KHS in the News: Shelter Working on New Vet Clinic

November 30, 2021

Originally published in the Kitsap Sun, Nov. 30, 2021, by Ata Shaheen, Kitsap Sun Reporter

When Lenora Lee’s German Shepherd Lola suddenly got sick and needed emergency surgery in 2020, she was turned away from a private vet because she couldn’t afford the procedure.

Turning to Kitsap Humane Society, Lee expected to become separated from her life partner. Traditionally, pet owners in similar situations have to choose between euthanasia and giving the pet up, but Kitsap Humane Society is piloting a veterinary clinic that can offer income-based medical treatment.

“KHS performed the surgery for next to nothing and Lola was able to go home with her owner,” said Jamie Nocula, Director of Philanthropy for Kitsap Humane Society.

The humane society on Dickey Road in Central Kitsap is now working on the second phase of a capital campaign for a veterinary clinic that will be able to provide low-cost vet services. KHS received a generous million dollar donation by a Bainbridge Island couple that went a long way in the fundraising goal, and the 6,000-square-foot clinic is expected to open in 2023 as the Russ and Linda Young Veterinary Lifesaving Center.

KHS has long offered reduced-cost spay and neuter surgeries, but the prospect of extending this to general service was out of the question until 2019.

“Washington State had this extremely antiquated law that it was illegal for nonprofit vet centers like ourselves to offer low-cost vet services to community pets,” said Nocula.

Jennifer Stonequist, KHS Director of Shelter Medicine, went to Olympia with other state veterinarians and successfully lobbied for legal change.

“There’s a lot of tears of gratitude and just happy people out there who simply couldn’t afford that $2,000 or $6,000 surgery,” said Harper.

“It’s a really important way to ensure that animals get what they need, and families are able to keep members of their families,” said Stevens. “I think that’s really resonated with a lot of our donors.”

Nocula said the Youngs’ donation showcased generosity in the community and inspired more donations.

“They are wholeheartedly passionate pet people and love the work that we do here,” said Nocula of the Youngs.

Phase one of the capital campaign was completed in 2019, with a new pet adoption center. The old building, which is still in use, was built in 1989 and not designed for the welfare of animals. It looks more like a classic dog-pound. The pet adoption center has lounge rooms, meeting rooms, interaction rooms, a “relax room” and kennels that are tailored to individual dogs’ needs. Even the smallest kennels here are still 70% bigger than the kennels at the original facility, which is now mainly used for behavioral evaluation of strays.

Stevens described this achievement as complementing KHS’s world-class care with a world-class facility.

KHS started getting national recognition for its commitment to animal welfare around 2015, said Stevens. That is when the shelter started bringing in 1,000 to 2,000 animals a year from shelters around the nation with high kill rates. People saw that Kitsap was actively saving a lot of lives, and the humane society started receiving grants from national foundations.

In-depth behavioral care with the animals on an individual basis helped a lot as well. KHS has a great foster program, two behavior staff who work one-on-one with traumatized dogs, and a large team of volunteers that interact with the animals and walk the dogs every day.

Less than 50 of the 350 total volunteers stayed on through the pandemic, but they are quickly building the team back up and are looking for more volunteers.

Adoption rates have been increasing, and up to 30% of those are now people coming in from outside of Kitsap.

There is no such thing as a true no-kill shelter, said Stevens, but that terminology is reserved for shelters with 90% save-rates. KHS has had 96% or higher save-rates four years running, among the best in the nation.