By Terri Harber
Leaders of New Hope for Eastern Oregon Animals talked last week about the nonprofit organization's plans.
The group has reached a 15-year lease agreement with the Oregon Department of Corrections to lease 3.5 fenced acres across from the Powder River Correctional Facility in Baker City. Cost to New Hope is $1 a year.
The site will be used for expansion of the Powder Pals Program, which pairs inmates at the minimum-security prison with dogs that are difficult to train.
Inmates provide instruction to the dogs from morning to bedtime so the animals have a better chance for successful home placement.
New Hope also has been focusing on providing other community services, such as dog adoptions, Baker City's trap-neuter-release program for feral cats (which was conducted by Mollie Atwater and Friends Spay-Neuter Fund of Baker County until 2011), and operating and expanding the Leo Brookshier training center.
The center, which opened in 2012, and the future animal shelter location are nearby the newly leased site.
All three locations - 6 acres total - run along K Street just west of the prison.
The group recently completed a strategic plan that details its pursuits.
A clear layout of goals also helps when the group seeks donations and grants, said Dick Haines, president of the organization.
New Hope could alter the plan in case circumstances change or opportunities arise, he said.
The document includes a community profile and details how the group will work to complete an animal shelter.
Fundraising for the shelter and other operations is another important part of the plan.
One major obstacle for the organization when it works to raise funds for the shelter, for example, is that Powder Pals has capturedso much public recognition that it eclipsesawareness about the group's other animal welfare efforts.
The organization and state corrections run Powder Pals together.
The organization has grown fast since its inception about two years ago. But so has community need for more animal welfare efforts, the plan states.
Highlighting the needs associated with the rest of New Hope's functions, which aren't tied with state corrections, will be a higher priority.
All of New Hope's offerings are interdependent.
Powder Pals' success helps bring down the number of homeless dogs through successful training and placement. So it still needs to remain in the public eye.
Educating the public about the virtues of pet adoption, helping people properly train and care for their pets, and shedding light on other animal issues, such as animal abuse and cruelty, keeps more pets and their owners together.
The training center will expand its offerings - another way to ensure that owners can properly take care of their pets.
Trapping and fixing feral cats reduces their number.
All of the efforts are meant to keep as many pets as possible out of the county shelter. New Hope wants to see construction begin in 2016.
Until the shelter opens there is a need for homeless cat care.
More sources of foster care for dogs and cats need to be developed in the meantime as well - especially since Best Friends of Baker, Inc., went on hiatus.
Another goal is to develop an endowment system to help fund the shelter and other programs.
Dog licensing is considered an inaccurate representation of the number of dogs in Baker City because not everyone buys licenses.
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 37.2 percent of U.S. households own at least one dog and 32.4 percent own at least one cat. The average household has 1.7 dogs and 2.2 cats.
Pairing those statistics with the numbers of households in Baker City and Baker County derived some numbers to use as "a starting point."
There are 4,212 residences in Baker City and 7,040 households in Baker County. That indicates there are at least 2,664 dogs and 3,002 cats in the city and 4,452 dogs and 5,018 cats in the county "owned" or "kept," New Hope estimates.
A count taken within the past year leads officials to believe there are about 250 homeless dogs in the city.
Horses need attention
The group also intends to help Baker County law enforcement with criminal cases that involve horses by setting up temporary impound arrangements.
New Hope won't be able to take on long-term horse care or work directly with the public, however.
The veterinary association estimates that 1.8 percent of U.S. households own at least one horse.
More horses run loose across the country's rural areas than had been the case several years ago. Financial pressures brought on by the recession prompted a substantial number of horse owners to release their animals.
Rural counties, Native American tribes and federal wild land agencies have been struggling with the problem of loose horses.
New Hope's leadership expects that it and other animal welfare organizations will need to provide some sort of relief, according to the report.
The USDA reports livestock numbers and states that 2,610 horses reside within Baker County. It's considered a "conservative count" by New Hope.
To donate to New Hope, telephone 541-403-2710 or visit http://www.newhopeforanimals.org/how-you-can-help.html.
A copy of the strategic plan is at the Baker Public Library. Ragsdale Mobile Glass, 1555 Dewey Ave., also has the document available to read during business hours. Calling ahead would be appreciated: 541-523-5373.
New Hope plans to create DVDs with the document's contents and likely will post it on their website at some point because there is a limited number of hard copies.