Hillsboro animal shelter successfully reuniting lost pets with t - KPTV - FOX 12

Hillsboro animal shelter successfully reuniting lost pets with their owners

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A Washington County animal shelter is becoming a nationwide model for other shelters across the country, all because of the detective work they're doing to reunite lost pets with their owners.

Deborah Wood, Manager of Animal Services at the Bonnie Hays Animal Shelter in Hillsboro tells FOX 12 instead of waiting for owners to come to them, often times they take the lead in tracking them down.

"Our staff takes great pride in considering themselves pet detectives," said Deborah Wood. "Or, I should say pet owner detectives, we do a lot of things."

Shelter techs like Tamara Nichols spend hours trying to figure out where pets without collars, tags, or microchips belong.

The first step, she says, is to see if an owner has called to file a report of a missing pet with the shelter.

"I'll check the lost reports that we keep here at the shelter and look for the description of the animal and the location where it was found," said Nichols. "I'll look for the age of the animal, anything we can use to tie animals together."

Employees like Nichols will then check Craigslist, Facebook and other social media sites to see if anyone is posting online about a missing pet online that fits the description of a pet they have at the shelter.

"It's very surprising to see an ad posted on Facebook, or Craigslist, but the owners haven't made a report to the shelter," said Nichols.

It's because of that all that proactive work that the shelter has become an example to others across the country.

"For the average animal shelter, 25 percent of dogs that come in as strays are returned to their owners," said Wood. "Here in Washington County last year, it was an extraordinary 67 percent. We kind of think of that as statistically impossible, but we're doing it every day."

Those numbers that are turning heads.

The Society of Animal Welfare Administrators met in Portland back in November to learn about the shelter's techniques.

"The reason they chose to come to Portland was because we were the national model for this, so people were coming here to meet and talk with us. They wanted to learn what we do and how we do it, so they can take ideas home and make their communities better," said Wood.

It's work that is leading to a record number of happy reunions and a new phenomenon at the shelter.

"Sometimes people complain we don't have as many animals up for adoption as they'd like, that's because we're so successful in getting animals back to their owner that sometimes we don't have them up for adoption because they're back where they belong," said Wood. "We think that's a good problem to have and we'll take that any day."

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