Oregon Humane Society
  About Us
About OHS

Past, Present, and Future

After witnessing the brutal beating of a horse on Front Street, Dr. Thomas Lamb Eliot took action. Gathering a group of 12 prominent Portlanders on November 17, 1868, he founded one of the first humane animal welfare organizations in the country. Initially the Society focused on the plight of draft animals, but within a few years expanded its efforts to advocate for the protection of children and companion animals. In fact, OHS served as Oregon's child and animal protection organization from 1881 until 1933.

OHS Founder
Dr. Thomas Lamb Eliot


With the understanding that the only way to better the plight of animals was to educate humans about respect and empathy, OHS included humane education in its goals.


Since 1883, teaching children responsible stewardship towards all animals has been an integral part of OHS' mission. This concept became part of Oregon's mandate to all children in public schools. In 1921, one of the founders of OHS and a state legislator, J.K. Gill, proposed and saw signed into law that humane education be taught in Oregon public schools. (ORS 336.067(1)(c))


Built in 1939


In 1916, OHS took over the city animal control, but let go of the contract in 1972. The reason: goals of the OHS were not consistent with the goals of an animal control agency. Since that time, OHS has been a stand-alone, nonprofit organization, operating without the assistance of government funding.


In 1918, OHS purchased the 10-acre parcel on Columbia Blvd. from which it now operates. This property is home to the oldest animal cemetery in the West. One of the most notable personalities buried in the cemetery is Bobbie of Silverton. This collie pup from Oregon went on a 1924 summer vacation with his family and unfortunately ended up lost in Indiana. The family was amazed when the lost dog returned home to Silverton six months later.


The original shelter constructed on Columbia Blvd. was lost in a fire in the late 1930s. A new facility was built in 1939 and housed the shelter's operations for the next 60 years.




Our new shelter opened in 2000.
Learn about construction details and
the capital campaign in OHS New
Shelter Project 2000


In June of 2000, OHS opened the doors to a new state-of-the-art facility that stands on the site of the old shelter. The new shelter has the capacity to house 92 small animals, 120 cats and 120 dogs. 


Learn about the capital campaign that raised funds for the new shelter project, budgets, information about the corporate details of the building and other useful data in OHS New Shelter Project 2000 (PDF), prepared by Skanska USA Building.


In September of 2007, OHS opened the Animal Medical Learning Center (AMLC) adjacent to the existing shelter. The medical center is a state-of-the-art animal hospital that provides a full range of medical services for all shelter animals.


OHS also entered into a unique partnership with the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine, allowing fourth-year veterinary students to complete rotations in the OHS hospital under clinical supervision. This is beneficial both to the shelter animals receiving top-quality care, and for countless more animals who will be helped by these students after they go on to become practicing veterinarians.


The new behavior and training center, open to the public, addresses one of the main reasons why dogs and cats come to animal shelters: frustrated owners who need assistance dealing with problem pet behaviors.


We now serve the needs of over 11,500 animals each year. With over 120 staff members and a volunteer force of nearly 2,000, OHS is dedicated to finding homes for 100 percent of the animals admitted to the shelter each year.


Building a community of compassion is our goal; through adoption of homeless pets, animal welfare legislation, humane education, abuse investigation, and community outreach and leadership.