For The Love of Animals: Klamath Animal Shelter Celebrates Milestone Anniversary

The Klamath Animal Shelter has been open for seven years following seven-year fundraising and building period.

The Klamath County Animal Shelter is celebrating seven years in its facility off of Washburn Way, a milestone after it took seven years of fundraising and construction to create the home to dozens of animals.

For shelter manager Crystal Gagnon and director Joanne Cox, those seven years have flown by.

“Some days it feels like the old shelter as forever ago,” Gagnon said. “And some days it feels like yesterday.”

“It’s been like a blink,” Cox said. “It’s just gone really really quickly. And it’s so fun.”

Unique policies

The shelter is different from others because of its lack of restrictions on people who want to come to look around. Cox said people are allowed to just wander and take a peek at the animals without having to make an appointment or work through a ton of paperwork beforehand.

A male kitten was brought into the shelter with his sister, and he lounges in Shelter Director Joanne Cox’s arms. The shelter has several open roam cat rooms and people can spend time with cats outside of their pens before adopting.

If, while wandering the shelter, visitors find an animal they’d like to get more up close and personal with, visitors simply have to tell someone at the front desk and they can bring the pet to one of the several visiting rooms where they’re free to play and see if it’s a match.

Cats are particularly spoiled at the shelter as there are free-roaming cat rooms where cats can get out of pens and lounge in a room with toys, scratching posts and other playmates. Outside of these rooms are fenced-in outdoor areas with more toys and scratching posts for when the weather is nice.

Community support

Another testament to the shelter’s fundraising success is that Cox said everything in the shelter was donated and that they didn’t have to buy anything. A storage room was teeming with blankets, toys, bowls and litter boxes. Toys and blankets people donate to the shelter keep animals company in their pens.

Cox also pointed out the number of volunteers who are given a large amount of freedom in terms of what they do during their time visiting. While at other shelters Cox said volunteers may be limited in what they can do, here they can do things from packaging adoption packets, taking dogs to the dog park behind the building and bathing the dogs.

The dog park behind the building, named Freedom Dog Park, is available to the public for $50 a year and is also a place where the shelter dogs can get out of their pens and get some exercise.

The kennel area for dogs has a drop-down door in between the front and back kennels so that they can be separated when the shelter is at full capacity or can be open to allow the dogs even more space to go back and forth. Cox said they also try to put a couple of dogs together when they can.

Kennel comforts

The dog area is heated via piping that runs the top of the concrete walls between each kennel. There is also a flushing system in the ground, which is operated by a lever, that spend water down the slanted track to flush the kennels clean.

The grooming room where volunteers can bathe and groom dogs. All of the supplies in this room were donated according to Shelter Director Joanne Cox.

Volunteers also train the dogs with treats to come to the front of the kennel when people come by and to be calm. If a dog is excitedly jumping or pawing at the chain link between them and the people, the dog doesn’t get a treat. As soon as all four paws are on the floor, Cox said they give the dog a treat. This creates less stress when people enter the kennel area and make the dogs appear more adoptable.

The dogs are mainly quiet, which Cox pointed out as a lack of stress barking as people might hear in other shelters.

The Klamath shelter also keeps dogs as long as needed, Cox said. Gagnon said they’ve had animals for over a year before they were adopted, yet they still had a home at the shelter.

Unlike other shelters, the Klamath center also rehomes Pitbulls.

Tail-wagging tales

Buckets sit ready and waiting for the Read to a Shelter Pet program in which kids can come read to shelter pets. Director Joanne Cox said in addition to providing a “non-judgemental” audience for the kids, the kids also help the pet by spending time with it.

The shelter also hosts the Read to a Pet program in which kids can read to a pet. Cox said this is more enjoyable and creates a judgment-free zone for kids to read aloud in, in addition to providing some company for the pets.

As of last week, the shelter was home to about 45 cats, which Gagnon said was pretty typical, and nine dogs, which was fewer than usual.

The Klamath Shelter also partners with the Portland shelter so that the Portland shelter can take animals from Klamath to Portland to alleviate beds here and to give animals an even better chance of getting adopted in the more populated metropolitan. Cox called this “the best partnership ever.”

A program in Central Point that provides dogs for deaf people gets its dogs from the Klamath shelter about once a month, Cox said.

One of its star pupils, Xander the pug, has become a local celebrity after he became the No. 1 therapy dog in the country. Now, he works with the local Hands and Words are Not for Hurting Project.

Wish list

Those looking for a specific breed or type of dog that might not be there already can also get on a list, so that should the shelter get that type of dog in, someone from the shelter can let those looking know.

Occasionally the shelter will also get in some rarer smaller animals, and Cox recalled times they had a flying squirrel and a canary. Rabbits are the third most common animal type there, though, and a gray one is there now.

What’s even better is that Gagnon said a good number of animals that get adopted come back with their new family to visit.

People can also check out the shelter’s website for more information and to see animals available for adoption at

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