Washington County hires new Animal Services Manager
When FBI agents arrested Rock Creek resident Jason Schaefer, now charged with attempting to blow up a Washington County Sheriff's Office deputy in October, someone had to take care of his cats.
He had eight of them — exotic bengals — living in his apartment. They had been in to the county's animal shelter in the past, and when law enforcement began moving on Shaefer's apartment, Washington County Animal Services was called to assist.
Randy Covey, the county's field services supervisor at the time, said Bonnie Hays Small Animal Shelter worked with Shaefer's attorney to place all eight cats in new homes.
"We had worked with him and his family on a previous incident, and he had learned to trust that we had the cats best interest in spite of the issues he was dealing with," Covey said.
This week, Covey took on a new job, heading the county's animal shelter, replacing longtime manager Deborah Wood. Wood led the shelter for nine years, during which Bonnie Hays developed a reputation going above-and-beyond to return lost pets to their owners.
The shelter has become a nationwide model because of the lengths to which workers go to reunite lost animals with their owners.
Under Wood, the shelter made a habit of checking Craigslst, social media and lost pet websites to see if animals in the shelter match descriptions online.
Most animal shelters average about 25 percent return rate for lost dogs, but Washington County boasts a 67 percent success rate, according to Wood.
"It was certainly something that attracted me to Washington County," Covey said. "It was a goal at the time that I started, and they've done a great job of improving the return-to-owner rate and the adoption rate. That's clearly something we're all proud of, and that is something I expect to continue."
Assisting federal law enforcement was a bit of a new curveball, Covey said, but the shelter is used to off-the-wall incidents on a daily basis. Sometimes it's just an injured animal, stray cat or aggressive dog, Covey said, but the job is never boring — part of the draw to working in animal welfare, Covey said.
Covey has more than three decades of experience in law enforcement and animal welfare, including director of disaster services for the Humane Society of the United States and with the law enforcement division of the Oregon Humane Society.
As the head of field services, he managed a team of six officers, responding to dog bites, abuse and neglect calls and routine welfare visits. Covey started working with animals in his home state of Alaska.
"Alaska was a great place to start my career and learn the ropes," he said.
Covey moved to Oregon to manage the shelter in Lane County for five years before starting a nine-year tenure with the Oregon Humane Society.
"I've had a lot of variety and a lot of experiences," he said. "I like to say that I've been very fortunate in my career. Some opportunities fell in my lap, but others I like to think I was wise enough to take advantage of."
Covey said he doesn't have immediate plans to change anything, but he intends to meet with stakeholders and ask for input on what they would like to see at the shelter.
"The strong partnerships [Wood] developed throughout the Metro area have been critical in making Washington County one of the safest places in the country to be a lost or homeless pet," Covey said.