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Animals in Okanogan County are Suffering

On Friday, Dec 2, animal rescue groups, local officials, and community members from throughout Okanogan County gathered to discuss local animal welfare issues. The event was organized by Team Okanogan Animal Rescue, a new group working to support existing organizations. A large contingent of community members gathered at 12 Tribes Casino to share concerns, problem solve, and offer suggestions. Rescuers shared with officials the pressing need for drastic upgrades. “We need change,” said Jill Servais with Team Okanogan. “Many of the people leading the rescues have been doing so for over forty years. The situation is not improving and we need to slow down the pipeline of animals coming from Okanogan County.”

Many speakers, including County Commissioner Chris Branch, Omak Police Chief Dan Christensen, Okanogan County Sheriff Elect Paul Budrow, former Okanogan County Sheriff Animal Control Officer Dave Yarnell, and Stacie Ventura, Executive Director of NOAH, recognized the need for a county shelter, updated animal ordinances, and more animal control officers. The problem is supported by the numbers: In 2021, Animal Foster Care Cat Shelter took in 1,300 cats and kittens. In 2022, they have already taken in close to 1,500 animals. Additionally, 1,200 dogs and puppies were taken into rescues in 2021. Many of these cats and dogs required advanced medical care and costly operations. Animals taken in by rescues require vaccinations, medication, and spay/neuter surgeries. The cost per animal is substantial and adoption fees don’t even begin to cover the expenses. Shelters and rescues are operating at “over-full” capacity and are having to turn animals away; most have a waiting list that will take months - if not years - to clear.

Additionally, calls to law enforcement from concerned citizens highlight the need for expanded services. Omak Police Chief Dan Christensen stated there were over 900 animal calls to dispatch in 2022 from January to November, compared to 840 theft calls. “The public is calling, but there is no funding to help animals,” Christensen said. “It’s not a priority.”

Okanogan County Sheriff Elect Paul Budrow stated he was shocked at the lack of resources available for animals. Animal welfare has not been prioritized, and as a result the area is overrun with dogs and cats. “The first step is educating the public on the severity of the issue,” Budrow said. Dog ordinances in Okanogan County only exist in two very small areas, one road in Oroville and part of the Methow Valley, so enforcement is limited. Fines are outdated and not enforced, facilities are run down or non-existent, and there are only three animal control officers responsible for thousands of square miles. Ken Miller, Colville Confederated Tribal ACO, works closely with area rescues to find places to take dogs. Jeremy Patrick, City of Okanogan ACO and Josiah Lamb, City of Omak ACO work with area rescuers to find foster families for animals they take in because the city facilities are severely outdated. Misty Ruiz, City of Brewster, stated they have a contract with Okandogs to pick up impounded dogs instead of euthanizing them.

Residents of Okanogan County can help by being responsible pet owners and spaying or neutering their animals. One unaltered cat can lead to over two million cats in a twelve year time period, and one unaltered dog can lead to 67,000 dogs in a six year time period. In October, with the assistance of Animal Balance and a private veterinarian, Okanogan Regional Humane was able to alter, vaccinate, and microchip over 250 animals during five days. Due to the generosity of donors, there was no cost to owners for these services. This will help with overpopulation, but it’s only a start. In the future, Team Okanogan plans to offer more spay/neuter clinics to citizens of Okanogan County. Team Okanogan is planning events in the future…email to be notified of future events, or contact Okanogan Regional Humane to be placed on a waitlist:

In the meantime, you can help locally and support area rescues!

Ways you can help:

  • Spay/neuter your pets and encourage others to do the same

  • Adopt! Rescues are overflowing with animals looking for a home

  • Vaccinate your animals – prevention is cheaper than treating deadly viruses like canine parvo and feline panleukopenia that are rampant in Okanogan County

  • Volunteer your time to your local animal rescue groups

  • Donate money or supplies directly to local rescues

  • Foster animals in your home; every rescue in the county is at capacity and foster homes are desperately needed

  • Offer your professional services - rescues need veterinarians, contractors, social media assistance, accountants, etc.

  • Follow local Facebook rescue pages and share with others – spread the word and amplify the need

  • Advocate for updating the existing animal ordinances, laws, and fines.

  • Contact state and local officials and express support for funds to be allocated for domestic animal issues, animal control officers, facilities and other resources.

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