Kennel stress and facility improvements at Jackson County Animal Shelter

Read part 1 of this 2 part story here.

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. – The Jackson County Animal Shelter is not only home to animal control services for the county but also a home for many dogs and cats waiting for adoption.

While kennels are not the ideal environment for these animals, steps are being taken right now by many to help reduce kennel stress.

“This is an older facility, it does not currently meet the standards that a new facility would have,” said Animal Services Program Manager Kim Casey.

Considered by the county to be an antiquated facility, the Jackson County Animal Shelter has been a topic of concern for some in the community.

Along with enrichment access and time outdoors, concerns about the kennels themselves have also surfaced, especially with overcrowding.

Shelter staff say overcrowding, one of the main factors in kennel stress, is something they don’t have control over.

“The biggest variable that we have is how many dogs we have at a given time and that is completely up to the universe,” said Shelter Supervisor Lauren Burke.

Dr. Susan Koneckny, a retired veterinarian in the Rogue Valley, says kennel stress can be especially devastating for dogs in inadequate living conditions.

“There are studies that go all the way back to the 1970s and the 1980s talking about how important it is for shelter animals to have you know daily exercise, daily human contact,” said Dr. Koneckny.

Dr. Koneckny adds it isn’t enough for animals to just get out to have their kennels cleaned each day… They need active outdoor enrichment with people and other animals.
“A shelter is such a stressful environment for an animal,” Dr. Koneckny said.

Kennel stress is one of the big concerns.

FOTAS volunteers say they see it in one form or another at the shelter, which is why they’re so concerned the county closed the shelter to them on Mondays this year.

“Some of the dogs are jumping in circles in their kennels around and around and around,” commented Linda Barnett, a former FOTAS volunteer.  “Some of them are depressed and they just hover in the corner.  Some of them are continually barking. Some are trying to get out of the kennels and they’ll try to jump over the top.”

The Association of Shelter Veterinarians says dog kennels with indoor and outdoor access are ideal, especially when animals are held long-term.

While this is currently not the case at the Jackson County Animal Shelter, staff say they do what they can.

The shelter’s plans to add outdoor space are currently in the works.

“We do have limited space outside,” said Candy Jackson, a current kennel attendant at the shelter.

That’s one reason the county has operated a foster program out of the shelter for years.

But in order for a dog to be eligible for foster, Lauren Burke says they have to meet certain criteria set forth by the county.

“We’ve identified this animal would do better in foster if it meets these set of criteria,” Burke said. “We try to apply that objectively to the entire population here so that we’re making sure that we give everybody the best care possible.”

The shelter recently hired a new foster care coordinator in hopes it will help more dogs move out of the shelter.

“That position is really much more than just foster,” said Health and Human Services Director Stacy Brubaker.

On top of working with FOTAS to encourage foster care placement, the new coordinator also works to get animals transferred to other facilities and promotes animals on social media.

“We know it’s not good for dogs or cats to be in a shelter,” Brubaker added. “It’s a chaotic environment, it’s stressful for them, so we really believe that length of stay is one of the primary ways to be able to minimize that.”

County officials say the animal shelter is primarily funded through licensing fees and donations, with county reserves stepping in to match any unmet needs.

“What we used to would have put towards the shelter has increased,” Brubaker said.

Brukaber says this increase is due to a change in how staffing was handled.

“Right now we have two technicians on staff. We’re hiring for an additional technician, we’d like to have 3 or 4 technicians,” Burke said.

The shelter lost its no-kill status earlier this year after going down to an 89% adoption rate.

Now it’s up to 92% and is once again considered a no-kill shelter.

Brubaker says about a year ago, a contract between the shelter’s board of trustees and Animal Services ended, leaving the county in charge of hiring shelter staff.

Alongside these administrative changes, facility improvements are also underway at the shelter.

“Some of the changes that we made have been designed to facilitate working with the design that we have and other things have been done to work around the restrictions or limitations that we have from the facility itself,” said Kim Casey.

Right now, the shelter is rebuilding part of the outdoor enclosure originally destroyed in the Almeda Fire.

It hopes the new structure will also protect the dogs outdoor area from extreme temperatures.

“It’s very dynamic you know as things arise we are like how can we make things better, how can we change things?” said Burke.

While the county is taking steps to improve the facility, the appearance of a frayed relationship with FOTAS, a powerful non-profit with hundreds of volunteers, exists today.

The county won’t say much about the current relationship with the non-profit, only that its policy on canceling volunteer hours Monday is just that: policy.

What we do know is this has been a controversial subject much of the year and we will keep you informed with new information as it comes to light.

Anyone interested in adopting an animal at the Jackson County Animal Shelter can stop by Tuesday through Friday from 11a.m. to 4p.m. and on weekends from noon to 4p.m.

No appointment is needed for adoption services or licensing.

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Taylar Ansures is a producer and reporter for NBC5 News. Taylar is from Redding, California and went to California State University, Chico. After graduating, she joined KRCR News Channel 7 in Redding as a morning producer. She moved to Southern Oregon in 2022 to be closer to family and became KTVL News 10’s digital producer. Taylar is currently finishing her Master's Degree in Professional Creative Writing through the University of Denver. In her free time, Taylar frequents independent bookstores and explores hiking trails across Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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