I worked at Oregon Humane Society as an intern (Less than a year)
Great office atmosphere, pets are welcome, and coworkers were open and receptive to helping each other
Sometimes parking can be tough to find in the employee/volunteer lot
I worked at Oregon Humane Society full-time (Less than a year)
Animals are great
Managers are easy to talk to
"Upstairs people" (finance/HR/ect) look down on "downstairs people" (the people who actually work with the animals)
Terrible to no training
Advice to Management
Actually train your workers with a schedule instead of randomly checking off boxes of things to do
If you are a homeless animal, the Oregon Humane Society is the place to be. We have a state-of-the-art medical facility, a dedicated animal behavior team, relatively new kennels, and an exceptional adoption/’live release’ rate. I am so proud to play a part in helping 11,000 + animals find homes every year. Employees also enjoy benefits such as paid time off and affordable health, dental and life insurance. We work closely with a dedicated army of volunteers that really help enrich the lives of our shelter pets. Lastly, you can’t very well mention OHS without giving kudos to our amazing executive director, Sharon Harmon. I truly believe that, even decades from now, Sharon’s legacy will play an integral part in both the history and the future of OHS.
Despite all of its perks, working for the Oregon Humane Society is emotionally and physically taxing. Though hourly staff are legally required to take two 10-minute breaks during our shifts, these breaks are extremely rare. If you need to make a phone call, take medication, or get a drink of water, you’re out of luck. On busy days, basic human needs like using the rest room are denied to you until you are on the brink of tears. There simply aren’t enough staff available to complete all the tasks that must be completed in any given day, and if your work isn’t finished, then an animal may suffer for it.
It can’t be said that we do everything for the well-being of pets in our community. The shelter only allows four adult pit bulls to be available for adoption at a time, and while our local shelters are overrun with pits, we continue to transfer Chihuahuas up from California by the dozens. Cats and rabbits are not given post spay or neuter pain control, and small animals are often housed in the same room as screeching birds. Most disconcerting, we’ll adopt a pet to just about anyone. Our customer care staff are pressured into adopting out as many animals as possible, and they’re not allowed to deny an adoption. Staff can make notes under a pet’s file in our computer system about the pet’s adoption. I’ve seen such notes as “Adopter seemed intoxicated during showing,” or, “Adopter did not appear to be listening during behavior consult and was in a hurry to leave.” I used to enjoy fostering kittens for the shelter, but after seeing pets placed into homes such as these, I’m no longer comfortable doing so.
Having said all of this, I believe all of the aforementioned cons can be improved. What worries me is the increasingly corporate business model that OHS seems to have adopted. For example, our Operations Manager has a background in banking, and the medical team’s newly hired hospital manager joined them after working at the Hannah Society—a local company that purchases pets from backyard breeders and leases them out. These managers, along with our P.R., Marketing, and Operations directors, have little to no contact with the animals. In contrast, those of us on the front lines—the customer care, animal care, medical and behavior staff—are not able to give any input on the way the shelter operates. In most cases, these decision-makers actually work on an entirely different floor than the rest of us.
The divergence between the ‘upstairs’ (upper management) and ‘downstairs’ staff is staggering. Though it’s natural for lower level staff to make less money and work in positions which are more physically taxing than those in upper management, I have worked for other shelters where there is still mutual respect between employees of all positions and departments. From the lowliest kennel cleaner to the executive director, each one of us is an invaluable cog in the machine that is OHS. If one were to break, the gears would stop turning, and our organization would stop running. Our entire body of staff should recognize that.
Much of this may sound like the rantings of a low-level employee who is jealous of his or her coworkers who are allowed to wear their own clothes, work in their own office, and are paid quite a bit more money—all without ever being exposed to the most difficult tasks that shelter work entails. Sadly, the one notable example that I could use to show the delusional image our ‘upstairs’ staff have about working downstairs could give away my identity, and I am very much afraid of retribution for telling the truth.
Let me say this: I did not begin a career with a non-profit, particularly one that serves animals, to make money. Truthfully, it’s difficult to survive with the wages that I earn. But I LOVE what I do, and I want to keep doing it. I still believe that OHS is the best venue for me to help animals in my community, though I fear that the shelter is becoming more and more like a retail chain. It is perfectly acceptable that our directors would want us to continue to grow, to provide more services to the public, and to help more animals. I hope that we will continue to do so. But I also hope that we will not get so caught up in the ‘numbers’—our adoption, donation, and surgery totals—that the quantity of our work becomes more important than the quality. For now, it seems, we may be headed in that direction.
Advice to Management
Though there never seem to be enough hours in a day to finish our work, I believe that some interdepartmental job-shadowing could be immensely beneficial to our team. Perhaps the Director of Operations could spend a day with the medical team when they are completing a forensic exam on the mutilated body of what used to be someone’s beloved pet. The PR team could take a seat in Admissions and listen as the staff are verbally abused when they tell someone that we have no room to take in their recently deceased mother’s cat. The Marketing team might sit in the euthanasia room while a euthanasia technician, (usually one of our animal care staff,) has to euthanize a pet that they’ve been working with for several weeks, only to determine that he or she is unadoptable due to health or behavioral reasons. Hearing these things second-hand does not have the same effect as getting blood on your hands when handling a body, seeing tears in the eyes of a client who just wants to do the right thing for her mother’s cat, or injecting a life-ending drug into the vein of an animal you have grown to love.
At the same time, I’m sure that our misconceptions of each other go both ways. I can’t say with any certainty that the upstairs staff didn’t spend the early days of their careers as I do now. Even if they didn’t, I’m sure that there are deadlines to meet, budgets to approve, and countless relationships to maintain. I’d be very interested to spend a day in one of the upstairs offices and learn that day-to-day struggles that upper management face at OHS. Perhaps, with that insight, I’d see that their jobs aren’t as easy as I’d anticipated. If I we could all just see this first-hand, we could realize that we are all doing important work. With mutual respect among our peers, (and when I say peers, I refer to everyone from the custodians to the board of directors,) there is nothing that our organization can’t do.
OHS is such a great place to work. Both the employees and the clients makes it so special. I love the employees because we are all here for the pets, and petty difference doesn't matter when you are working to help save pets. I love the clients because they are coming in to adopt a homeless pet as opposed to supporting a breeding operation. It is a happy place!
It is hard to think of a con working at OHS. I think sometimes an angry client can get me down, but that happens so rarely.
Advice to Management
The leadership of OHS is on the right track. They need to keep listening to the employees to make sure we are all on the same page. It's nice to work at the best animal shelter in the county!
I have been working at Oregon Humane Society as an intern (More than a year)
Your able to bring your animails to work. Everyone is patient with the animals and have a very plesant attitude to work with.
there is only full time work. I would like to work there but only part time.
Advice to Management
Don't know what to say because all of the employee's that I have come in contact with are very Nice! and willing to help with any tasks that are required.
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