Animal Care

Christmas: Holiday partnership to help animal shelter | News

The no-kill, nonprofit Columbia Humane Society shelter helps care for displaced animals and connect them with new owners. It also spays and neuters the animals to help humanely control animal populations. Its mission is reliant on small grants, fundraising events, shelter fees and donations.

All Smiles

Dogs Seven and Doug got into the Christmas spirit by taking a photo with Santa Claus one year.

Two local pet stores have partnered with the organization to help provide dogs and cats with critical supplies over the holidays.

Shoppers at Pet Wants Scappoose will receive 20{c93c05115eae7b2853c4a44517667f24b04dafe21463d3cb653b86ff5269b0fa} off their orders for food supplies that will be donated to the Columbia Humane Society. A promotion code is available online for those orders.

Wiggle Butz Pet Bakery has brought back its annual giving tree— a Christmas tree with paper tags listing items the humane society needs. A bin beneath the tree collects the items and gets them to the animals at the shelter. Bakery owner Donna LeBleu said the tradition is a nice addition around the holidays.

“They love it, and it’s nice for the dogs at Christmas,” LeBleu said.

Additionally, an online dog gift basket shop will donate $10 to the shelter with every purchase from the site. Through Give Puppy Love (, donors from anywhere can purchase a dog gift basket for their pet and support the shelter at the same time. The organization has also compiled a list of items it is in need of, including a new van, paper towels, dog and cat toys, cat litter, pooper scoopers and other items.

Puppies and kittens with large bows under a decorated tree may be a Christmas movie trope, but at the Columbia Humane Society, pets are more than a gift, said Columbia Humane Society Executive Director Lisa Beggio.

“It’s a lifelong commitment. It’s not a ‘for now’ commitment,” Beggio said. “Both emotionally and financially.”

She said it’s important for people considering adding a pet to their family to make sure they can afford to care for the animal.

The most common reasons animals are surrendered to the shelter are when people are moving or are expecting a new child, she said.

“Our goal is to not get your pets, if we can,” Beggio said. “We try to work with people to keep their pets in their home.”

The shelter has some financial resources to provide to assist pet owners, but usually refer owners to larger organizations that have more means to help. The adoption process has also moved online and allowed the shelter and potential new owners more time to make sure the people and animals are good fits for each other. People interested in adopting must fill out an online application and then make an appointment to meet the animals, she said.

“Since we’ve changed our adoption process, we haven’t had a dog or cat been returned this year,” she said. “That’s been very nice.”

In past years she said the shelter has received more surrender requests in the months following December from owners who find that their new pet isn’t working out for them. In the time leading up to December, she has seen more requests to surrender older dogs in favor of getting a new puppy, she said.

“It is very sad,” she said. The shelter is selective about the animals they bring in, partially due to trying to work with owners to keep their pets and partially due to limited means during the pandemic.

“We’re trying not to bring in a ton of animals all on our own,” she said. “We want to make sure we have enough resources to give them the care they need.”

The number of animals at the shelter has been limited so the shelter staff (three people total, including Beggio) can keep up with them. Before the pandemic, Lisa said there were about 45 volunteers working with the shelter and it was easier to care for more animals, but she said it will be a while before they can welcome the volunteers back.

“If our staff gets sick, there’s nobody to care for the animals,” she said. “We don’t get to stop because it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas.”

When the shutdowns first hit, some veterinary services like spaying and neutering were limited, she said. It led to an influx of kitten and puppy litters and a delay on when the animals could be adopted. Every pet at the shelter is spayed or neutered before they can be adopted.

For young kittens, ranging from newborns to three or four weeks old, the shelter works with vetted foster families to care for the kittens until they are old enough to be spayed and neutered and placed into new homes.

“A lot of people do one litter and find it hard on their hearts,” she said. “It’s not for everyone.”

She encourages the foster families to try to find homes for the kittens while they are caring for them so they know the animals end up in a good home. It can make saying goodbye to the pets a little easier, she said.

To foster kittens, Beggio and the staff require applications and home visits to make sure the house is suitable for the litters’ needs. Young animals need socialization so gentle children and dog-friendly cats can be good exposure for them, but they also need a room where they can be alone, she said.

At the shelter, care for the animals focuses on enrichment to make sure the pets are happy, healthy and ready to be placed in new homes, she said.  

“My favorite part of this job is seeing a dog or cat that comes in completely broken and seeing them come out of their shells and trust people and go to a home where they won’t need or want in their lives,” she said.

The Columbia Humane Society is located at 2048 Oregon St., St. Helens. To reach the shelter, call 503-397-4393.