ashland.news
May 26, 2024

Community forum set Tuesday on future of stray, unwanted animals in Jackson County

The Jackson County Animal Shelter along South Pacific Highway between Phoenix and Talent. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
April 21, 2024

County officials, meanwhile, are in midst of gauging support from communities about animal services district to fund construction of a new shelter

By Buffy Pollock, Rogue Valley Times

A community forum on the future of the Jackson County animal shelter — and stray or unwanted dogs and cats, in general — is set for Tuesday at the Medford library.

The event at 5:30 p.m. is being hosted by an informal group of community members and shelter volunteers with concerns, they say, over the past year’s worth of happenings at the regional shelter located between Phoenix and Talent. 

County Administrator Danny Jordan and Health and Human Service Director Stacy Brubaker both indicated that they do not plan to attend Tuesday’s forum. The library is at 205 S. Central Ave., Medford.

Denise Krause, a shelter volunteer and a Democratic primary candidate in the race to replace retiring Jackson County Commissioner Dave Dotterrer, is working alongside Applegate resident Laura Ahearn. The women, both of whom are involved in the “Jackson County for All” initiative, created a Facebook group last year dubbed Jackson County OR Shelter Info.

Krause said the focus of the Tuesday meeting is to discuss the current status of the shelter and to let community members and local animal advocate groups — including other shelters and rescue groups — gather information and voice concerns.

The meeting comes on the heels of a recent announcement that the county will present information to various cities to gauge support for an animal services district that would fund construction of a new shelter and future operations.

County officials announced the regional shelter was at capacity earlier this month, with over 120 dogs being housed — the shelter is built to accommodate 86. County officials warned in an April 3 news release that the shelter would need to euthanize animals for space if the numbers were not reduced quickly.

Local rescue groups and residents responded by adopting and transferring dogs from the shelter over the next 24 hours. Shelter officials and community members, including volunteers for Friends of the Animals, reported between 12 and 17 animals had been euthanized “for space,” but county officials said recent euthanasias had not been ordered for space.

The past year has brought a slew of changes and challenges for the county-run shelter, beginning with a policy change last March, preventing Friends of the Animal Shelter volunteers from walking dogs on Mondays, when the shelter was already closed to the general public.

Volunteers appealed to Jackson County commissioners, during weekly meetings for most of 2023, voicing concerns about the Monday policy and other issues, including cleanliness and overcrowding at the shelter.

In December, Friends of the Animal Shelter Executive Director Sky Loos announced FOTAS was “dropping the S” and would expand its mission statement, which had been focused on the county shelter since 1991, in favor of a more regional focus.

In late February, Loos announced that county officials had rescinded the “no Mondays” volunteer dog-walking policy, stating that volunteers could return to Monday dog walks beginning March 4. Loos, just weeks later, announced her resignation in order to do “what’s best for myself and my family.” Her last day as FOTAs director was April 5.

Krause said Tuesday’s forum is geared at discussing the current state of the shelter, exploring alternatives and “involving the community in the process.”

“We want to show some possibilities about what we could do. We want to get people’s input. We’re going to give some time for each of the stakeholder organizations to come up and say what they do here in the valley and how they think things could be better,” Krause said.

“We have no specific plans as of right now. The only option that’s been put on the table is a service district, which we think is the worst option. So we basically have a blank slate, a blank canvas, so let’s give people who do this kind of work every day and people who are invested in animals, a chance to weigh in and dream up what could be.”

Krause said county officials were not sent a special invitation to the forum but that she hoped they would choose to attend. Krause said the group of community members facilitating Tuesday’s forum is informally organized, for now.

“Right now, it’s just a bunch of concerned citizens, but we do plan to come up with a group name, which we’ll talk about on Tuesday,” Krause said.

“For now, we’re just gonna try this little thing where you actually involve the public as part of the decision-making decision, which we haven’t been seeing from our county officials. … I don’t think they realize it, but they stepped in a hornet’s nest because people in Southern Oregon really love animals.”

Reach reporter Buffy Pollock at 458-488-2029 or bpollock@rv-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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