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By Jess Macinko
News Editor 

Animal shelter problems challenge rescue efforts


Jess Macinko

OGS OVER TROUBLED WATERS: DOG volunteer Elaynna James gets a hug at the city animal shelter.

At some point over the weekend, the city animal shelter's drain-pipe froze. Dogs of the Gorge (DOG) volunteers found out Sunday, when an attempt to hose down the kennels resulted in a pool of standing water and animal waste that spread across the floor.

The puddle was a new twist on an old theme: the shelter needs work.

Lisa Mabrey, DOG founder, says the shelter has needed an overhaul for some time. "It's dilapidated. The kennels are bad. There're places the insulation is flopped over and the mice have been chewing it." There is a pest problem. There are security concerns. The building is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Beyond a port-a-potty (provided and serviced by Bishop Sanitation, free of charge), there is no bathroom. Other issues include a seized roof-vent fan and a nonexistent waste-disposal plan-currently, shelter trash must be taken next door to the water facility.

DOG operates the shelter through a contract with the city. At last week's council meeting, that contract was extended for one year. The council also moved to form a committee dedicated to solving the shelter's issues.

City Administrator Larry Bellamy described the shelter as "an old building that has served its time," and said that while the public works department has provided short-term maintenance fixes, the facility needs a long-term solution.

Mabrey agrees. "The city is awesome if the heater breaks down. They come right out. [But when people come to adopt dogs], sometimes I'm very embarrassed about the conditions."

Currently, there are short-term problems to address. Security and pest control are top priorities. DOG volunteer Elaynna James says the shelter needs lighting, both inside and out, and door-repair (the facility has been subject to vandalism, including a door being kicked in). It has also become a haven for a wide range of non-canines. "Mice, skunks and spiders. Lots of spiders." Recent low temperatures have only made it more inviting to unwelcome guests.

Long-term, Mabrey hopes to see a bigger, newer building. "I don't want the Taj Mahal. I would like to see 30 kennels, an office, a get-to-know-you room, a bathroom, a breakroom with a washer and dryer and dishwasher, and a safe place to store dogfood and dog biscuits so the mice don't get at it.

"It's doable. It's just raising the money."

What DOG provides

When Animal Control picks up a dog that isn't considered dangerous, and no one steps forward to claim it, it's turned over to DOG. The organization also takes in owner-surrendered dogs-animals whose owners aren't willing or able to keep them-as well as strays from Klickitat and surrounding counties. DOG pays for vet services, including spay/neuter, microchipping, worming, booster shots, rabies and other vaccines. The dogs stay at the shelter until they can be rehomed.

Before DOG's founding 11 years ago, the city had few options besides euthanizing strays. DOG provides its services at no cost to the city beyond shelter maintenance. The organization's operating costs come from adoption fees (around $200-250 apiece), fundraisers, and volunteers' pockets.

"We love our dogs. [They're] fed good food, they get fresh water every night, they have Kuranda beds that sit up off the floor. It's a lot better than where some of those dogs have come from. We take pride in taking good care of them."

Balancing act

For the city, the animal shelter is one consideration among many-along with water, sewer, streets and so on-that must be balanced against limited resources. Goldendale's public works director, Karl Enyeart, is sympathetic to the cause but aware of the realities.

"There is a real need [for shelter improvements]. But it all takes money. If you modify the budget [in one place], you have to cut someplace else."

Jess Macinko

DOGS OVER TROUBLED WATER: "Sissy" in her cage in the shelter with rising water just behind her, coming from a pipe broken in recent freezes.

One issue is that the city bears the full brunt of maintenance costs for a facility that houses dogs from well beyond city limits. At the council meeting before last, Mabrey estimated a majority of the strays DOG takes in are from the county or beyond, not Goldendale. Enyeart hopes that moving forward, outside agencies will join the city in supporting the shelter.

There's also an organizational dilemma. Shelter improvements aren't directly within the scope of any one department. "It's kind of a gray area. [Animal control] enforcement goes through the police. [Shelter] maintenance is public works." But designing buildings and taking bids falls beyond either.

Since the problem occupies this no-man's land, its solution will require a combined effort. Enyeart stresses the importance of engagement and cooperation. "I think things are going to improve with people working together."

Those interested in contributing to the committee should contact city hall or attend the next council meeting.


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