Gimme Shelters

By Dave DeLuca

CliffordTwo 10-week-old black lab mix puppies from the same litter ended up at SafeHaven Humane Society. Bailey, a frolicking healthy girl, went “home” almost as soon as she became available for adoption.  Clifford, a runt at half the size with an oddly curled tail, was left behind. He had a hernia and a heart murmur. Clifford was also totally blind.

Spoiler alert. There will be a happy ending.

Heart-wrenching stories like Bailey and Clifford’s are just another day at the office for the staff and volunteers at local animal shelters. There are literally hundreds of rescue organizations for various types of animals in the Willamette Valley, but the ones most people see around these parts are SafeHaven, Heartland Humane Society, and Linn County Animal Control. 

There are generally two types of animal shelters which make dogs and sometimes cats available to the public for adoption. Pounds, or animal control facilities, are run by individual counties, and are legally responsible for housing stray and dangerous dogs. Their primary responsibility lies in protecting the public. Most do not house cats. Animals at the pound can be put down if not claimed or adopted. When you adopt an animal from the county, you are most likely saving its life.

Humane Society shelters are non-profit organizations. Because they receive no funding from municipalities, these shelters must fundraise and generally charge higher adoption fees. As a rule, these are no-kill shelters. However, they usually reserve the right to put down dangerous or very sick animals. Humane Society shelters are not obligated to accept strays, and may refuse some animals if their likelihood of adoption seems low.

Linn County is more proactive than many other Oregon counties. They regularly run low-cost veterinary clinics for both dogs and cats. They utilize volunteers for animal care, and solicit donations for needed supplies. Linn County Dog Control is also responsible for dog licensing. They do not take cats.

The SafeHaven Humane Society is located in Tangent. Until recently, the shelter was located in dilapidated structures just off Highway 34 near I-5. The new 33,000-square-foot facility is a massive upgrade in both size and services available to the public. Not only is there more room for both adoptable dogs and cats, but SafeHaven now has dozens of training classes and administrative offices all in one building.  


As a private NPO, Heartland is under no obligation to work with the county or city. Their contacts with both are not particularly profitable, but Executive Director Andrea Thornberry has no doubt that accepting animals from animal control officers is the right thing to do. Rather than having a dedicated facility, both the county and the City of Corvallis contract out space and services from Heartland Animal Control officers. Both the City of Corvallis and Benton County have keys to the back room of Heartland Humane Society, and will drop off animals even when the building is unstaffed.

Thornberry’s staff never know what they will find waiting for them when they report for work. They have cared for everything from a parrot to a tortoise and plenty in between. Most often, however, the back kennels contain stray dogs. The Heartland staff coordinates with animal control officers to either reunite animals with owners or find them new homes. Some of those dogs end up in the adoption area. Others become projects for the staff, who must utilize their connections at countless animal agencies in search of appropriate homes or at least better short-term solutions.

Heartland also has a Humane Education program dedicated to community education. Staff members bring animals to local schools, fill Camp Catnip with fun furry friends, and invite kids into the shelter for Kindness Kids Club.

Back to the story of the ironically named Clifford. Kari and Scott Lasswell sent their son JD to SafeHaven to pick out a new puppy for the home. The family’s boxer, Harley, was in need of a new playmate. JD came home with Bailey on a Monday. By Tuesday, Mom, Dad, and sister Cassie all agreed that the puppy siblings should be reunited in the Lasswell home. Now Harley acts like a big protective mother to her two puppy playmates. Clifford’s blindness doesn’t keep him from exploring the backyard. If the little guy gets lost, he will either listen for the jingle of Bailey’s tags or camp out under a bush until his sister finds him.

You can follow the progress of the Lasswell dogs on Facebook by going to Clifford’s Calamities. See local adoptable animals online at,, or