Our Story


OHS Shelter ImageFounded in 1868 by noted humanitarian Thomas Lamb Eliot, OHS is the third-oldest humane society in the nation and the oldest in the West. Eliot initially established OHS to stop the neglect and abuse of draft animals. The mission expanded to include companion animals and, until 1933, orphaned children.

OHS is now the largest humane society in the Northwest, and adopts more animals from our Portland shelter than any other single-facility shelter on the West coast. OHS puts no time limits on how long animals remain at the shelter—a pet stays available for adoption for as long as needed to find a loving home. If a pet in our care needs medical attention, our veterinary hospital provides the pet with same level of care you would want your own pet to receive.

Community Services

  • OHS finds homes for more than 11,000 pets each year
  • OHS Officers rescue neglected and abused animals, investigating more than 1,200 cases annually
  • The OHS medical team provides free and low-cost spay and neuter surgeries for thousands of pets owned by low-income families
  • OHS educators reach more than 12,000 youths annually through humane education programs
  • The OHS Second Chance program brings nearly 5,000 pets annually to OHS from other shelters around the region
  • In the state capitol, OHS is the driving force behind efforts to improve laws that protect animals and punish offenders

Funding

  • OHS receives no tax dollars
  • OHS does not receive any portion of dues or donations paid to national organizations
  • OHS is an Oregon nonprofit that relies on donations
  • OHS operates independently of any other shelter group
  • Financial information, including annual reports and audited statements, can be found here.

OHS Mission

To foster an environment of respect, responsibility and compassion for all animals through education, legislation and leadership. To care for the homeless, to defend the abused and to fight with unrelenting diligence for recognition of the integrity of all animals.

Is OHS a “No-kill” Shelter?

“No-kill” is typically defined as a shelter with at least a 90% save rate. The OHS save rate is 98%, certainly fitting the definition. However, OHS does not refer to itself as a “no-kill” shelter because the term does little to help the public understand the decisions a shelter must make in caring for pets.

Some shelters that use the term “no-kill” admit only the healthiest of pets and do not face the challenge of treating and rehabilitating ill animals. A county shelter, on the other hand, must accept every pet that comes to its door, including pets who are severely ill or dangerously aggressive. At OHS, about half of the pets admitted meet the nationally recognized standard of “healthy.” The remaining pets require medical and/or behavior treatment, sometimes for weeks or months. We are committed, however, to providing the same standard of care for pets at our shelter that an owner would want for their personal pet. We never put time limits on how long pets remain available for adoption and we never euthanize pets for space reasons.

We believe the public is better served by looking at a shelter’s admission policy and overall treatment record, rather than relying on a vague term such as “no-kill.”

Facilities

Video (above): Take the Two-Minute Tour

OHS is located in NE Portland, with a state-of-the-art animal shelter, veterinary hospital, and behavior facility. OHS has been in its current location at 1067 NE Columbia Blvd. since 1918, but is now in its third-generation shelter building.

The current 46,000 sq. foot  shelter opened in 2000 and can care for 92 small animals, 120 cats and 120 dogs. The shelter features outdoor exercise areas and an extensive dog path through a wooded wetland. Visitors to the 10-acre campus will find an award-winning rose garden and the oldest pet cemetery west of the Mississippi (which hosts the grave of Bobbi of Silverton, a national sensation in the 1920s). There is also an education hall for classroom instruction, a kitten room featuring play toys that can be controlled in real-time via the Internet, and offices for OHS Humane Officers, who are commissioned by the state police to enforce animal cruelty laws.

In 2007, OHS opened the adjoining 22,000 sq. foot Animal Medical Learning Center, consisting of the Holman Medical Center plus a behavior center that provides classes for the public. The medical center includes three surgical suites, on-site radiology, a pharmacy and multiple recovery rooms.

OHS also operates the Westside Adoption Center at 6100 SW Macadam Ave. in Portland (located inside Lexidog Boutique). About 20 dogs and cats are available for adoption at Westside at any one time. Dogs at Westside benefit from spending their days in a large group area alongside other dogs in a doggie day care facility. Kittens live communally in colony rooms.

Staff and Volunteers

OHS has 140 full-time employees who are aided by approximately 2,000 volunteers. We are governed by a 22-member Board of Trustees. Sharon Harmon has served as the OHS Executive director since 1998.