Willamette Humane Society and Oregon Humane Society Come Together to Serve Pets and People in Oregon

March 11, 2022

For decades, Willamette Humane Society (WHS) and Oregon Humane Society (OHS) have provided core services and lifesaving care to companion animals. Collaboration has always been part of that work. But on July 1, the two organizations will take the first step in a critical process to benefit animal welfare in Oregon. 

On July 1, WHS will merge into OHS creating one organization—Oregon Humane Society—in two locations. Donors just like you will still be able to direct your gifts to specific communities and programs. This includes one-time gifts, monthly donations, and estate gifts. 

While the merger process won’t be complete for up to 24 months, both teams are excited about what a deeper connection means for pets and the people who love them.

WHS and OHS have a long history of coming together. For example, when 35 cats were found in a UHaul trailer in Salem in the depths of winter in 2018, the two teams worked together to assess, treat, and rehabilitate the cats. And OHS Humane Law Enforcement helped get justice for those cats in a successful case in Marion County court. 

A merger allows for yet more collaboration, along with enhanced purchasing power. As a much larger organization spread across two campus locations, OHS will use the same software, phone systems, email management systems, and more. Those cost savings could directly impact our ability to serve the community. 

Pets may also directly benefit from deep collaboration. For example, WHS currently transfers pets with complex issues to OHS as needed, to ensure that these animals get the help they need to move on to happy lives. But those transfers require conversations, paperwork, planning, and time. A merger will allow the two communities to collaborate much more quickly and efficiently. 

Employees may benefit from the change as well. A partnership allows for career advancement and education. OHS has always prioritized education and learning for staff, as has WHS. A connection may allow some employees to explore new roles or leadership opportunities that just weren’t available in the past. 

Several prominent animal welfare agencies—including the San Diego Humane Society, the Humane Rescue Alliance, and the Washington (DC) Humane Society—have moved through mergers in recent years. The decision makes sense to organizations that hope to make every dollar count to support the mission. WHS and OHS are proud to be part of this emerging best practice in animal welfare. 

“I am very excited about what this change means for our community,” says WHS Executive Director BJ Andersen. “I anticipate that we’ll have even more resources available to help and protect the pets in Oregon, and that’s something we all can celebrate.”

Salem and Portland residents, community partners, and rescue agencies won’t see immediate changes. They’ll work with the same people via the same channels they’ve always used. The Salem campus will remain open. But as the two teams continue to merge and align processes, subtle shifts may emerge. OHS is committed to transparency, and all affected parties will hear about changes well in advance. See our press release here

Frequently Asked Questions

What is happening?

Willamette Humane Society (WHS) will merge into Oregon Humane Society (OHS) to create one organization, Oregon Humane Society, with two locations. This merger between the two largest animal welfare agencies in Oregon will position us to provide even higher levels of care and compassion to the animals in our care as well as those in our communities. The merger will be effective on July 1, 2022, and the integration of the two organizations will be an 18-24 month process.

When will the merger take place?

The two organizations have agreed to merge effective July 1, 2022. This is the end of WHS’ fiscal year, so it’s a prudent time to make the merger official. The transition and integration of the two organizations will be an 18-24 month process.

What steps led to this decision to merge?

In early 2020, the WHS Board of Directors chose to explore the possibility of a merger as the best path forward to be able offer more state of the art animal welfare services to the community, while also building organizational resilience and sustainability. The global pandemic delayed the process a bit, and the board committee tasked with investigating the options began meeting in the fall of 2020. After exploring all possible partners for a merger, they settled on OHS as their top choice, and WHS initiated the conversation with OHS in early 2021. Both organizations began the due diligence process and continued discussions between WHS and OHS leadership until both boards were satisfied that this was the right decision for each organization. The boards unanimously agreed to proceed with the merger in early 2022.

Why are we doing this?

Animal welfare is changing. WHS and OHS are both facing an increased need to care for animals who need complex medical care and in-depth behavior rehabilitation. Animal welfare is also evolving to prioritize keeping pets in their homes by offering new and innovative support services. Working together, more animals and pet owners will get the care they need.  

Have OHS and WHS worked together in the past?

WHS and OHS have partnered as the leaders in animal welfare in Oregon for many years. This collaboration has taken place through our leaders, transfer partnership, animal neglect cases, crisis response, veterinary care, legislative efforts and an unrelenting passion to do more for the animals in our community.

Have other shelters gone through a merger like this?

Several prominent animal welfare agencies—including the San Diego Humane Society, Wisconsin Humane Society, the Humane Rescue Alliance, and the Washington Humane Society—have moved through mergers in recent years. Cutting overhead costs and streamlining services makes sense to organizations that hope to make every dollar count to help animals in need. WHS and OHS are proud to be part of this emerging best practice in animal welfare. 

Will WHS keep its name?

When WHS merges into OHS, there will be a single business entity: Oregon Humane Society.  During the integration period following the official date of merger, you will continue to see the WHS name used as we transition to one entity under the OHS brand.

What about the animals?

Both OHS and WHS are dedicated to caring for homeless pets and finding them loving homes, fighting animal cruelty and abuse, and providing services that help preserve the bond between people and their pets. While some processes may change, animals will remain the focus of the work done in both locations. 

Will the merger bring Humane Law Enforcement to Salem?

Oregon Humane Society’s Humane Law enforcement team investigates cases throughout the state of Oregon, including in and around Salem. The partnership between OHS and WHS will provide another connection to the Salem community and the state authorities to support humane investigations across the region.

OHS is the only humane law enforcement agency in the state dedicated to animal cruelty cases. Our work right now across the region is limited by our single location in Portland. The new connection to the Salem community will make the best use of our resources. In the mid-valley community, there is a dog control facility, but there is no support for cats and other animals. This merger gives us the opportunity to have more space and a home base for additional field officers.

How will you keep the public informed during the merger process?

We will notify the public in mid-March through local media outlets and post updates to our websites as we have new information to share. We will also communicate directly with key stakeholder groups throughout the transition to ensure both organizations’ strong relationships are maintained. Most importantly, both locations will continue to provide the critical care and services our communities rely on.

Can you tell me if there is going to be a discontinuation or scaling back of the spay/neuter services for feral and community cats when the merger happens?

Our merger with OHS will not bring immediate changes to the WHS Spay and Neuter Clinic. Both WHS and OHS understand the critical need for low-cost spay/neuter services in our community. No one intends to take those services away.  It is our intent to continue offering vital spay/neuter services for community cats and owned cats, just as we have been since 2010. We’re so thankful for the community’s support and patience as we work through all of the merger details. We think you’ll be pleased! If we do make any changes that could impact the Spay and Neuter Clinic, we’ll announce them.

What is going to happen to the WHS Thrift Store?

We love the WHS Thrift Store as much as you do, and we’re thrilled to announce that it will stay open at its current location in downtown Salem. Our merger with OHS will not bring immediate changes to the shop. Your donations and purchases are a major source of revenue for pets and the people that love them, and we’re so grateful for the community’s support.

Will the WHS visitation hours change as a result of the merger?

Let’s explain the current process a bit:

  • Appointments. We use appointments to surrender or adopt an animal. That process helps us reduce the risk of overcrowding, and it ensures that we give potential adopters the time they need for careful meet and greets. We offer appointments seven days per week.
  • Visitation. We offer visitation hours two days per week where anyone, without an appointment, can come to visit pets, ask a question, or make a donation. We know many of you want to visit us more frequently, and we’re working to meet that need! We’ll make an announcement soon. 

Will WHS offer more opportunities to surrender owned cats or bring us stray cats? 

Thank you for thinking about cats in our community. We’re so excited about this partnership with OHS and what it might mean for cats. While we can’t say specifically how many more cats we might be able to help in Salem, we feel confident that our cat-loving community will be pleased with the changes to come. 

More questions? 

Please reach out to us at ohs@oregonhumane.org.