cute kittens
The Truth about Coos County Shelter Statistics

2000 Coos stats

2000 Oregon Shelter comparison

Background on Stats   by Lisa Wahl  (written August 2004)

I know, a lot of people only see the cute faces of the animals at the Shelter, and it's a tragedy if even one animal deserving of a home has to die.  But, I admit, I'm a numbers person.  And it's the numbers that tell me a lot about where the problems are and what can be done to fix them.

I first started volunteering at my local shelter (Hawthorne, CA) in 1987, and they made their statistics public monthly.  Lots of people know about Kitten Season.  Because cats tend to breed seasonally, even in mild climates like ours, shelters everywhere are flooded with kittens during the summer months, while there are few around at Christmas, when so many people are looking to give them as presents.  We used to joke that, if only we could put them in suspended animation for a few a months . . .cuty puppy

The numbers at the Hawthorne shelter were staggering.  Just about every month, 100 cats were adopted from the shelter.  In December, only about 100 came in, so very few animals had to be euthanized.  But in July, 900 cats came in.  That tells you a lot about how many healthy, adorable kittens have to be euthanized just because too few cats are spayed or neuter.

Fast forward to December 2000, after I'd been in Oregon a few years and getting involved in some Coos County animal rescue work, I started asking about our shelter statistics. I went to the shelter and asked, and found out that, while they had the dog records on computer, they had only guestimates on cats.  Mostly, I was wondering about the Kitten Season numbers.  I thought if I could tell people about those same kind of numbers here, at our very own shelter, that it would convince people to have their pets neutered.

I asked if I could look through the records to determine the stats, and was told, "They're public records.  I couldn't stop you if I wanted."

It was not easy.  I must have spent about 40 hours over the course of the next few months trying to pull out the numbers.  And going home and crying.  Even not seeing the faces, I was still pouring over all those records with such sad excuses for why people brought in their animals to have them killed. 

The euthanasia records were carefully kept.  Because that involves controlled substances, they legally have to be.  I know the figures I have for those are correct.  But finding out how many cats came in or were adopted out was far more difficult and I don't know how accurate those final numbers were.

Let me take a moment here to talk about blame.  The shelter staff is wonderful and they're doing their best.  They don't kill animals because they think it's fun.  It's the job that we, the voters, pay them to do. 

The Coos County shelter is understaffed and underfunded.  It's run by the Sheriff's Dept and they have a lot of other things to do.  Their training and their priorities are not matched to running an animal shelter.  The Coos County Commissioners set the shelter budget, but they act in accordance with the wishes of the voters.

And even a well-funded, fully staffed shelter wouldn't be enough. The problem is too many animals and not enough homes.  It's a problem for every animal shelter in the country.  It's  less in some areas, especially those that are more affluent and urban, where there have been spay/neuter programs in place for many years.  But it is not the fault of the shelter.

I must also point out that there's been a change in shelter staff since I gathered these stats, and there many other changes.

For 2000, there's information on the web for most of the shelters in Oregon at:

I asked them where they got the stats for our shelter, when I'd had such a hard time getting them.  Our shelter had given them an estimate by doing a count for one month (May) and multiplying by 12.  You may notice the numbers for dogs are close to mine, but, because of Kitten Season, quite different for cats. 

I did some comparisons with other shelters.  While our shelter's euthanasia rate is much higher than Oregon's average or the national average, it's actually pretty typical of rural Oregon's shelters.

But some people do blame our shelter and shelter staff for these numbers, and the Sheriff's Dept now refuses to release any statistics or to allow anyone to look at the records.  I may say I even approached the Sheriff's office with a paper I offered to sign stating I would not release my findings to the public without his permission, but I was still denied access.  Given what I was told initially, and what I've read on the net about the Oregon Public Records Act I don't think this is quite legal, but haven't yet attempted to force the issue.

(I notice that Clackamas County even puts their statistics on their web page.

However, anyone who will spend a day at the shelter during kitten season can count how many are brought in and how many adopted out and conclude that the problem has gotten worse since 2000, not better.

You can help turn all this around.

  1. Spay or neuter your pets
  2. Talk to your friends, neighbors and family about the importance of spay/neuter
  3. Join All 4 Animals to bring high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter services to Coos County

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