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Oregon Humane Society worries about safety of biking adopted pets home

Posted by on April 30th, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Our family cat “Dusty” on the way to the vet.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

On Tuesday, Portlander Sonia Connolly went to adopt a cat at the Oregon Human Society. Unfortunately, because she planned to take it home by bike, she was informed that she couldn’t complete the adoption.

Connolly then shared her experience on a local email list and on Twitter. She claimed OHS policy required that all animals must be brought home in a car. Someone who read Connolly’s email contacted OHS to inquire about the policy and received the following email from a customer service rep:

“Yes, this is true. We require you take the animal home in a car. If you do not have a car, you will either need to arrange for a ride or call a taxi. This is not only for the animal’s safety but also many forms of public transportation will not allow animals. Also, Columbia is a very busy road so we are extra cautious for the animal’s safety and the safest way for them to leave here is in a car. Thank you.”

“We look at it from the pet’s perspective… They don’t love the car ride and I can only imagine how they’d respond to a bicycle ride.”
— Barbara Baugnon, Oregon Human Society

Connolly was disappointed in the policy, which she said wasn’t explained anywhere on their website. “I shouldn’t have to hide that I ride a bike,” she shared with us via email, “and OHS shouldn’t have covert policies that discriminate against some adopters… My opinion is that it’s none of their business how I choose to transport myself and my dependents, even if newly adopted.”

We contacted OHS public affairs department and spoke about the situation with Communications Director Barbara Baugnon. She explained that their organization is very bike-friendly, that many OHS employees ride bikes and they have a bike rack in front of the business.

When I asked if their policy prohibits adopters from taking pets home by bike she said it’s a discretionary decision that can be made on a case-by-case basis. “We look at it from the pet’s perspective,” she said. “With a cat specifically, they’re notoriously bad travelers. They don’t love the car ride and I can only imagine how they’d respond to a bicycle ride.”

If someone doesn’t have access to a car and wants to adopt a pet, Baugnon suggested they could plan ahead. “It’s the same as if you want to move a couch. How would you plan for that? It’s an extension of responsible pet ownership. Maybe it’s asking a friend to drive you. Or, if you came here on a bike and fell in love with a cat, you could put it on hold while you wait for transportation.”

A billboard ad from OHS shows a dog in a pedicab.
(Photo: Sent in by a reader)

Baugnon went on to explain that their philosophy is that the adoption process officially ends at the car. They walk dogs and cats out an adopter’s car to make sure it gets securely fastened for a safe ride home. “Our last gift to that pet is getting it into that car.”

Bike parking at Oregon Humane Society-2

The bike rack at OHS.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Until this morning, Baugnon didn’t even realize pet adoption by bike was an issue. “I didn’t give it too much thought, but it sounds like, from a pet’s perspective, that would be incredibly scary and could possibly mean getting the adoption off on the wrong foot.” A car is a better choice than a bicycle for a newly adopted cat, she explained, because a car ride would feel more enclosed (without fresh air blowing in), it would have fewer vibrations, and it would be quieter — all things cats prefer.

Baugnon also expressed concerns that a cat could claw through a cardboard crate, and then even escape from a bike trailer. The thought of that made her very nervous. “They finally got their golden lottery ticket to get home… And I just want them to get home.”

A major element in OHS’s concerns are that they are unfortunately located on Columbia Blvd, a major arterial full of fast cars and semi-trucks and with no bike lanes or even a shoulder. The closest bus stop is 1/2 mile away. “This isn’t even about the bike vs. the car, it’s about the location of OHS. It’s not like we’re on Belmont or Hawthorne, it’s a treacherous road. It’s treacherous to even walk on.”

As I explained the bicycling perspective to Baugnon, and offered my opinion on why some people might not be thrilled with their existing policy, she was open-minded and genuinely interested in taking proactive steps to improve the situation. She said they plan to explicitly address the bicycling question on their adoption web page. We shared ideas on how best to do that, including some tips on how to ensure the best experience for those who want to bike a pet home (like borrowing a cargo bike and bringing a few blankets to drape over the crate).

Another possibility Baugnon seemed to like would be to partner with a taxi cab company and offer free rides home for bike-riding adopters.

This is a new issue for OHS and they seem more than willing to address it. It’s clear to me they want to make the experience of adoption as positive as possible — regardless of whether the pet gets home in a car or on a bike. “I’m sure bikers would provide a wonderful home for pets, we just want to make sure the pets get home safely.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I can somewhat understand this for cats, but this is absolutely ridiculous for dogs. My dogs love riding in the buckets on my Big Dummy. “Fresh air” is a good thing…

Sigma
Guest
Sigma

***This comment has been deleted because it contained personal insults.***

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

If avoiding Columbia Blvd is a major stopping point, maybe OHS could arrange for adopted pets to be transported to more bike-friendly locations for pick-up. Both PetSmart and PetCo routinely have adoptable pets in their stores, so they’d just need to coordinate between their in-store volunteers, the animals they bring for the day, and the new owner.

OHS could require crates harder than cardboard for the trip home, and offer loaners for a deposit. I’d require a minimum of three bungies, too.

While I’ve seen animals which have been successfully accustomed to being transported by bike (and had one myself), I agree with Baugnon that it’s generally more stressful for them, and adoption with all its turmoil is highly stressful for them already. If I had another option, I’d use it.

Austin
Guest
Austin

These animals have already had some upset to their lives, some of them many times over, I’m sure. To be taken out of a place that has become home and thrust into the, honestly, insane traffic on Columbia, just seems like irresponsible pet ownership to me.

Out of the riding I’ve done in Portland, it is absolutely the worst road I’ve dealt with. The freight trucks are fast and LOUD, people routinely drive at speeds above the speed limit. I have no doubt that the animal could be kept safe on bicycle on Columbia, but there is a difference of BEING safe and FEELING safe, and at the end of the day, you want your animal to FEEL safe. You can’t talk sense into a dog or cat.

TonyT
Guest
TonyT

I imagine she said “move a couch” not a “coach,” although those also would be heavy.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

I’m going to side with OHS on this.

I’m not opposed to moving pets by bicycle per se; we recently adopted a puppy and I am currently shopping for a trailer to take him around in. I wouldn’t put either of my cats on a bicycle, (as indoor cats they have led really sheltered lives) though I have seen people (pictures and video anyway) of people riding with their well trained cats.

But I wouldn’t want to subject a pet in transition to the trauma of being transported via bike or the risk of what might become of them if they should escape en-route.

christy
Guest
christy

If I were staff or a volunteer at the shelter I would have offered to drive the cat to his/her new home. Or is the bureaucratic mire so sticky that this isn’t possible. Let us believe that the cat knows nothing of her botched rescue.

Elly
Guest

My cat is not trained in any way at all. He freaks out in his carrier in the car—it’s completely stressful. He is relaxed and engaged in his carrier on the bike. I’m sure not every cat is like this, but that’s all I got. Our dog (adopted from OHS!!) had to be trained to ride on the bike without being in a crate, but does fine now.

At any rate, how great would it be to invite the OHS folks on a cargo bike ride to see for themselves? I think there’s a Kidical Mass coming up… maybe folks with pets who bike would want to join this one.

PS I’m not sure how I’d move a couch with a car. Is that even possible? On the roof maybe? Seems dangerous. But most big furniture fits fine on my big bike trailer.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

This OHS adoption transport policy is an interesting disjoint to OHS’s regional [often environmental] campaign to promote a pet in every home, especially their billboard showing a ex-pet-less person riding with their new pet in a pedicab…to its new home.

http://photos-c.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/t1.0-0/c2.0.957.638/s720x720/544058_343695512395765_1880873127_n.jpg
Photo from the site: Free The Billboards

Dave
Guest
Dave

As someone who is a ten-time sucker over many years at animal shelters……hell, there’s just times when you’ve got to get over it and use a f**** car. The animals are worth it, aren’t they?

John Lascurettes
Guest

It’s unfortunate in so many ways that OHS is located where it is.

Joseph E
Guest

“Columbia is a very busy road so we are extra cautious for the animal’s safety and the safest way for them to leave here is in a car. Thank you.”

If you are leaving by bike or on foot, or even by bus, you aren’t going to walk or bike on Columbia. Google maps suggests you will cross it at 11th right in front of their building at the legal cross-walk, and head south from there to go to almost any point in the city. The only danger is in crossing the street. The crosswalk is unmarked, but drivers have the legal responsibility to stop for a human (plus pet) on foot.

FYI, cats and dogs (and other pets?) are allowed on Trimet, if they are in a closed carrier.

Map of route by bike: http://goo.gl/maps/8jHNx
By bus: http://goo.gl/maps/Sd8a7

Shoemaker
Guest
Shoemaker

I can hardly believe I’m reading this story. I had to check the calendar. Nope, not April 1. No apparent irony here either.

Well ok then. This is obviously the same problem of misguided thinking that we see in the well meaning people involved in the 20s bikeway. The most unsafe mode of travel is still the automobile. See NHTSA: www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812016.pdf

Seriously, we all know that there were animals on the planet before the automobile. How did they get around? I simply can’t imagine. To think of the trauma they must have experienced being chased around by other animals, risking their necks just to get across the valley. Little could they guess that the biggest threat was yet to come – the bicycle.

Now that they can travel safely by car, they can get to the day spa, the gym and other destinations near and dear to their hearts. OMG

Dave Thomson
Guest
Dave Thomson

We will be redirecting our donations that previously went to OHS to more forward-looking organizations.

Mike
Guest
Mike

I just hope my recently adopted 14 year old pit bull doesn’t sh*t himself while I take the lane on Sandy on my way to the dog park

captainkarma
Guest
captainkarma

There are always cats up for adoption elsewhere.

Ted Buehler
Guest

OHS is on the corner of NE 11th and Columbia. 11th is very bike-friendly, and has superb connections to all the Neighborhood Greenways, via a traffic-light controlled crossing of Lombard, then a neighborhood connection to the Bryant, Dekum, Holman and Williams Bike Blvds.

http://goo.gl/maps/erBb8

All they need is a decent pedestrian crossing at 11th and Columbia, and they’d be just fine. One of those new rapid-flash beacons would do the job just fine.

Ted Buehler
who moved his cat by bike…

Ted Buehler
Guest

I have another beef with OHS, a bit off topic, I’m airing this just to raise awareness —

They will do nothing to try to return untagged lost pets to their homes.

Their mission statement says nothing about returning lost pets to their owners, and they don’t have staff that will do a thing to help you if your cat has gone AWOL.

The policy is clearly backed by a big, blank spot in their mission statement. Not a peep about helping lost pets get returned to their homes.

“To foster an environment of respect, responsibility, and compassion for all animals through education, legislation, and leadership. To care for the homeless, to defend the abused, and to fight with unrelenting diligence for recognition of the integrity of all animals.”

http://www.oregonhumane.org/about_us/about_ohs.asp

Ted Buehler
airing an unrelated gripe, made a mistake, and still miss my cat.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

OHS is THE WORST! They are a living, breathing Portlandia episode in a bad way. Go to the Pixie Project if you don’t want to deal with insane people who believe everything about animals that they happen to make up. It is completely against the personality of a cat to be locked in a box, and put in a car or a bike, and travel around at high speeds. The person at OHS has stuffed a cat in a box and stuck that box i a car so that makes it ok (which it is). It is also ok to stuff a cat in a box and SECURELY bring them home on a bike. The important thing is the cat out of their and into a home. Most cats do not like being transported, but it is a pretty minor affair. They get over it and go on to have completely happy and completely unproductive lives.

Jessica Horning
Guest
Jessica Horning

Will they let you walk home with a dog if you only live a mile or 2 away from the shelter? I was actually wondering about this issue a couple weeks ago as I locked up to that huge cat rack in front of OHS.

Jane
Guest
Jane

I love cats.

dan
Guest
dan

Funny, when Mitt Romney did this, it made him unelectable.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

I can only imagine how they’d respond to a bicycle ride.

she openly admits her ignorance of her own policy…

It’s the same as if you want to move a couch. How would you plan for that?

I’d post it on the SHIFT bicycle list so that somebody with a large trailer can help me move my couch via bicycle…

the safest way for them to leave here is in a car.

how does she know this? this sounds like another uninformed assumption on her part…

Laura
Guest
Laura

Lost and Found animals is the jurisdiction of your County Animal Services.

BIKELEPTIC
Guest

“Baugnon went on to explain that their philosophy is that the adoption process officially ends at the car. They walk dogs and cats out an adopter’s car to make sure it gets securely fastened for a safe ride home. “Our last gift to that pet is getting it into that car.””

THAT IS BS!

I have personally adopted 2 cats from the OHS on Columbia June 2013 and December 2013 and neither time did they “walk us out to the car” – they shook our hands in the office and left us in the atrium. We could have thrown the cats on top of a wheel barrow or gotten on the bus, hitched it to a cat pulled idiorod sleigh for all they know. They’re so full of it.

Sue
Guest
Sue

I think there may be enough people in Portland now to support my ridiculous idea of bicycle ambulances and firetrucks.

dr2chase
Guest
dr2chase

Given that they’ve got zero data on animal safety or comfort, I don’t see how they can justify this policy. I’ve never taken a cat on a bike, but they sure don’t like riding in cars, that’s for darn sure.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

the problem with the policy seems to be that they don’t have a policy…

the original SHIFT email thread went back and forth and eventually an answer from OHS was that if the cat is in a secure carrier and securely fastened to the bike trailer then it would be ok…

however, that’s exactly the setup that the originator had when they went to OHS and were denied…

so it seems a lot like the Walgreens drive-thru issue where some people allowed it and some didn’t until there was an actual policy set forth by the company…

their current stance via Twitter is “Okay everyone. OHS does NOT have a policy that no pets can ever be taken home by bicycle. (ctd.)”

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

Listening to people insist that they’re more enlightened about animal welfare than the actual animal welfare people themselves is deafening.

Terry D
Guest
Terry D

Last August we adopted Jack from Oregon Humane Society over on Columbia BL. We have a bike cargo trailer that we use for hauling which we had strapped our cat carrier to.

Initially they told my partner that they would not let us take him, this is after we did all the paperwork, unless we took a cab. I said….oh, no…then I went back inside, told them if traveling by bike is safe and legal for children, it is fine for cats. Actually, my cats prefer the bike trailer over autos for vet trips. We do it all the time.

I even threatened to contact….ah, bikeportland.org…and let them know that they may need to do a story about how NOT bike friendly they were and that if I had to call a cab to take us across the street then I was going to write a letter in protest.

The manager came out, inspected our trailer and we rode off with our dear Jack….who is now very happy. Obviously they have not reviewed their policy like I suggested they do last summer.

Hazel
Guest
Hazel

I have taken three different cats across town to the vet with them in a carrier on my Xtracycle which is incredibly secure. All three of them have preferred it(based on the lack of howling/crying) versus the car. I would imagine moving at slower speed and closer to the ground is a little less traumatic than being in the car. I could understand this being on a case by case basis if someone didn’t have a good way to secure the animal but this is a silly rule.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Hopefully the light on this subject will result in some productive discussions and improvements all around, like when that woman tried going through the burger joint drive through a couple a years ago. Discussions ensued, and, if I recall correctly, they changed their policy. The fact that OHS is genuinely concerned about the animals and is talking about partnering with a taxi company leads me to believe that the outcome here will be positive.

You don’t know how any given animal will react. Best to get them safely home, let them get established, then, when they’ve had time to adjust, try them on a short ride. If they like it, great! If they don’t, then at least you haven’t traumatized the pet at the time when it is feeling vulnerable. It would be pretty bad to adopt a new pet, discover that it is very afraid of the bike ride, and get the new housing situation off to a bad start.

PomPilot
Guest
PomPilot

Being on my second rescue cat, all I can say is that each cat is different. My first kitten, did not mind riding in a carrier attached to the front luggage rack of a bike. The current cat, on the other hand does not like travelling by two wheels, or in a closed carrier in a car. If I leave the carrier open on the other hand, she does not mind the car ride.

My Pomeranian is another matter all together, as you can see from my avatar. She is 11 1/2 years old, and has been riding with me since she was six months old. It did take a couple of months of short (15 minutes or less) rides before she got used to riding.

Itgoesbothways
Guest
Itgoesbothways

I wonder how many people on this site took their new born baby home from the hospital after it was born.

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

I think I’ll stick with getting kittens from a kid with a cardboard box full of them outside the grocery store. No fees, no bureaucracy and Caveat your own darn Emptor!

Elle Emme
Guest
Elle Emme

FWIW, I adopted a cat from OHS in 2003 without a car. Walked the half mile down Columbia to MLK to catch the #6 bus back home. They didn’t even blink an eye.

reader
Guest
reader

@TerryD: Reminds me of the time they wouldn’t let me leave the ER unless I had a ride, in a car. I called Radio Cab and had them drive me across the street to the MAX station.

megawonk
Guest
megawonk

this is such a portlandia skit waiting to happen. also, what ***word deleted by moderator*** shows up on a bicycle to try and adopt a pet? OHS is on columbia blvd. like big ass semi trucks and 55 mph traffic. do your new doggy or kitty buddy a favor and get a ride with somebody! k thanks…

—— megawonk, Please be sensitive with word choice. Something that might be common jargon or a joke to you might be a hurtful insult to others. Thanks. — Jonathan

Grandpa
Guest
Grandpa

Bike Snob NY Please come to the white courtesy phone

Terry D
Guest
Terry D

Here is how we brought Jack home by bike last august…I knew I had a pick of it somewhere.
comment image?oh=6bde82fda7a98dd1434ae165df14bc09&oe=536433E7

Needless to say he is doing great. He was an emaciated 9.5 Maine Coon when we broke him out of jail. He had had repeated UTI’s due to stress and poor diet at his last home. Now he is 15.5 pounds, is doing great and even has been pulled off his prescription diet as it is unneeded now (according to our vet which we took him also by bike, like we do all out cats).

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

if it’s a common concern that a cat will claw through their provided cardboard carriers then why would they let you take it home in a car where it can get in the way of your controls and cause you to crash and kill people?

is the pet’s welfare more important than the lives of those around me?

cars kill way more animals everything than bicycles do…

I can just imagine the lawsuit after a cyclist is denied and begrudgingly borrows a car only for the animal to get loose and cause them to crash…

Sue
Guest
Sue

Meanwhile, it’s still a nightmare to ride a bike in east Portland.

Bin
Guest
Bin

Since over 25,000 people die each year in automobile collisions in America, it’s not exactly clear that driving your pet home in your car is a safe proposition. Bikes belong.

KillMoto
Guest
KillMoto

“Baugnon also expressed concerns that a cat could claw through a cardboard crate, and then even escape from a bike trailer.”

So instead the cat escapes into a fast moving car, climbs up the driver’s face making him swerve into oncoming traffic and kill a bus full of people. Do they require cats be transported in the trunk?

“it would have fewer vibrations, and it would be quieter”
Nope. It *could* have fewer vibrations, and it “could” be quieter. But some drivers have high powered music systems with massive subwoofers that shake buildings a block away when they drive by. Does OHS check that drivers aren’t going to blast music on their way home?

kate
Guest
kate

“With a cat specifically, they’re notoriously bad travelers. They don’t love the car ride and I can only imagine how they’d respond to a bicycle ride.”

This is an example of a perfectly reasonable conclusion, but with absolutely NO science to back it up, because I was personally surprised AS HELL when my cat complained way LESS when transported by bike vs in the car (which traumatizes him). I initially thought he would hate the bike worse than the car because of the lack of shock absorption, but he was much calmer traveling (slowly, of course) via bike. In fact, I think it might be preferable to carry cats by bike because cats HATE car noises and the fact that they can’t see anything because they are moving so fast.

I’d seriously like to see a study on this.

Ted Buehler
Guest
Ted Buehler

On recollection, I recall that my single move-cat-by-bike was done without complaint by Gypsy, my then 8 yr old cat.

The many move-cat-by-car trips have usually been accompanied by the sounds of a distraught kitty. And, recently, vet trips by car.

I’m going to do an experiment — next time one has to go to the vet, we’ll go by bike and see how they handle it. Then we can compare notes and report back to OHS, if folks are so inclined.

How about a follow- up post in 6 months, Jonathan, to compare notes?

Ted Buehler
Guest
Ted Buehler

Has anyone pulled the crash data for cars entering and exiting the OHS parking lot onto Columbia? I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been a few injury-causing crashes there.

It may be safer to acess the OHS facility on foot at the 11th ave crosswalk than making a left turn in or out by car.

Just sayin,

Ted Buehler

Kevin Love
Guest
Kevin Love

What kind of ***word deleted by moderator*** launches a lethal cancer poison attack against animals and human beings by driving a car in a city?

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

Sounds like OHS is just looking out for the pets. If the street is fairly unsafe they are doing the right thing.

Liz
Guest
Liz

I agree with the shelter. Cats hate noise, cars whizzing by and a transport that they are not accustomed to. I would not transport a dog by bike, either. The more distractions you have on your bike, the less safe it could be.