For many of the cats and dogs who come to the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, some are just hours away from being euthanized.“It’s our mission to end unnecessary euthanization of animals and to place them in forever homes,” interim president Rochelle Ramos said. “We also want to be a resource to people who have to surrender animals or need help caring for them.”
The WCGHS, located in Washougal, is a nonprofit group funded mainly through donations. The city of Washougal also contracts with the dog shelter to provide space for dogs brought in by animal control.
Currently, the cat shelter houses 57 felines, with 34 more in foster care. The dog shelter houses six dogs, with 10 in foster care.
Barb Hoover is the cat shelter manager. She has volunteered since 2008, and said that the number of cats being surrendered or simply left behind when a family moves is increasing.
“A lot of times, they are paring down because of a job loss, and are moving into apartments that don’t accept pets,” she said. “Or they don’t have the money to take care of them. But we do offer food and litter, as well as low-cost spay and neuter for people who are unemployed or on government assistance.”
Hoover said the most rewarding part of her job is seeing animals adopted.
“It is wonderful seeing a cat that came in freaked out and scared leaving with owners who will cherish the animal,” she said. “I also like it when animals who are hard to place find families.”
One example was “van Gogh,” who, like the artist, had a mangled ear. The cat also had feline immunodeficiency virus, which has similar effects as HIV.
“It’s very difficult for the animal to give it to other cats but once people heard he had FIV, they were scared to adopt him,” Hoover said.
Then last week, a couple came in to adopt a cat, took one look at van Gogh and made their decision. Minutes later he was purring on their laps as they filled out the adoption papers.
“Seeing him get adopted was really wonderful,” Hoover said.
Tamara Scharfenkamp is the dog shelter manager.
She is a dog trainer who just moved to the area a year ago from Kansas City, Mo.
“I love this job,” she said. “You can never have a bad day here because you’re always with the dogs.”
When a dog first comes to the shelter, a health assessment is conducted, and he or she is evaluated for any potential problem behaviors, and assessed to see how well he or she performs on a leash and understands basic commands.
“We will not adopt them out until we know they are spayed or neutered,” Scharfenkamp said. “We can’t adopt our way out of pet overpopulation.”
Currently, the top three needs at the dog and cat shelters are monetary donations, veterinarians to provide low-cost medical care and more volunteers to help with various shelter tasks.
“We can always use volunteers,” Ramos said. “People love to come and walk the dogs, but we also need people to clean the cat shelter and be a resource to reach out to business owners for help.
“Twilight Pizza in Camas has been great,” she added. “They recently held an event and donated a portion of their proceeds to WCGHS. We also need volunteers to go to the outreach events and to schools to show children how to properly treat an animal.”
Ramos added that the shelter is primarily volunteer based, so donations don’t cover overhead. These are also fully tax deductible.
“When people donate to us, they are truly giving it to the animals,” she said.