Agency seeks to keep the animals happy, healthy

There is no shortage of wet noses, wagging tails and furry paws at Clackamas County Dog Services.

The agency has been in its current location off of Highway 212 for three and a half years. Prior to that, it was in Oregon City for five decades.

“We love our new building,” Director Diana Hallmark said.

It is at this building that people can adopt dogs, renew licenses and make complaints about unruly canines.

Hallmark estimates that the department receives 200 to 300 calls a day, and sometimes as many as 400. All of those calls are handled by two employees, but Hallmark said they try to get back to people within 24 hours.

Within these walls are 53 rooms, which include rows of dogs available for adoption. There are, naturally, challenges involved in maintaining a sanitary facility under those conditions.

“It’s a ton of work on a daily basis,” Hallmark said.

To handle the workload, Dog Services has 15 full-time employees. That includes two field officers and three support staff members. The agency’s veterinarian and development officer are contract employees, and their numbers are bolstered by the activities of around 35 regular volunteers.

Staff members are present every day of the year, with at least two on hand during holidays.

Clean, fresh bedding is provided daily for the dogs, along with water, two meals and toys.

Adoption viewing at Dog Services takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The facility is closed to the public on Mondays and Sundays so staff members can do a more thorough cleaning and disinfecting than they do on a daily basis.

“We spring clean weekly, basically,” Hallmark said.

Dogs that are brought in are held for three days of they don’t have a license or identification and five days if they do. That way, the owners can come and claim their animals.

A lost and found bulletin board hangs on one of the building’s walls, complete with pictures of many missing dogs.

The overall emphasis of dog services is to keep the canines mentally and physically healthy.

“Dogs are creatures of routine,” Hallmark said. “In a shelter, that’s sometimes hard.”

An intake area has three cells, and police can bring dogs in through a side door after regular business hours. Hallmark said it usually takes around a day for staff members to assess a dog’s individual needs.

A surgery room is available to spay, neuter, do laceration repairs and simple surgeries. Amputations have even been done there for animals that needed it.

There also are isolation areas for dogs that prove to be less cooperative than others.

“Not all dogs are pleasant,” Hallmark said.

The trainer on staff evaluates the dogs that exhibit unusual behaviors and makes recommendations for placements.

“Our goal is to put nothing but stable animals back in the community,” Hallmark said.

Outside of the building is a backyard that includes three play areas, where would-be adopters get to meet and greet their potential pets. A separate meet and greet room is located inside for instances of inclement weather.

Hallmark, who has been director for 10 years, regularly brings her work home with her. In fact, she has four dogs that she has adopted from the shelter.

Scooter and Hannah accompany her to the office and serve in the agency’s ambassador program, which does 20 to 30 outreach events per year.

The department’s budget of around $1 million per year comes mostly out of the county general fund, though a foundation has been established to seek other methods of financial support.

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