Walk through the big glass doors at the Oregon Humane Society (OHS) in northeast Portland and you enter a stylish room with vaulted ceilings and polished floors. It feels like the lobby of a nice hotel until you look to the left and see the Robotic Cat Playroom. A glass-walled space full of cat toys that are wired to move, the playroom hosts groups of cats on a one-day trip to kitty Las Vegas. Behind the scenes, cat-lovers from around the country are using the internet to control the spinning neon fuzzy tails and bouncing doo-dads while watching the ensuing mayhem through a webcam.
The Robotic Cat Playroom is just one of the many impressive features at the OHS, which takes in nearly 1,000 animals every month. Almost one third of those come from other shelters on the west coast who do not have the resources to keep them. With this many animals to save, it is astounding that the OHS has a 98% adoption rate. None of this would be possible without the work of more than a thousand volunteers who do everything from foster care to running with dogs.
Another piece of this highly successful animal welfare organization is the Animal Medical Learning Center (AMLC). Half the animals that arrive at OHS need spay or neuter surgery, and a significant number need medical care. The AMLC is a unique partnership between Oregon State University and the OHS. In it’s high-tech surgery suite, fourth-year students from the College of Veterinary Medicine complete a two-week rotation as part of their graduation requirement. These extra pairs of hands help the shelter treat and heal pets faster, and reduce the average animal’s stay by 20 percent. It is also an invaluable real-world experience for the students.