News - Panhandle Animal Shelter

Panhandle Animal Shelter Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

We’ve received a lot of questions about shelter operations since the pandemic has changed life and business for everyone. In the spirit of transparency and full-disclosure, we compiled a list of the most common questions we have received and provide answers to those questions below:

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PAS is following the recommendations of industry leaders and shelter veterinarian experts. Here are links to the recommendations:

What is the mission of the Panhandle Animal Shelter?

To create and support meaningful connections by enhancing the lives of dogs, cats, and the people in our community who love them.

At PAS we believe sheltering pets should be the last resort. Our goal is to reduce the need for pets to be sheltered by offering proactive programs that support the connection between people and their pets including:

  • Pets for Life (PFL): PFL is a grassroots approach to meeting our communities needs. A dedicated team member works within specific neighborhoods knocking on doors offering access to free services to community members and their pets. These services include spay and neuter surgeries, vaccines, pet food, supplies, and minor medical. Currently our program is working with 800+ clients and our focus area is in Sagle.  
  • Helpline: Members of the community can call our helpline to ask questions, discuss medical and training needs, or to request assistance with their pets. This program is expected to field 2400 inquiries this year.
  • Home To Home (HH): HH is an online pet rehoming program supported by PAS. This program was created by PAS to provide our community with an alternative to surrendering to the shelter. Due to Covid-19, PAS has limited the number of animals in our facility and has been asking people to utilize this program (in non-emergency situations only) before surrendering to the shelter. As of November 11, 2020, HH has helped with 450 adoptions this year.
  • Pet food bank: Our pet food bank provides free dog and cat food to pets in need. On average our food bank provides 7 tons of dog and cat food to community members each year.
  • Voucher program for spay/neuter: PAS assists people with getting their pets spayed and neutered by providing low cost spay and neuter vouchers to community members to use at local vet clinics. Over 480 subsidized vouchers have been provided to our community this year.
  • Temporary Loving Care (TLC):  Our TLC program provides temporary boarding for pets of domestic violence victims and for individuals who have to be admitted into the hospital for care and have no friends of family to watch their pet. During the Covid-19 pandemic, PAS has also assisted people who are experiencing homelessness and are in need of temporary assistance with housing their pets.

Q: How many animals have been sheltered at PAS this year?

The shelter housed over 1000 animals in our building this year. To date, PAS has assisted over 4000 community members (human or four-legged) in 2020 through internal operations and through our community-based programs.

Q: Are you planning to stop sheltering animals or switch your focus to be primarily medical?

No, we do not plan on removing the sheltering aspect of our work. Our goal is to work with our community to help people keep their pets and bridge their access to the resources they need to care for their pet. This will reduce the number of animals needing to be sheltered. We plan to continue to meet the needs of community members who require assistance with their pets medical needs, but we do not foresee this being a primary function of our organization. 

Q: The shelter doesn’t have as many animals in it as it used to. What has changed?

You’re right – there are fewer animals in the shelter, and this is a good thing. Years ago, you could come to PAS and see every kennel full and all of our cat rooms overflowing. It looked like we were doing great work because there were a lot of animals in the shelter. However, we only assisted 1200 animals a year and the cages were full because dogs and cats stayed with us for months to years. This led to higher incidence of animal illness and behavior degeneration. In 2019, prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we helped 2500 animals in our building and even though we help more, we commonly hear the community ask where all the animals are. This is because the average length of time animals stay with us has been reduced by 77%. Animals in the shelter are healthier due to our strict medical protocols and our adoption and return to owner practices have improved. Dogs and cats entering into our building move through our system faster and this allows us to assist more animals. 

Q: Where can we see your 990’s?

PAS hires an outside auditing firm to audit our financials. Our 990s can be found here:

Q: Are you spaying and neutering now?

Yes, but not at the volume we usually do. At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were instructed to stop all elective surgical procedures to help preserve supplies for critical surgical needs coming into our shelter and for human medicine. (Association of Animal Welfare Advancement letter from Dr. Julie Levy here.) Not only were supplies limited but there was and still is a human risk involved with surgery. We work in very close quarters with each other when we are anesthetizing and prepping an animal for surgery. We continue to spay and neuter animals who enter the shelter and pets who are clients of our Pets for Life program. However, we have temporarily suspended our higher volume spay and neuter clinics, specifically for our Trap-Neuter-Return(TNR) program that serves community cats. Since 2016, PAS has partnered with our community to spay/neuter approximately 800+ community cats a year. This has been difficult for our team who has worked diligently for years to accomplish litter reductions, but when restrictions on supplies and safety of our team members is less of an issue, we are confident in our ability to catch up.

In some cases, we have adopted out unaltered (not spayed and neutered) animals and so far, 100% of the people who have adopted these animals have returned them for spay and neuter surgeries.

Q: Do you have a grant to cover your TNR surgeries?

No, not currently.  In 2016, we were awarded a grant from PetSmart Charities to perform TNR and between 2017 and 2019, we altered over 2500 cats with the funds.  These surgeries are now paid for through our general operating budget. To help offset the costs of these surgeries, we ask the public to make a $10.00 donation per cat they bring in to be altered.

Q: What has been the effect of the pandemic on the staff and volunteers?

This has been a hard year for everyone at the shelter. Our staff and volunteers have been personally impacted by the virus, stay at home orders, unemployment challenges, and changes to protocols, schedules, and policies that have been implemented to help us continue to serve the community. 

The result of these challenges have been PAS having to reduce the number of animals it can have in the building because of reduced staff and limited PPE. For example, some weeks we have not had enough staff to remain open to the public and take care of the animals in the shelter. We have made progress on hiring and training new staff, and then setbacks have occurred such as staff turnover or exposure to the virus requiring staff to stay home and self isolate. 

PAS staff pride themselves in their work and the impact they make in the community. 

For the past six years we have continually exceeded the number of animals served in our community, but this year has been different as we have had to reduce the number of animals we can serve, temporarily suspend certain programs (like TNR), and modify our operations in ways that reduce the opportunities we have to engage with our community. This, along with additional changes, have been a challenge for staff who passionately wish to help as many animals as possible.

Q: How many volunteers are you down, and how does this pandemic affect our Thrift store customers? 

Pre COVID_19 volunteers per week:  (not including events)

o   4-6 dog walkers

o   2-8 cat care/socialization

o   3-6 thrift store/sorting facility

o   A guess on outreach combined is 20+

o   Total: 29 – 40


o   2-3 dog walkers

o   3 cat care/socialization

o   3 thrift store/sorting facility

o   3 PFL Volunteers

o   Total: 12-13

Only 13 of our valued volunteers are actively volunteering and this is mostly due to Covid-19 concerns. Many of our volunteers fall into high-risk categories, and are staying home to protect themselves from getting sick. We have had several people inquire about volunteering and we maintain a list of volunteers who are currently on standby for when we can host orientations again. We are also working on producing a virtual volunteer orientation. To sign up to volunteer, people can go to and submit an application.

Q: Is it true that PAS doesn’t take in strays?

No, PAS has a long history of helping stray animals.

○       2019, 840 stray cats and 336 stray dogs

○       2018, 778 stray cats and 371 stray dogs

○       2017, 791 stray cats and 317 stray dogs

This year has challenged our ability to take in cats because of our handling protocol at intake. We follow best practices set by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) to avoid spreading disease to animals in the shelter and animals coming in from the community. We carefully follow these best practices because puppies/kittens are vulnerable to disease and these safety standards help prevent the transmission of fatal diseases.  Our ability to help largely depends on our ability to safely bring them in for exams, vaccines and deworming and get them into foster care immediately.

The challenge with litters of kittens versus puppies is the volume coming into the shelter. For example, we will have 10 litters of kittens in one day compared to one litter of puppies per quarter. In 2019, in one day, we took in 108 cats/kittens and during the course of five months, we took in 840 cats. This demands a significant amount of resources (both staffing and supplies) and at this time, we do not have the resources to intake kittens like we usually can. 

Currently, PAS will intake sick, injured, or owner surrendered cats and kittens where housing or owner health is a factor. PAS also continues to intake stray dogs. 

Q. I’ve seen that the shelter is struggling. What can I do to help?

  • Foster –
  •  Give during Wishlist Wednesday
  • Donate to our store
  • Sew us gowns using this pattern Small and Large needed. 

Q: What exactly is the policy for kittens?

PAS continues to take in sick, injured, adoption returns or owner surrendered animals where housing or owner health is a factor. Under our modified intake policy, we have been asking people who find kittens (especially those who are still nursing) to be taken back to where they were found as long as they are of a healthy weight and look cared for. We are asking that healthy looking adult cats be returned to where they were found as they are most likely an owned cat. “Stray” cats are normally found three houses down from where they live and are 12 times more likely to find their way home without shelter intervention.  Our shelter is in line with the national average that only 3% of owners come to the shelter to reclaim their cats. You can find more information about this approach here or below.

These practices are well supported by animal welfare organizations like Best Friends Animal Society, Humane Society of the United States, The Million Cat Challenge, the University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine Program, and others. You can learn more about these practices below:

For cats who are a part of a community cat population, we will work with the community to spay and neuter them when our Trap-Neuter-Return program resumes. 

Q: During Covid, how have my donations been being used?

 PAS serves people and animals in a wide range of ways and has continued to provide support to pet owners in as many ways as possible during Covid-19.  PAS has significantly increased its investment in supportive programs like the helpline, which is on track to serve 2400 animals in 2020 compared with 1800 in 2019. The helpline provides free food, supplies, support, and medical care for people’s pets in need. This is a supportive program that prevents people from needing to surrender animals to the shelter, and we pride ourselves in being able to help people and pets in need through this program. We also continue to offer our Pets for Life program, a program that focuses on supporting people and pets in underserved neighborhoods with their pet related needs. Throughout Covid-19, the program has provided everything from food, vaccines, and pet supplies to life-saving medical care for people’s pets and is currently serving over 800 pets. Donations of pet food are also being put to good use and are distributed to people in need through our pet food bank, our Pets for Life program, our helpline, and to the animals who are staying at the shelter. In 2019, PAS distributed over 7 tons of pet food to the community. 

Within the walls of the shelter, we continue to care for animals with complex behavioral or medical needs and provide support for foster families caring for pets until they are ready to be adopted. To date, we have assisted 1000 animals in the shelter in 2020.

Q: Does PAS have paid staff?

Yes, PAS has paid staff. While volunteers contribute to the overall success of the shelter in significant ways, our operations depend on veterinary technicians, a full-time veterinarian, and support staff to provide a high standard of care for the animals in our care. We also have staff responsible for our programs, operating our thrift store, communications, development, and managing front-end operations. These staff are vital to our growth and success as an organization, and as with any organization, recruitment and retention of trained and experienced staffing is a large portion of our annual budget.

We compete with the private sector for qualified staff. We want great, knowledgeable, experienced team members and we need to recruit and retain them, which means that we need to pay competitive salaries. Salaries are researched based on expectations, qualifications, experience, and education.

If you would like a deeper dive into our financials, you can review our 990, an annual tax form we submit to the IRS, which is available to the public.

Q: The shelter looks empty. I see other shelters transferring animals in – why doesn’t PAS do this?

PAS is the partner shelter for Post Falls Animal Shelter. When dogs have reached the end of their stray hold in Post Falls, the shelter transfers to us to allow for more space for their community stray dogs. During October, we transferred three dogs from Post Falls. All were spayed/neutered and adopted.

Shelters operate differently, with different models. At PAS, we focus on working with other rescues and shelters in the state of Idaho versus working with out of state facilities. Except in special circumstances, PAS does not transfer dogs from out of state. This preserves resources to serve local and regional animals.

We are members of the founding governing board of the Idaho Shelter Coalition. The Coalition was formed to help the State of Idaho become a no-kill state by 2025. A no-kill state means that healthy treatable animals would not be euthanized to create space in shelters. We received acknowledgment by Best Friends Animal Society for reducing euthanasia in the state of Idaho by 50%. We are proud to support Idaho shelters in an effort to reach this goal.

Q: What happens when a stray dog comes in and how long do you keep it before it can be adopted?

PAS makes all reasonable attempts to reunite lost pets with their owners. In fact, our return to owner rate for stray dogs is 85% compared with a 15% national average. 

When a dog is brought to the shelter as a stray, we scan it for a microchip. If it is microchipped or has a collar with identification, we’ll attempt to get in contact with the owner. We also post the dog on our Facebook page and place an ad in the Bonner County Daily Bee newspaper, CDA Press, and Bonners Ferry Herald. 

In the state of Idaho, shelters are required to hold a stray dog for three days. PAS holds all stray dogs for five days in hopes of reuniting the dog with its owner. If after five days the dog is not claimed and the pet is a candidate for adoption, it becomes available for adoption.

Q: I adopted a dog on Home To Home, and he needs to be neutered, but I can’t afford it. What do I do?

We offer a voucher program on a sliding fee scale that allows people to get a voucher from PAS to use at a participating veterinarian. Call the shelter and we help by providing a voucher for you to use at a participating clinic.

Q: What are you doing to help when a person needs to surrender their pet?

Our animal intake policy has been modified due to Covid-19 due to limited staffing and national shortages on medical supplies and personal protective equipment required to keep animals safe and healthy. PAS will intake animals immediately when:

  1. The animal was adopted from PAS and needs to be returned.
  2. The owner is moving within a two-week period.
  3. The owner has a critical or acute health issue that limits their ability to care for the animal.
  4. The animal is aggressive toward other animals or people (this needs to be carefully assessed by PAS’s veterinarian and management prior to PAS accepting the animal)

In all other circumstances, PAS is asking pet owners with non-urgent surrender needs to consider using Home to Home for two weeks prior to PAS taking the animal into the shelter. PAS provides free support (food, supplies, etc.) to help people keep their pets while they are listed on Home To Home. In many cases, animals are rehomed within a few days, preventing animals from having to enter the shelter and reducing the burden on the shelter’s limited staff and resources.

Q: Does PAS manage the dog park?

PAS does not manage the Ponderay Pet Safe Dog Park. This park is operated by the City of Ponderay. Concerns of suspicious behavior should be reported to the City of Ponderay or the Ponderay Police Department.

Q: I see comments about PAS being short staffed. Can you update us on open necessary paid and volunteer positions? What is being done to fill them?

We are currently seeking veterinary technicians and staff to assist with animal intake. These positions are in high demand and there is a national shortage. Locally, PAS competes with veterinary clinics for these positions and posts positions on Facebook and using search engines. 

This is an urgent need, and we are actively seeking applicants to our posted positions. If you are interested in learning more about our employment opportunities, email 

11 Tips to Make Sure Your Dog Doesn’t Gain Weight During Winter

By Cynthia Garcia (guest author)

The winter months are synonymous with shying away from the outdoors and cozying up near the fireplace with our pets. In fact, studies have confirmed that human beings and their pets tend to add weight in winter. And with the days being colder and shorter, taking long walks with our dogs is not as appealing as in spring and summer.

Instead of hibernating indoors and allowing your pet to gain weight, why don’t you look for creative solutions to help him burn the extra energy? After all, struggling with your dog to lose the extra weight in spring is way harder than preventing winter weight gain. So here are a few tips to help keep your dog healthy and fit during the winter months.

Image by rihaij from Pixabay

Tips for Making Sure Your Dog Doesn’t Gain Weight in Winter

  1. Get Your Dog’s Pre-Winter Health Report

Before the cold winter months start, make sure you take your dog to the vet and get a pre-winter cold report. You can also ask the vet if your dog has any health issues that can predispose him to gain weight. The vet can help you set some health goals for your pet and recommend some winter workouts routines.

  1. Adjust Your Furry Pal’s Diet to His Seasonal Needs

The cold winter months bring new challenges and changes that each pooch must face. So unless your dog stays active he probably won’t require more calories. So make sure you adjust your dog’s calorie intake with his winter activity level and current weight.

  1. Monitor Your Dog’s Weight and Make Adjustments When Necessary

Before the winter starts, you can find out your dog’s weight and then monitor any fluctuation during the winter months. Knowing your dog’s current condition can help you set weight goals for your dog and develop ways to prevent weight gain. Tracking your dog’s progress can show you if your workout and eating schedule is working and when to make adjustments.

  1. Create a weight loss plan

Since your dog is at risk of gaining some weight during winter, you should sit down with your vet and create a unique weight loss plan that will help him maintain his current weight. This plan could include workout routines and dietary changes. 

The workout routines will ensure he stays active during the winter months. And if he was already overweight, you will have to work even harder to prevent him from adding more weight and even help him drop some calories in the process.

  1. Use the Treats Sparingly

Most vets recommend that you stop giving your dog treats during winter, especially if your pooch is overweight. But if your vet believes that treats will not affect your winter dietary plan, then you should continue giving your pet treats sparingly. You can use healthy treats to entice him to start working out and burn the extra energy. You can use healthy treats for a short period until he gets used to working out without food-based rewards.

  1. Support Their Joints

The cold, dry winter weather can do a lot on a dog’s joints. If your dog is prone to hip dysplasia or arthritis, then the cold weather can worsen his situation. And this will prevent him from working out, and he might end up gaining winter weight in the process. So, try and add some dietary supplements to your older pup’s diet. Omega fatty acids, chondroitin, and glucosamine are great for your dog’s joints. So look for food containing these ingredients or add a dietary supplement to his diet.

  1. Adjust Your Dog’s Workout Routine

Instead of canceling your dog’s walks in winter, you can try and adjust his routines.  Take frequent short walks around the neighborhood with your dog during the day. Regular walks can keep your pet from getting cold, reduce their separation anxiety and also give him the needed workout.

  1. Introduce Your Dog to Numerous Backyard Activities

If your dog can tolerate the snow, you can include him in all the numerous family backyard activities like sledding, building snowmen, and fetching. After all, if the entire family is outside playing, then your dog will also be enticed to get out and join in the fun..

Image by Jody Parks from Pixabay

  1. Teach Him Some New Indoor Games

If your dog dislikes snow, you can develop numerous indoor games to help him exercise. You can play fetch or hide-n-seek, or tug-of-war.

  1. Practice Your Training

Instead of giving in and cuddling on the couch the whole season with your dog, you can keep him active by practicing some new tricks. Remember, keeping him active will help prevent weight gain, and thinking can also be as tiring as running or walking outside. If your pooch has mastered stay, sit, and down, you can try and mix these commands with a game like “find it” or “fetch.” You can also try a dog push-up by asking your pooch to lay down, sit, and lay down again several times for a healthy treat.

  1. Get Him a Dog Treadmill

Since your dog is at risk of gaining weight in winter, you can get your dog a treadmill, which he will be using to exercise when running outside is impossible.  Start slowly and increase the pace as he gets more and more comfortable with the treadmill. A dog treadmill is a great workout.  

Final Thoughts

Being sedentary during the cold winter months can result in both you and your pet gaining some winter weight. And since helping him lose weight in spring is harder than making sure he doesn’t gain weight in the first place, you can try and keep him active. You can also reduce his calorie intake and also teach him some new indoor exercises. Remember, keeping him healthy and active should be your primary goal in winter.  

Cynthia Garcia is the editor and content creator at the Crazy Pet Guy. She’s a passionate pet rescue supporter and in her free time, she’s always looking for ways to help the community.

A New Model for Veterinary Care

Embracing an approach that helps the public, veterinarians and animal shelters

About 85 million households have pets in the United States, according to the most recent American Pet Products Association Survey. But not all of them have adequate access to veterinary care. Nearly 40 million pets live in households where the annual income is under $45,000. 

Cost is one of the biggest factors that prevents people from getting veterinary care for their pets, as well as location—having a clinic close enough that they can easily access it, especially if they have to use public transportation. 

“This really is a problem for millions of people,” said Aimee St. Arnaud, director of national veterinary outreach for Best Friends Animal Society. “It’s a national crisis. I think it’s a social justice issue.”

However, running a veterinary practice is expensive, and veterinarians can’t just lower their prices. So St. Arnaud, along with business partners, set out to create veterinary practices—one in Ohio and one in North Carolina—that not only had a sustainable business model, but increased access to veterinary care. It worked.  

Now St. Arnaud and Dr. Sara Pizano, a veterinarian with Team Shelter USA, are working on a national training program that shows communities how to implement this model to increase access to veterinary care across the country. They discussed their work with Panhandle Animal Shelter Executive Director Mandy Evans on her podcast, “People Are Animals Too, Darnit!” 

The Role of Animal Shelters and Private Practice Veterinarians 

We’ve already established that access to veterinary care, especially in terms of cost, is an issue for individuals. When individuals can’t pay their veterinary bills, pets end up at animal shelters. Therefore, animal shelters have a vested interest in trying to increase access to care.

Unfortunately, asking veterinarians to lower their prices isn’t the solution, and it’s unfair to expect them to lower their prices. Costs of running a veterinary practice are going up, and private practice veterinarians are business owners who have invested a lot in their work and need to support their practices and employees.

But veterinarians also have an incentive to increase access to care. They’ll be able to help more animals and their community without taking a financial hit. They’ll also get more clients, instead of having people turn down care because they can’t afford it. 

Unfortunately, animal shelters and veterinarians don’t historically have the best relationships.

From the veterinarians’ perspectives, animal shelters might be asking for a lot, like discounts or appointments when the clinic is full, said Pizano. 

On the other hand, veterinarians might not fully realize the situation animal shelters are in—like how many animals they take in or their limited budgets. 

Pizano explains that a shelter she used to work at took in more than 37,000 animals a year.

“I met veterinarians in that community that were there for more than 30 years practicing, and they had no idea,” she said. 

It’s key for animal shelters and veterinarians to communicate, so they can work together. That’s where the new model comes in.

“All we’re trying to do is help them be able to say yes more than no in terms of when someone does need financial assistance, but also still be able to make sure they’re covering their costs,” said St. Arnaud.

Animal Shelters and Veterinarians Working Together

The new model not only has animal shelters and private veterinary practices working together, but includes human services providers as well, usually social workers. 

Here’s how it can work: Animal shelters run outreach programs to members of the community that might lack access to veterinary care. Social workers can refer their clients to the shelter or veterinarian. Shelters work with private practice veterinarians so they can help fund care for clients. There are endless ways they can work together, but one example is by setting up a medical fund for use at the veterinary clinic. 

There are also other policies and practices veterinarians can implement that help lower costs.

One example of this is incremental care, which is a step-by-step approach, said St. Arnaud.

Instead of running full diagnostics and blood work right away when a pet comes in (which is costly), veterinarians might try one antibiotic or other solution first, to see if it works. If it doesn’t, they try something else.  

St. Arnaud and her team have also figured out various efficiencies that allow veterinarians to do their work without taking a financial hit, she said.  

“It is definitely going to be a challenge and not all communities are ready for it but … I really do  believe there are enough people who are ready for this right now that we’re going to see great progress and get the naysayers on board,” said St. Arnaud.

Steps Animal Shelters Can Take to Get Started

To get started, animal shelters can set up a meeting with local veterinarians. Look at your data, and see what issues you’re seeing a lot of. For example, if it’s parvo, maybe do outreach or a joint vaccine program—and get the media to cover it, said St. Arnaud. 

Keep talking regularly and come up with ideas.

“Really I think it’s about how you can help each other, and a lot of times it’s just learning the data, finding where the commonalities are, what you are both struggling with and coming up with a solution together,” said St. Arnuad.

Consider putting together a pet resource guide, like where pet food banks, low cost are. Ask veterinarians to hand that out to clients. 

Spread the word about what you’re doing by going to local veterinary association meetings and getting to know local veterinarians, said Pizano.

Overall, with this new model of veterinary care, working together is key. It will help people, their pets, veterinarians and shelters.

“It’s marrying all of these needs and really changing the way we practice veterinary medicine,” said Pizano. “So it’s definitely a culture shift for the industry, and one that in my opinion that can only get better.”

Beyond Sheltering: The Loki Story

Loki was brought to Panhandle Animal Shelter with a broken leg. PAS veterinarian – Dr. Emily – was not able to save him leg and was forced to amputate. Loki has since been adopted and is now helping humans with disabilities. Panhandle Animal Shelter goes #beyondsheltering

October 2020 PAS Update

Executive Director Mandy Evans and Director Devin Laundrie address the community live on a Zoom video stream to share updates about the animal shelter and answer questions we’ve received from the community. 

Managing Fear

The following is an article based on People Are Animals Too, Darnit! Podcast with guest Eric Ridgway, LCPC.

Understanding and recognizing how fear plays a role in our lives and the lives of the community members we serve

It may seem overly simple, but humans have five basic categories of emotions: joy, anger, sadness, fear and shame. 

In a previous episode of “People Are Animals Too, Darnit!” Panhandle Animal Shelter Executive Director Mandy Evans spoke with licensed clinical professional counselor Eric Ridgway about understanding these emotions in order to communicate more effectively with others. 

Ridgway joined Evans on the podcast again to delve deeper into one of the emotional categories—fear.  

Fear Isn’t Bad

No emotions, even fear, are inherently “bad”—it’s how you manage and deal with them that is important. 

“If people think about any of the emotions as negative, they’re really limiting their perception and their ability to deal with their own lives,” said Ridgway. 

Fear can keep us safe by preventing us from driving too fast on icy roads or going rock climbing without a rope.

“For most people, fear is going to help them stay alive,” he said. “It’s a gift.”

However, fear doesn’t serve us well when it’s causing us to worry about something like a meteorite coming to strike us at any moment, he said. 

Fear has also long been used to manipulate people. An obvious example is bullying on a playground, but it happens more subtly in advertising, sales and the media, said Ridgway.

What ads essentially do is play on people’s fears that they won’t be as cool, good-looking, likable, happy or some other desirable quality if they don’t buy the product. The news media also often gets the public’s attention by using headlines and covering stories that raise fear and public alarm.  

Reacting to Fear

When people feel fear, they don’t tend to admit it, or even recognize it. Instead, they often become angry.

“Humans want to feel powerful and in control so they can predict and control the environment around them, and if we don’t feel powerful, if we don’t feel in control, things can be overwhelming and scary,” said Ridgway. “If we can dominate the situation … then we don’t feel so threatened.”

However, hiding fear, especially with anger, isn’t productive. 

Instead, it makes it “hard for people to work together to make a better world,” he said. 

An important step to managing fear is first recognizing it, and asking yourself what you’re feeling.

“If people don’t know what they’re feeling, I’m guessing it’s fear or shame most of the time,” said Ridgway. “Those are the emotional categories that we are easiest able to deny … because they’re so uncomfortable.”

Notice how your body feels when you’re scared, anxious or uncertain—are your shoulders tense, do you have a pit in your stomach, or is your jaw clenched? Try to calm yourself. Take a deep breath, relax, and tell yourself there is no immediate threat.

“If a lion jumps out, my body is designed to fire up the adrenaline so I can run real fast and get away,” said Ridgway. “But if there are no lions right now, I may not want adrenaline flooding through my body as if I’m about to die.”

Focus on the here and now, and take things one step at a time, he said.

“We have an influence on our emotions, and we can feed them and make them bigger or we can starve them and make them smaller,” he said.

Fear as a Barrier to Seeking Help

Applied in an animal welfare context, it’s important to understand that fear—along with shame—can keep people with limited financial means from seeking help for their pets, even if there are low-cost services available. 

First, if you’re not financially stable, you probably experience fear related to that. 

If someone is constantly worrying about being able to feed their children, or their car breaking down and affording to repair it, they’re going to have high levels of fear, said Ridgway.

“Our brain wants us to survive,” said Ridgway. “If there is a threat to our survival, the brain is going to have a fear reaction to that.”

This insecurity probably also makes someone feel shame. Shame is self-doubt, the feeling that other people might not like you or that you aren’t good enough.

“The more insecurity we have, whether it’s economic or about my profession, my education, my intellect … we can worry about others judging us more,” said Ridgway. 

That means you’re less likely to want to make yourself vulnerable and put yourself in a situation where someone can judge you for not taking your pet in for veterinary care sooner. 

This creates a vicious cycle, noted Evans. 

“They’re scared to put themselves out there and feel vulnerable, then we shame them for showing their vulnerability, and then we get mad at them for not seeking help again, but why would they?” said Evans. “…It’s actually a really privileged view when you’re able to say you ‘should have’ done this.”

“Should” is the shaming word, said Ridgway. When you say someone “should have” done something, you’re taking the stance that you know better.

“That is setting up a scenario of fear, because nobody wants to be judged. It is a basic human desire to feel secure, to feel valued, to feel appreciated, to feel belonging,” he said. “As soon as we start ‘should-ing’ on other people, they’re feeling like they don’t fit in.”

The next time you’re about to ‘should’ someone, consider your own emotions and why you’re judging them—maybe it’s related to your own fear or shame. 

“Fear serves a purpose, but am I a fear-based person?” said Ridgway. “… If we want to make the world a better place, fear is not what’s going to lead us most effectively to work well with others.”

How to Treat and Prevent Dog Anxiety

by Peter Schoeman

Anxiety is just as common in dogs as it is in humans. If you suspect that your dog is feeling anxious, you should seek treatment and prevention for dog anxiety right away; it is a health concern that should never be taken lightly. 

What Causes Dog Anxiety?

Dog anxiety isn’t always caused by something obvious. It could be something small like a change in routine or environment, or an unexpected experience which triggers it. 

Following is a list of the most common causes of dog anxiety for you to consider to narrow down what might be causing the anxiety.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety for dogs. It occurs when your dog becomes so attached to you or another family member that they can’t stand the thought of being separated from them.

Dogs with separation anxiety are often loud or destructive when you’re gone, even if it’s only for a short period of time. Most dogs dislike being left alone, but for anxious dogs, it can be more scary than normal.


Dogs can have fears just like humans, which can cause added stress for them. These fears could come from past experiences or uncertainty. Every dog reacts to situations differently, so if your dog shows signs of fear, make sure you’re comforting and understanding. Oftentimes, facing these fears head-on will only make them more frightening for your pup.

Some of the most common dog fears are:

  • Being alone (also known as separation anxiety)
  • Car rides
  • Loud noises
  • Strangers
  • Vet visits

Aging or Illness

Lots of things change in your dog’s body when they get older, especially if they develop illnesses along the way. As dogs age, their hearing, vision, and sense of smell could worsen. These changes can be uncomfortable or confusing for your dog, which could make them anxious.

Breed-Specific Anxiety

Certain dog breeds are genetically more prone to anxiety than others. For example, a study showed that Wheaten Terriers and Lagotto Romagnolos were often more affected by noise sensitivity. Miniature Schnauzers were more likely to be anxious around strangers, especially compared to Labrador Retrievers, who showed fewer signs of stress. 

Of course, dogs of the same breed won’t always behave the same, but researching your dog’s breed could help you find the anxiety trigger.

Changes in Routine 

Some dogs are not good with change. Moving to a new location or adding a new family member can be confusing for them.Dogs like the way their life is, so when something out of the ordinary happens, they might think something bad is just around the corner. 

Slow transitions are the best way to combat these anxieties. But, if that’s not possible, make sure you help your dog feel safe through every step of the way. A great way to do this is to provide plenty of familiar objects for your dog, such as their bed and their favorite toys. Try to keep their mealtimes and walks around the same time every day to avoid additional confusion or stress.

Symptoms of Dog Anxiety

Anxiety can be different for every dog, but here are some common symptoms you might notice:

  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Depression
  • Destructive behaviors
  • Excessive drooling or panting
  • Having accidents
  • Restlessness
  • Uncontrollable barking

Prevention of Dog Anxiety

If you’re worried about your dog getting overly anxious or stressed, there are ways to reduce or prevent your dog’s anxiety.

Stick to a Routine

Changes can be nerve-wracking for your dog. There’s something comfortable and familiar about going through consistent steps throughout the day. Dogs thrive on routines because they don’t have to think about what is – or isn’t – going to happen. It’s also important to consider whether or not a pre-existing part of their routine is stressful. For example, if a part of their daily interactions makes them uncomfortable, you might want to find a way to adjust their schedule to avoid that stressor or trigger. 

Exercise Often

Exercise is one of the easiest and most common ways to keep your dog relaxed. Anxiety can cause an excess of energy, which leads to unwanted behaviors like having accidents or chewing on furniture. Giving your dog plenty of exercise, both mental and physical, can help stress from creeping up on them. If your dog gets nervous getting into a car you might want to use a dog ramp to get your dog safely into your car or truck. Keeping your dog busy, especially right before you leave the house, will be easier on the both of you. 

Pay Attention to Your Body Language

Humans and dogs don’t speak each other’s languages, so body language is key for communication. Your gestures and body language can have a huge effect on your dog’s anxiety. From long association and interaction with humans, dogs have evolved to recognize even the smallest changes in our facial expressions, posture, voice, and possibly even smell. Dogs pick up on tiny cues when you’re stressed or angry, which can cause them to be anxious. So, you should always try to interact with your dog in a calm manner. 

Avoid Stressful Situations

If you know what triggers your dog’s anxiety, it’s best to avoid it. Whether it’s the neighbor’s dog or a car ride, try to limit their time around that trigger as much as possible. If it’s something you can’t avoid, such as thunder or fireworks, make sure you’re there to comfort your dog.

Use Music

Surprisingly, music can have an effect on your dog’s wellbeing. Music is calming for dogs and can help prevent destructive behaviors while you’re away. Reggae and soft rock seem to be the most relaxing genres for dogs. Plus, music can also drown out some of the upsetting sounds around them.

Treatment of Dog Anxiety

For some dogs, anxiety is an ongoing issue that dog parents have to deal with frequently. If that’s the case, you should try one of the following methods of treating dog anxiety.

Work on Training

Training is an effective way to correct any unwanted dog behavior. Some dog parents choose to teach their dog a command, such as ‘sit,’ to replace their dog’s anxious tendencies. Whenever their dog shows anxious behaviors, they’ll use the command to redirect their dog’s attention. 

Other people train their dogs by desensitizing them to the trigger. This could involve exposing them to the stress factor and rewarding them.

When in doubt, turn to a qualified dog trainer for additional advice. They might offer a training course to specifically help with anxiety, or they can show you new training methods to use.

Be There for Your Dog

If your dog goes into panic mode or you are noticing anxious behaviors, stay close to your dog. Pet them and try to sooth them with your voice. Even just staying in the same room as your dog could help them feel more comfortable. Sometimes, you can help distract them from their stress by playing with them more or providing mental stimulation toys.

Provide a Calm Environment

For some forms of anxiety, you can create specific places your dog can stay during these times. Have a space in your home, such as the corner of your living room, where your dog can feel safe. This space should include a bed and some toys that are familiar to them. If your dog gets anxious when new visitors arrive, give them some space. Let your dog come to the guests on their own terms because being swarmed with attention will only cause more stress.

If your dog is afraid of loud sounds like thunder, it can be hard to avoid those scary sounds. Turning a TV or radio on can help drown out the noise. Otherwise, you can try to find a more soundproof area of the house, such as a basement. Either way, make sure you’re there to comfort them at all times.

Talk to Your Vet

If the anxiety gets out of hand no matter what you try, you can turn to a vet for advice. They might be able to prescribe anxiety medication or recommend natural remedies for your dog. In some cases, they could even determine that your dog’s anxiety is caused by an underlying medical condition.

Final Thoughts

Anxiety is different for every dog, much like it is for humans. So, it’s important to be patient with your dog and not force them to face their fears right away. Take time to determine what the cause of the anxiety is before moving on to treatment and prevention. 

Your dog’s health and wellbeing are important, so make sure they feel as safe and comfortable as possible. 

About the author: Peter Schoeman is the creator of the where he writes on all topics related to dog training, nutrition and the best dog equipment. He lives with his wife, 2 kids and one very cute labradoodle.

The Unintended Consequences of Animal Shelter Transports

For years, the public and animal shelters alike have celebrated transporting animals between communities to get them adopted—but is that really the best solution?

Years ago, Dr. Cynthia Karsten was working with a shelter in California that was full of small dogs, some who had been there for a very long time, and she had a realization: If these dogs were at an animal shelter in the Midwest, the shelter would be empty. There weren’t a lot of small dogs in the Midwest, and people wanted them.

So it seemed like an obvious solution: Bring these dogs from California, where they were at risk of euthanasia, to animal shelters in the Midwest, and they’ll find homes.

It was kind of like a real estate problem, said Karsten. 

“It’s location, location, location,” she adds. “[There were] places of too many animals and not enough homes, and then there were places with too many homes and not enough animals.”

Over the years, Karsten was instrumental in facilitating the transport of thousands of dogs from California to the Midwest, and many animal shelters followed suit.

The practice of transport—bringing animals from crowded source shelters to less crowded destination shelters—has been a major component of the animal sheltering field in the United States. It has helped save animals’ lives, but there have been some unintended consequences.

Now experts in the field—including Karsten herself—are looking for solutions that better serve both animals and people. Karsten, who is now the outreach veterinarian with the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine program, discussed the topic with Panhandle Animal Shelter Executive Director Mandy Evans in the podcast, People Are Animals Too, Darnit! 

Good communities vs. Bad Communities 

To be clear, animal shelters and industry leaders transport animals with the best of intentions, and it has—and does—save animals from euthanasia. 

“I thought it was a great solution for a long time,” said Karsten. “I was so proud of what we did and all the animals we were saving.”

But the downside of transport has become increasingly clear, she said. 

It has perpetuated mistrust and bias toward source shelter communities. Transports operate under the inherent assumption that source communities are “bad,” and that they do not want the animals in their communities and cannot take care of them. The destination community is the savior that provides “better” homes for animals. 

Instead of keeping wonderful companion animals in the communities they came from, they are getting sent away, said Karsten. 

Another downside of transport is that it is a reactive, stopgap measure; it’s not a long-term solution. It doesn’t address the root cause of why there are supposedly too many animals and not enough homes for them in a community. 

“How does just taking [animals] actually address that problem?” asked Karsten.  

Finding new solutions 

To find new solutions, animal shelters need to challenge assumptions they’ve been making and continue to make about the problem they’re trying to solve. Is the problem really that there are too many animals and/or not enough homes? 

Maybe shelter leaders think there aren’t enough homes for animals in the community because animals end up at the shelter in the first place. But maybe more programs are needed to help keep pets in their homes with owners and prevent surrenders, like pet food banks, low-cost, accessible veterinary care and behavior support.

Or, it might be a matter of a perspective shift, away from a “negativity bias” that makes shelter staff upset with people who come to the shelter to surrender animals, said Karsten.

“That would kind of be like working in a hospital and getting upset with people for coming in because they’re sick,” she said. “…Remember, there are tons of people in your community who never need you.”

Finally, maybe it seems like there aren’t enough homes because animal shelters have impossible requirements for adoption that rule out many community members. 

It’s possible the shelter just needs to trust their community and remove requirements that prevent people from adopting, like having a fence, previously having a pet or not living with children, that don’t affect whether someone will provide a loving home. 

In fact, as the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding, animal shelters had to remove these requirements to quickly get animals out of their facilities, when they were worried about operating during a pandemic. Many saw amazing results, with community members stepping up to provide great homes for animals. 

Destination shelters, too, can start to rethink their roles in the community. Instead of operating as large adoption centers and transporting animals from other shelters to fulfill that mission, maybe they can start to focus more on providing resources and information to community members who already live with pets. 

Overall, if source shelters start looking to their communities more, they’ll build up relationships and support, said Karsten. 

After all, she added: “I can’t believe that it doesn’t feel just as good to do a great adoption as it does to put 50 animals on a plane.” 

Pets For Life

Pets For Life (PFL) is a Humane Society of the US-funded program for animal shelters that provides animal-welfare resources to underserved communities. Panhandle Animal Shelter offers PFL for Ponderay, Kootenai, and Clark Fork. Watch this video and see the PAS team conduct a pop-up clinic in Clark Fork, ID.

You can also watch our short documentary (below) on our PFL program that shows more of the services we offer at Panhandle Animal Shelter.

Lastly, you can listen to or watch the PFL interviews we did on our podcast, People Are Animals Too, Darnit! hosted by our executive director, Mandy Evans.

Progress in a Pandemic

Over the past decade, Panhandle Animal Shelter has been on a mission to transform animal sheltering in our region. PAS has gone from serving just 1,200 animals per year to serving over 8,400 in 2019. We had big plans for 2020 and were on track to expand our programs to serve even more animals and the people who love them. 

Then, enter a pandemic that closed businesses, stalled supply chains, and threatened the safety of our community. Even the best laid plans quickly became rewrites. 

To shelter animals, find new adoptive homes, and care for animals in the community, PAS interacts with the public, collaborates with local and national organizations, requires staff and volunteers, and relies on specialized equipment and supplies. There isn’t much of this model that the pandemic hasn’t challenged. Maintaining staff when a suspected exposure occurs is a challenge. Finding medical supplies is a challenge. Facilitating adoptions, intake, and clinics are a challenge. Adhering to consistent hours of operation is a challenge. Finding ways to safely engage volunteers is a challenge. Meeting with donors is a challenge. For a while, even finding a place to buy cleaning supplies was a major hurdle. 

Our greatest challenge has been being able to continue spay and neuter surgeries at the level we feel is necessary for our community. Many medical supplies are limited due to the crossover use with human medicine and during the pandemic, human medicine has taken priority. Following veterinary medicine guidelines and guidance from shelter medicine professionals we have limited our spay and neuter surgeries. Additionally, veterinary medicine is a highly specialized skill, and when a team member is unavailable due to COVID-19 exposure or testing, we can’t perform surgeries or other necessary medical procedures to protect our animal population. These supplies and staffing shortages significantly limit our ability to meet our goals for the year. 

Just like the community, we want things to go back to normal. Our team is tired and stressed and we miss seeing our community, working with our volunteers, and visiting at Yappy Hour. But be assured, our priorities have not changed. We are still as dedicated to supporting our community as ever before. We ask that you be patient with our staff and volunteers, hours of operation, and modifications to how our programs are operated. We are doing the best we can and we need your support. 

During the past few months, we’ve been receiving questions like, “Where donations are going now that there are fewer animals in the shelter?”, “What does the future holds for PAS?”, and the most common question of all, “Where are all the cats?” We hope this article helps answer some of these questions – but if you’re curious about something related to the work PAS does, we invite you to email us at

With fewer animals in the shelter, where are my donations going?

There’s no better way to answer this question than to share more about our programs and the efforts underway to, by design, keep animals out of the shelter.

PAS operates robust owner support programs that exist to help keep animals out of the shelter. These supportive services are offered through a multitude of programs like our Pets for Life program which supports pet owners by going door-to-door in specific neighborhoods providing services to people and their pets for free. Services may include pet food, advice, spay and neuter, medical, dental, or general pet supplies. Another key to keeping people and pets together has been the PAS helpline, which now serves over 1,800 people each year, and provides services to people to help prevent the need for a pet to be surrendered to the shelter. Services may include medical care, spay and neuter, training, free pet supplies, or connecting callers with PAS’s pet food bank which provides seven tons of dog and cat food to the community each year on a no-questions-asked basis. 

Increasing in demand is our Temporary Loving Care program, which provides free temporary pet boarding for people in transition. The program, provided on a case-by-case basis, originated to assist pets while their owners sought mental health care from Bonner General Health, but the economic impacts of the pandemic have increased the need for this program to provide pet boarding for people who are homeless or struggling to find pet-friendly housing. By providing short-term boarding, PAS helps prevent unnecessary surrender.

One of our most popular owner support programs is Home to Home, a rehoming program developed at PAS in 2016, provides support to families who need to surrender their pet with the option to rehome on their own with help from the shelter. 

As you may have guessed, these programs come with a cost. Despite having fewer animals in the shelter, donations are still needed to support this work. We’re investing into these programs because it’s part of our mission to support both ends of the human animal bond and we believe sheltering an animal should be the last option. Before PAS takes in an animal, have we offered other solutions like advice for an unruly dog? What about supporting a person and their pet by offering free pet food? Does the pet have a medical issue we can help with? Could the issue be as simple as a pet owner needing help with vaccines so they can keep their pet in their apartment? If these simple questions – a hierarchy of needs for the pet owner – haven’t been asked, then there’s options on the table that could help keep a pet with its family. Your donations help make it possible for people to keep their pets during their time of need, help shelter animals who have no place else to go, and make it possible for PAS to support people and animals across our region. 

Where are all the cats?

PAS is a no-kill shelter, and is proud to be a part of a national movement to prevent the euthanasia of healthy cats. For shelters to be no-kill and prevent overcrowding, multiple strategies are needed.

For owned cats, PAS assists owners as much as possible so they can keep their cat and avoid surrendering it to the shelter. This may include providing medical care, supplies, or food. If it’s not possible for a person to keep their cat, PAS will take the cat into the shelter, space permitting. PAS is a no-kill shelter, but the number of cats who need to be sheltered can be so high that the shelter must maintain an intake waitlist. By PAS monitoring the number of cats allowed in the building, cats in the shelter stay healthy. Too many cats crowded together creates stress and stress leads to illness. Illness means cats need to stay in the facility longer to get treated and recover. By practicing managed intake techniques, PAS has decreased the length of stay for cats by 62 days and the number of cats in the building at any given time from 105 cats to 53. This change increased the number of cats assisted each year in the building from 600 to 1,400.

For community cats, also known as unowned cats, PAS operates a “Trap, Neuter, Return” program through partnering with the community to trap cats, bring them to the shelter for spay or neuter, and return them to the location they were found. Due to limited staffing and supplies capacity, this program has been placed on pause during the pandemic, which is also why there are not a lot of kittens in the shelter. 

This year, PAS implemented a new methodology provided by University of Florida, University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine program, and UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program. This program challenges what people believe is a stray cat. When a healthy, friendly, neutered cat is brought to the shelter as a stray, PAS asks the finder to go place it back where it was found. This is because 39% of cats are indoor/outdoor and when lost they are normally found three to four houses down from their home. When an owned cat is brought to our shelter it has a less than 2% chance of being reclaimed by its owner, a rate in line with national average for cats, despite PAS’s best efforts to reunite the cat with its owner. This means the cat has a much higher likelihood of finding its home without intervention. Although kind-hearted, well-meaning people bring the cat to the shelter out of concern, it’s important to highlight that they might be taking someone’s cat from right in front of their home. If a cat is brought to PAS that is in need of medical care, has a low body mass or circumstances that demonstrate the need for intervention, the cat is admitted into the PAS for care and may be adopted or returned to where it was found after it recovers. If you still have questions about managing cat populations, we’ve updated our website, with more information.

What does the future hold for PAS?

Like many nonprofits, PAS has experienced setbacks due to the pandemic. Thankfully, because of our community centered and progressive owner support programs, we quickly adapted to accommodate the unique challenges of the pandemic. We relied more heavily on Home to Home, our online rehoming program, to help prevent animals entering the shelter. We made our foodbank available for curbside pick-up. We shifted our outreach approach for our Pets for Life program to phone calls instead of door-to-door visits. When many shelters around the country closed, PAS was proud to have maintained its services and as a result helped save lives of animals in need and helped to prevent owners from being forced to surrender their pets due to economic hardship. 

While we can’t predict the future, we can anticipate the needs of our community and we can plan for how we’ll respond. 

Internally, we are investing in hiring optimistic problem solvers who view the community as their number one partner and we’re continuing to implement prevention-focused, evidence-based, and best practice programs that help people keep their pets. Even during the height of the pandemic, PAS is proud to have hired its first full-time veterinarian who was trained in shelter medicine and management practices from the University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine Program. 

We’ve experienced higher than usual medical needs through our helpline and we expect this to continue. We are also expecting an increased demand by owners who need to surrender their pets due to housing instability, and planning for higher demand for owner support services in case of recession. This means PAS will be providing more boarding, more medical care, more pet food, and more support to pet owners so they can keep their pets and avoid surrendering them to the shelter whenever possible. 

PAS will also continue investing time in growing the Home To Home program, a PAS-founded rehoming tool that helps prevent animals from ever entering the shelter. The program is now in 39 shelters around the nation. We have plans to expand the services offered through this program to support local pet owners with rehoming and to include tools to support fostering and increased access for under resourced shelters around the country.

It’s impossible to know what the future holds, but we’re committed to our mission, and we’re proud to serve our region. We continue to receive support from national animal welfare organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Best Friends Animal Society and Maddie’s Fund. We’re also honored to receive donations from local businesses and supporters who generously support people and animals with their giving and we’re thankful for the community support we continue to receive in the form of donations to our thrift store and donations of pet food and supplies to the shelter.

If you still have questions about PAS, or any of its programs and services, just ask. Staff are proud to talk about the shelter and what they are working on. Email us at