Yes, the Siskiyou Humane Society animal shelter is still open, despite employee shortage

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
Siskiyou Humane Society shelter manager Kim Latos cares for a mama cat and her kittens at the shelter in Mount Shasta.

When people drive by Siskiyou Humane Society on N. Mt. Shasta Boulevard, the gate is often closed, leading people to suspect the animal shelter may no longer be open. But that's not the case, said shelter manager Kim Latos. 

To answer some of the questions people have been wondering about, the newspaper talked with Kim Latos, the SHS Shelter Manager. 

Q: Is the shelter open?

Yes!  The animal shelter has remained in operation throughout the pandemic though we had to change the way we operate as we follow standard precautions. We still intake animals, adopt out animals, transport animals for adoption, provide public assistance for pets and their owners, assist with lost and found pets throughout the community, assist law enforcement, deploy to local wildfires and so much more.  We continue to work closely with other animal welfare organizations in Siskiyou and surrounding counties.  We welcome the public, but are currently open by appointment only to maintain the safety of everyone.

More:Siskiyou Humane Society takes Paws & Shop from thrift store to resale shop

Q: Why are the gates always closed when I go by?  

A: Both the health effects of COVID-19 and the measures to contain the pandemic created challenges for the economy, employment, human social activities and operations of many businesses. We had to change the way we operate for multiple reasons. At the onset of the pandemic, animal intakes and potential adopters briefly slowed down, reducing the hours and number of staff needed. We also lost  several employees to the surge of unemployment benefits.  Now that animal intakes are up, we are faced by  the same difficulties as many other local business owners--not enough  employees. Keeping the gates closed and visits scheduled by appointment allows us to maintain animal care and provide essential services to the people and their pets in Siskiyou County. 

Unlike most businesses, when there is a shortage of staff,,we cannot turn the lights off, lock the doors and walk away for days at a time.  We always have animals to care for.  We have a handful of employees that are taking on responsibilities and duties of unfilled positions.  Currently, animal care is our top priority.  

Until we have obtained enough qualified trained staff to offer professional services on a walk-in basis, the shelter will be open by appointment only.  

Q: Why do I always get the voicemail when I call?

We apologize for this temporary inconvenience. One of our current needs is for a new receptionist whose duties include answering calls.  

We have been advertising this available position which requires some previous work experience,  excellent customer service, and ability to work in a fast paced emotional environment. We also have positions open for part time animal care technicians. 

If you are interested, please visit our Facebook page Siskiyou Humane Society  Adoption Center and our website at siskiyouhumane.org/careers for more information and to complete an application. You can also call and leave a message. 

Caring for the animals at the shelter is our first priority each day.  We check messages throughout the day on Tuesdays through Saturdays.  Our phone system provides a lot of information related to the services we provide.  If you leave a message your call will be returned within 24 hours.   Our website has valuable information as well.

Buster is currently available for adoption at the Siskiyou Humane Society shelter in Mount Shasta.

Q: I have donations for the shelter, how do I drop them off?

A: We are so grateful for the community’s support and for donations to help the animals.  If you would like to schedule an appointment to drop off donations for the shelter, you can call the shelter and leave a message, message us through Facebook or our website.  

Another option is Tuesdays through Saturdays before 4:30 p.m., you may leave donations at our front gate and staff will bring them in.

Q: What if I want to see the animals?  How to I adopt an animal? 

A: You can see all our adoptable animals on our website at www.siskiyouhumane.org. If you would like to meet an available animal or would like to meet any animal in person, please complete an adoption application on our website.  We will call you to schedule an appointment.  You can also call the shelter or message us on Facebook  or through the “contact us” link on our website to schedule an appointment.  

Our general business hours are 12:30-4:30 Tuesday through Saturday.  This is when we return calls and messages and schedule appointments for intakes and adoptions.  If you cannot schedule during these hours or days we will find a time that will work.   

Q: What if I want to volunteer?

A: Please visit our website to complete a volunteer application.  We will contact you to set up an appointment.  We are looking for volunteers that can commit to a working schedule 2-3 days a week from 8-12 helping to clean animal housing areas and care for animals.  You can also call the shelter and leave a message to schedule an appointment.  At this time we are only taking volunteers 18 and over.   

We are always looking for volunteer foster families for kittens.  This program is crucial to the health and development of kittens within our communities.  We desperately need foster families right now.  For more information please call the shelter and leave a message.

Q: What do I do if I have an animal to surrender?

A: Please call the shelter or message us through Facebook or our website.  We will reply with a phone interview and schedule an appointment to evaluate the pet. 

What do I do if I found a stray dog or cat:

SHS is contracted with the City of Mt. Shasta to impound (hold) dogs found or seized within the city limits.  Please contact the Police department if you have found a dog in Mt Shasta City. 

Siskiyou County Animal Control can assist with dogs found in Siskiyou County in unincorporated areas.

Ultimately, the best thing one can do is try to locate the dog's owner by knocking on doors near the area the dog was found, posting pictures and information to social media, and having the dog scanned for a microchip. For more info:  https://siskiyouhumane.org/found-pets-what-to-do-if-you-find-a-stray-pet/.

We currently have a waiting list for cats to come in.  Last year veterinary hospitals were providing only essential services.  The industry did not consider spay and neuter essential.   Animal shelters throughout the nation are experiencing a drastic increase in the number of domestic kittens being surrendered.  Feral kitten population has also increased.  I have seen more domestic kittens born this year than any of the previous 16 kittens seasons here at SHS.   

SHS is a private, non-profit animal shelter.  We are not an Animal Control Facility funded by city, county or federal funding.  We can only intake animals we have room for and the staff to care for them.    

Q: Is there anything else you would like the public to know?

A: Yes, my gratitude is infinite for all of those who support us and for all of the pet owners who care and love their animals so much.  We appreciate all of you who ask for help with your pets--whether it be for pet food for a few days, or help with your pets’ behavior issues. 

It saddens me that we cannot operate as fully as we did prior to this pandemic (although the only services we are unable to offer at this time are being able to allow drive-up and walk-in visits  and responding to all  phone calls during business hours).  

We are proud of all our accomplishments since April 2020:

We have had 1003 intakes, 520 adoptions, 120 animals returned  to owners  and over 360 clinic intakes/outcomes for various community assistance services such as spay and neuter, food bank, vaccinations,  preventative health and more.  In addition, we have assisted over 260 lost animals in being reunited with their families and 12 wildlife transferred to rehab and rescue.  SHS staff assisted Siskiyou County Animal Control for three days on the Lava Fire, performing  well checks on animals and leaving food and water for pets not evacuated.  We held two “free” microchip clinics in North and South County.  We have implanted 349 microchips and spayed and neutered 347 animals.  

We had financial setbacks due to the closures of our thrift stores during the pandemic. We are grateful they are both open at this time.  We had to cancel fundraising events as well. 

The pandemic threatened to impact the welfare of animals. Animals are integral to human society. Animals contribute to human well-being, and their welfare often depends on the capacity of humans to provide care for them. The staff at SHS is working above and beyond to help as many animals as possible and provide services to the pets and their owners in Siskiyou County.  

We appreciate the support, patience, and understanding of our community.  

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation, lifelong Siskiyou County resident.