COVID brought both selflessness and selfishness,” said Smith, who has rescued hundreds of animals in the Illinois Valley over the decades. “People were lonely and sought the companionship of man’s best friend and kitty, but simultaneously, the cost and access to veterinary care became prohibitive. So now the animals are in peril.
“I put my heart, my money and my time in, to support our animals.” Smith said. “What will you do? Please support Measure 17-117.”