Pet Improvement: Saving animal lives

Laura Braxling, director of the Lincoln County Animal Shelter, holds a kitty waiting to be adopted, (Courtesy photo)

The complexities of running shelters has taken new educational heights with veterinarians and other experts specializing in shelter medicine and behavior. Our own Lincoln County Animal Shelter director, Laura Braxling, has 18 years of animal welfare expertise, beginning as an attorney in Portland. She became impassioned during Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts and now dedicates herself full time.

Laura is trying to create a model for others to follow. She says the shelter will take in any animal. They do not limit this. There is no euthanasia for time and space. They have certified animal behaviorists who work with all the local veterinarians to evaluate dogs and cats.

Many people, although they can afford basic medical care for their pets, cannot afford the more advanced care nor the cost of extra services, such as trainers. Thus, they must surrender their pets. Sometimes there is an easy medical fix. If an animal suddenly starts acting differently, seek out a veterinarian. Dog aggression can be from pain, and inappropriate litter box use in cats, from infection.

When animals first arrive at the shelter, there is a window of about 24 to 72 hours where the cortisol or stress hormone levels are significantly elevated. They wait and let these pets settle down. Once into a regular routine, many pets respond quite differently to interaction.

To assess adoption potential, the shelter uses the Safety Assessment for Evaluating Rehoming protocol and other methods. Simple tests will determine behavior, such as resource guarding. This is aggression triggered by protectiveness over food and other possessions. They will use a fake hand to move the dog’s bowl around to see if there is a response. They also must determine if dogs will get along with other animals in the household or in some cases, livestock on a farm.

For cats, there is a constant overview of whether they can get along with others or need to be alone. So much depends on the individual personality. Some animals enjoy the community catteries, and some must have their own condo.

The tough situations are when dogs bite people. The shelter simply cannot risk re-homing pets that could cause harm, and, in these cases, they are euthanized. Laura is concerned that some people think the answer is complete isolation, but she does not agree with this. It’s all about quality of life. There is an ethical side to all of this.

With the upcoming Fourth of July, Laura wants people to be on guard, literally from the weekend before to the weekend after. This is the no. 1 holiday for lost pets in the country. Make sure that your fencing is secure with no holes or loose boards. Take pets out on lead for extra security. During fireworks, keep them in your home in a room that is locked away from the exits. Scared pets can and do run for miles from home. And all too frequently, good-hearted people pick them up and take them even further away.

For more information please go to www.co.lincoln.or.us/animalshelter/page/lost-and-found.

Jane Laulis is an avid pet lover. She hosts a pet talk radio show and is involved with pets from research to retail, nutrition to pet food manufacturing. She lives on the coast with her scientist husband, ocean faring dogs, indoor cats, exotic snakes and a charm of hummingbirds. She may be reached at [email protected]

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