Big changes are happening at the Blue Mountain Humane Association shelter, also known in the community as the Animal Rescue and Adoption Center of Eastern Oregon. Just over a month ago, the previous director resigned his position after serving for the better part of a decade, and thus began a wave of change.
There are understandable concerns. We have them too. The new members of the board are involved for the very reasons outlined in the recent articles and editorial printed by The Observer. There hasn’t been clear communication with the county. There hasn’t been a good relationship with Animal Control or the local veterinarians. There haven’t been consistent business hours or enough people to operate the facility well. Most important, there hasn’t been a good relationship with the community for a long time. We are here to change that.
In the two and a half weeks since the first Observer article was published, there has been a number of rumors floating around. Rumors that, at this time, are just that — only rumors. What we can confirm is that significant turnover in the BMHA/ARACEO board has occurred. Seven of the nine board members are newly appointed.
One of our major initiatives with this turnover is to repair and enhance the relationship with the community at large. The board members are aware of the previous director’s reputation in the community and the concerns about possible “sketchy” goings-on out at the shelter. In the recent editorial by Phil Wright, the new board was accused of “shutting out The Observer,” and through that, “shutting out the very public the association seeks to build trust with.” That is not at all our intention. What we seek is to have a full understanding of what the board is walking into and to be able to provide the very transparency desired by all parties. We do not want to spread more misinformation or rumors by speaking publicly when we don’t have all the information.
We are proud that we have increased volunteer hours from 70 hours in February 2019 to 460 in February 2020. We have provided Animal Control unrestricted access to the shelter — something that hasn’t been allowed since shortly after John Brinlee became executive director. We have updated our Facebook page, initiated an Instagram account for increased exposure and launched an entirely revamped website that features our animals and provides a monthly letter from the president to update the community about what’s happening at the shelter.
On the horizon, we will be addressing our business hours, creating foster and updating adoption policies, initiating volunteer training and “big project” days, and coordinating with ASPCA to ensure our facility is no longer described as a “hoarding situation,” which they noted in their recent visit on Feb. 22. We are also working to improve our cleaning procedures for the safety and well-being of all animals in our care.
All of this being said, we were deeply disappointed by the editorial published in the Feb. 29 edition of The Observer. Despite our requests for more time, they pushed forward and we feel discouraged by the lack of support. We explained to The Observer, off the record, what we were trying to do and why we needed time and were informed it was “too late” by both Phil and Sabrina Thompson. We attempted to reschedule the photo session and interview with Sabrina referenced in the editorial, but our calls and requests went unanswered. One of our board members also reached out and indicated he was The Observer’s point of contact and they ignored that request and instead attempted to reach out to all of the board members at various points through Facebook Messenger. We felt it would be inappropriate and unprofessional for us to comment as we did not have all the facts at that time.
So what are we asking for? Time. Space. Trust.
Time to assess and address the current situation at the shelter. That includes infrastructure repairs, outside space clean-up, revising and updating policies and procedures, assessing our financial situation and budget, creating standard operating procedures, and ensuring we have adequate staff to care for the animals as they need — and deserve — to be cared for.
Space to address these tasks without pressure from The Observer to speak when we aren’t ready. We fully intend to share our findings, but appropriately and within the confines of the law. Right now, we are not yet in a place to share as we do not have full understanding of where we stand.
Trust — this one is hard. We are asking something of you that you’ve given freely in the past and had violated. What we are asking is not that you give us trust without strings, but rather give us time to show you we deserve your trust.
We understand all these changes are a lot to take. We believe that, given the opportunity, the work we are doing will all make sense and create a better shelter for the community. We can and should do this together. Let’s get to work.
Blue Mountain Humane Association board:
Beverly Beach, president; Bob Rynearson, vice president;
Bri Troutman, secretary;
Terri Bradley, treasurer;
Mary Horn, Lani Jones, Rebecca Lord and Shawn Mangum, board members