Washougal animal shelter plans first Friday open houses

WCGHS staff hope events increase adoption rates

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WCGHS in Washougal has seen its adoption rates drop in 2023. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

In 2021, the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society (WCGHS) commissioned one of its volunteers to create a short promotional video, titled, “A Day in the Life of the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society,” for the animal shelter.

WCGHS Executive Director Micki Simeone was shocked when she saw it.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy,’” she said. “To show in a matter of a couple of minutes everything that we do? It blew my mind, and I’m the executive director. We really do so much (even though) we are a small shelter. (I started thinking that) more people in the community need to know more about who we are and what we do. We don’t just adopt out animals. We have community programs and services that can help everybody.”

To help enlighten the community about the local animal shelter’s work, the WCGHS has decided to host an “open house” from 12:30 to 5 p.m. on the first Friday of every month at its dog and cat shelters in an effort to educate community members about its work.

“We had such great success with the open house that we held (in late July) as part of the PetSmart National Adoption Week,” Simeone said. “We opened the shelter for the entire week and got a lot of great feedback, so we decided that we would hold an open house the first Friday of every month so that people can come in and meet the animals, meet the staff, meet the volunteers. We can basically (provide) more transparency as to what WCGHS does, what we’re all about, the resources we provide to the community, and educate the community on basic animal care and how (they can) help stop the pet overpopulation problem.”

The shelter is open from 12:30 to 5 p.m. every Tuesday through Saturday by appointment only.

“We have normal operating hours that we hold, but we only open to the public certain hours because there’s so much animal care and cleaning and things that need to happen before we can actually start letting people in for appointments and meet-and-greets,” Simeone said.

“We want to be able to have an open-door (policy) with people. We just can’t do that during the week because we have a small staff and we are inundated with animals and we don’t have big buildings with nice waiting rooms and spacious places. People get frustrated with us, but really, we’re not trying to not be open. It’s just that we don’t have enough space, and the animals have to come first.”

The open-house sessions, which began Aug. 4, will provide shelter staff a chance to focus on the public without sacrificing their responsbilities to the shelter animals, Simeone said.

“Before the pandemic, it was really hard to balance taking care of the animals and meeting the public needs,” she said. “The pandemic allowed us to really focus on the animals and then work with the people by appointment.”

The shelter’s adoption rates have dropped by 23% over the past year, Simeone said.

“During the pandemic, there was a record number of animals that were either purchased or adopted. Then people went back to work and back to their regular lives, and a lot of the dogs … developed separation anxiety (and) some behavior issues. During the pandemic, there were not a lot of veterinary services, so we have a lot of unaltered animals running around. … Even though the pandemic’s over, the veterinary industry has taken a huge hit — there are major staffing shortages. Now veterinary clinics are open, but people can’t get their pets in. Or the prices for spaying and neutering are so high people can’t afford it. We have more accidental litters happening, and basic services are not being met, so it’s creating more animals in the world, and there’s not enough space for the shelters to house them. And there’s a slowdown in adoptions.”

For more information, visit or call 360-835-3464.