Multnomah County temporarily stops taking in stray animals

By Alex Hasenstab (OPB)
Jan. 5, 2023 3:46 a.m. Updated: Jan. 5, 2023 7:54 p.m.

Capacity and staffing issues lead to the unprecedented decision

Multnomah County Animal Services is temporarily not accepting stray and lost animals as a number of factors, including overcrowding and low staffing, overwhelm the shelter.

Erin Grahek, division director of Multnomah County Animal Services, said the agency is hopeful a weeklong hiatus will keep the shelter from becoming overburdened, and will prevent the need to euthanize animals because of capacity issues.


The unprecedented situation, exacerbated by a surge in lost and stray pets over the holidays, when fireworks cause pets to run from their homes, has forced the agency to shift to a crisis standard of care. As of Wednesday the shelter has only five openings.

“We are, I think, willing to do short term hard things in order to move forward to grow animal services to the organization that we know that it can be,” Grahek said.


A lack of shelter capacity is a nationwide problem, according to operations manager Marian Cannell. Multnomah County will tap community partners to help handle overflow, she said, but other shelters are also dealing with capacity issues.

The pause in admissions will also help the agency fully prepare to resume in-person adoptions on Jan. 11. Adoptions moved online during the COVID-19 pandemic and have remained virtual ever since. Animal services did not open the shelter to the public earlier because critical staffing made day-to-day care of the animals difficult and meant there was not staff available to manage in-person adoptions, according to Cannell.

“But we’re at a point right now where we have to look at this as an option to get us into our next stages,” Cannell said.

Adopting and fostering animals is the best way to help the shelter at this time, staff said. In addition, Multnomah County Animal Services staff are asking anyone who already volunteers with an animal welfare organization to consider volunteering at the shelter to help assist with those pets already there.

The county will still assist community members who find stray animals, especially dangerous animals that pose a risk to people’s safety.

However, Grahek said, most stray animals are found within a small radius around their actual home. She encouraged community members who find a stray in the next week to attempt to find the animal’s owner.

People who find a pet are advised to check the pet for a Multnomah County license tag. People can search Lost Reports to view animals reported lost by their owner, and submit a Found Report. People can search for the animal’s owner on popular community pages such as Craigslist and Nextdoor and look out for lost pet signs in their neighborhoods. Lost pets can also be scanned for a microchip at a vet’s office. To keep a found animal as a pet, there are certain steps you must legally take, which are outlined in the Multnomah County Ordinance.


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