Emotions Run High in Pet Rescue Debate

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Bo Putnam, executive director of Pet Rescue in Hermiston, addresses complaints about the facility during Monday's city council meeting.

Few things can get people’s emotions running as high as the subject of pets. That was certainly the case Monday night as the Hermiston City Council listened to a spirited back-and-forth over the issue of the standard of care for dogs and cats at Pet Rescue in Hermiston.

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At its first meeting of the year on Jan. 12, the council heard from several citizens complaining about Pet Rescue and the treatment of the animals sheltered there. Since then, Hermiston City Manager Byron Smith and Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan made a surprise visit to the facility to determine if the shelter is living up to its contractual obligations. The city pays Pet Rescue about $30,000 a year to shelter lost or stray dogs.

On Monday, more complaints were aired, as well as a defense of the shelter by its executive director, Bo Putnam.

“I can only take so much,” Putnam said after listening to several more complaints about the shelter’s euthanasia rate and the general conditions of the facility. “This has been going on for months and I’m tired of it.”

Putnam was responding to specific complaints aired in the past and again on Monday night. Rae Lynn Moon of Hermiston told the council she recently took an animal to Pet Rescue and was given no help or resources.

“Tell me why it is that I couldn’t get help,” she said. “We should be ashamed of ourselves.”

Jennifer Berry of Stanfield told the council the community needs to do more to support Pet Rescue.

“There are things Bo needs to change,” she said. “He know that. The city needs to step in and give him the resources he needs.”

Smith to the council that he believes Pet Rescue is fulfilling its end of the contract, however, he added the contract is short on specifics. For example, there is no language about euthanasia rates or standards of care for the pets in the shelter.

“It’s a little weak in the enforcement,” he said.

Connie Gray of Hermiston told the council that “maybe we need to tweak the contract.”

Councilor Manuel Gutierrez said the city needs to talk directly with the shelter’s board of directors in order to affect any change of policies. Fellow Councilor John Kirwan said the community has a role to play, as well.

“We need to be more aggressive with Pet Rescue about their policies, but the citizens have to do their part and get their pets spayed and neutered. We have a problem with strays in this community.”

Mayor Dave Drotzmann told Putnam that the council was not making any judgment at Monday’s meeting, but said it is the council’s responsibility to listen to citizens’ concerns and look into the matter.

“We need to honor our constituents and our contract,” he said. “Our message isn’t that we want to shut Pet Rescue down. What we’re saying is Pet Rescue provides a valuable service and we want to work to see how we can help any way we can.”

Smith told the council that one option could be putting the contract up for bid to see if any other facilities could provide pet shelter service for the city.

“If the city feels it necessary to put the contract out to bid, so be it,” Putnam said.

Councilor Doug Smith, a former Hermiston police officer, praised Putnam for his dedication. Smith said when he worked for the Hermiston Police Department, Putnam was always willing to go out in the middle of the night with him to rescue injured dogs. Drotzmann assured Putnam that the city would not drag out the issue any longer than necessary.

“We’re going to get to a resolution as quickly as we can,” he said. “But, we have to go through the process.”

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