Panhandle Animal Shelter Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) - 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: https://www.guidestar.org/profile/94-3071245

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

Now:

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 pasidaho.org 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 – http://pasidaho.org/foster-program/
  •  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 info@pasidaho.org