Once the Veterinary Lifesaving Center is built at the Kitsap Humane Society animals brought to the shelter suffering from serious medical conditions will be able to be nursed back to health and prepared for adoption.
Low-income pet owners will also be able to bring their beloved pets to the facility for check-ups and urgent care.
“The center will be a game changer,” Dr. Jen Stonequist, director of shelter medicine at KHS, said of the $10.1 million facility slated to open in September of 2023. “The new facility will give us a considerable increase in the limited space that we currently have to treat both shelter animals and community pets.”
The center will service two pressing needs, humane society officials say – to care for ailing animals brought to the shelter and provide veterinary services to pets whose owners are unable to pay for it at neighborhood animal clinics.
The need to provide health care to shelter animals is on the rise. The percentage of pets admitted to shelter requiring medical treatment has grown from 33% to 50%, humane society officials say.
“We have seen a steady trend over the last several years, particularly during this COVID period, of animals needing medical care when relinquished to the shelter. Many of these pets go without necessary veterinary care because their owners simply cannot afford the care that they need,” Stonequist said.
There is inadequate space to provide shelter animals with critical care, she added. “The current facility is like an emergency hospital triage room in overdrive. It (is) akin to having no beds available for patients to lay on. We literally (have) animals in critical condition be cared for on the floor of our treatment room,” Stonequist said.
“For example, if we have a dog (brought to the shelter) that was hit by a car and needs to be on IV fluids and closely monitored. We don’t have a kennel for that in our vet department so that dog lives on the floor with us in our treatment area behind a baby gate.”
Stonequist continued: “Right now, we don’t have any recovery kennels for our shelter animals. We monitor animals [after surgery] for a limited period of time then they go back to their regular kennels. Dogs are recovering from surgery right next to dogs that were just dropped off by animal control and are noticeably stressed.”
The lifesaving center will provide staff three times the space to tend. The dog injured by the car will undergo a completely different experience, Stonequist noted.
“When the dog comes in we are going to have a full-service treatment triage area where we can get him fully accessed. We’ll have the ability to provide him oxygen and get an IV catheter placed. Once stabilized, that dog will be moved to a recovery suite away from the busy clinic where the staff can closely monitor him. He can recover in peace and quiet vs. having to go back to a kennel in the shelter where we are not able to have close eyes on him.”
The difference will be “day and night” between the way animals are currently cared and the treatment that will be available in the new facility, Stonequist said.
The new facility “will give us a clinic to serve our low-income community members which is something we are not able to right now with the current space that we have,” the director said. “The (low-income) community will have somewhere to turn so their pet doesn’t have to sit at home with a chronic ear infection for months before getting seen and needing surgery. A dog will be able to come into our clinic when he first starts having ear issues and get the care he needs.”
Staff is excited to help low-income people. “I can’t tell you what it will mean for us to be able to keep these families together. Their pets mean everything to them. Pets are more than just an animal that lives alongside them. They are family members,” Stonequist said.
Pet owners making 80% or less of the median family income in Kitsap County will qualify for services. “We will be serving those people that need us the most,” Stonequist said.
The Kitsap shelter, located on a 6.5-acre spread in Silverdale, serviced over 4,000 animals last year.
The Veterinary Lifesaving Center was primarily funded by contributions from the community. It is the latest project in the Kitsap Humane Society’s “Pet Lifesaving Campaign.” In 2019, KHS built a pet adoption center. The following year the group renovated part of the shelter. Once the new center is completed staff will set its sights on building an educational facility to provide training to pet owners.