The Scratch Pad

Common Bonds' monthly update for February 2023

Animal Shelter Managers in Oklahoma Facing Life and Death Decisions for Cats and Dogs Due to Overcrowding

"We just don't have the room."

Jon Gary - Superintendent, OKC Animal Welfare

The message from Jon Gary to the public and his local partners in animal welfare is direct and simple. As the superintendent of OKC Animal Welfare, Gary has been borrowing time for animals on the euthanasia list for months now. But Jon's shelter, the largest in Oklahoma with nearly 20,000 cats and dogs entering each year, continues to see its population count hover at between 130% and 160% of capacity, and there is no relief in sight. As a result, Jon has had to make the painful decision to euthanize animals due to the lack of space, including 34 dogs at the end of January. During a recent interview with Fox 25, Gary said he had exhausted all of his options.

"It gets to be inhumane for us also," Gary said. "We just don't have the room. It is no longer humane to keep piling them on top of each other in the kennels."

The OKC Animal Shelter is forced to double-up animals in kennels to help manage the overpopulation crisis.

Overcrowding is not unique to the Oklahoma City animal shelter. Across Oklahoma, cats and dogs are entering shelters faster than shelter personnel can move them out. The shelter pet population crisis, both locally and nationally, stems, in part, from the pandemic, when adoption rates first soared, but later soured as people returned to work. Coupled with that has been the financial challenge of owning a pet for those struggling with the rising cost of living, even as many shelters launch pet pantries to offer free food and supplies. In Sand Springs, animal welfare coordinator Tracy Arvidson said the shelter took in 13% more dogs last year than in 2021, while the average length of stay more than doubled, from 36 days in 2021 to 82 days last year.

"We have doubled-up animals in our kennels, held multiple low-cost adoption events, and recruited more participants in our foster program,' Arvidson said. "Despite our best efforts, we had to euthanize twice for space last year totaling four dogs."

Lawton Animal Welfare superintendent Roy Rodrick echoes Arvidson's sentiments, saying the situation is critical. Rodrick says his shelter is doing everything it possibly can to free up space.

"Lawton Animal Welfare doubles up on kennels regularly and looks for ways to drop adoption costs," Rodrick said. "There's an adoption event here every first Saturday of the month."

Meanwhile, in Miami, at the city-run Ketcher Keheley Animal Shelter, manager Maycee Goza says that while there has been an increased need for animal intake, the shelter has been limited to emergency calls because of an ongoing kennel renovation. "We are focusing our efforts on reuniting pets with owners in the field instead of bringing them to the shelter, Goza said. "Even so, the shelter has had to double-up animals in kennels on several occasions during the past year."

Everybody Common Bonds talked with for this story agreed that the number one thing their communities can do to help alleviate overcrowded conditions is to spay or neuter their pets, something that is often not done with the animals entering their doors.

"The vast majority of dogs we take in are not sterilized and we almost never see a cat that has been spayed or neutered," Arvidson said.

More immediately, Goza says she would like to see Oklahomans take ownership of the animal shelter overcrowding issue as a community problem rather than simply a shelter problem.

"Pet ownership is a commitment that comes with responsibilities, from ensuring your pet doesn't reproduce to keeping their vaccinations current," Goza said. "If there's a behavioral issue that is causing a pet owner to consider surrendering an animal, we encourage them to pursue training rather than rehoming, or worse, dumping an animal off somewhere when shelters and rescues are full because more than likely, they'll eventually be coming through our doors."

Animal Welfare Pros Set to Welcome New Tulsa City Council and City Animal Welfare Leadership Team

Healthy Animals, Healthy Tulsa is set to hold a welcome reception for the new Tulsa City Council, as well as the new leadership of Tulsa Animal Welfare. Common Bonds will kick things off with a meeting of animal shelter leaders in northeastern Oklahoma to introduce the city of Tulsa's new shelter manager Sherri Carrier, and operations manager Colton Jones Friday, February 24, beginning at 3pm at the Centennial Center in Veterans Park. Immediately afterwards Healthy Animals, Healthy Tulsa, a coalition of nonprofit animal welfare organizations from across the city, will welcome TAW's new leaders as well as the new Tulsa City Council. The coalition of Tulsa’s nonprofit animal welfare community was formed in 2022 as a nonpartisan public education resource to begin elevating the conversation about animal welfare with key government stakeholders. Its first initiative was an online survey of candidates for city council about animal welfare issues.

Tulsa Animal Welfare Operations Manager Colton Jones and new shelter manager Sherri Carrier

“One of our primary goals is to raise awareness among city leadership that area nonprofits stand ready to work alongside the city to support its future commitment to improve animal shelter services and to enforce ordinances for rabies vaccinations, city licensing and sterilization requirements, as well as community-wide efforts to help keep pets and families together” said, Andrea Kyle, President of Paws in Need Tulsa.

HAHT believes that by strengthening the connection between the animal welfare efforts of the public and private sectors, Tulsa will become a better place for both animals and people to live.

“You can’t spell community without unity, and Healthy Animals, Healthy Tulsa stands together in the belief that a city’s physical, social, and economic well-being is determined, at least in part, by the community's commitment to ensure its animals thrive,” said Samantha Polen, founder of T-Town TNR, a HAHT partner, and co-chair of the Common Bonds government engagement group.

Enid Nonprofit Animal Welfare Organizations Collaborate on Candidate Questionnaire

Enid's nonprofit animal welfare community is inviting the candidates for mayor and city council to participate in a questionnaire on animal welfare issues in advance of the city's February 14 election. The nonpartisan survey is designed to inform and excite voters and does not endorse any candidate.

"Receiving a thoughtfully filled out questionnaire from current and future decision-making leaders in Enid is invaluable to us, and understanding their heart for animal welfare gives me hope for our future," said Vickie Grantz, executive director of Enid SPCA. "Knowing what they understand helps me to know what topics I can introduce or expand on."

To view the candidate questionnaire, visit Enid SPCA on the web. To learn more about how your community can engage candidates for public office, email [email protected]

Mass Spay-Neuter Clinic Slated for Ponca City

Northern Oklahoma Humane Society and Good Fix are combining forces to save animal lives through a free spay-neuter clinic, March 7-10 at Marland's Place, 1300 Summers Place in Ponca City. The goal of the multi-day event is to spay and neuter 1,300 cats and dogs. This event follows a successful mass spay-neuter event held by NOKHS and Good Fix in October 2022, where more than 500 animals were sterilized. For more information, call 580-767-6877.

Common Bonds Leadership Spotlight: Heather Hernandez

May be an image of 1 person and dog

Today's Common Bonds leadership spotlight profiles Heather Hernandez, founder and president of Mutt Misfits Animal Rescue Society and board member of the Patrons of OKC Animal Shelter friends' group.

What's the biggest reward you get from your work in animal welfare?"It's those precious moment upon hearing the first sigh of relief from an animal after they've been taken out of a bad situation and into safety. Whether they’re leaving a loud, scary shelter, a hoarding house, or a place of injury, there’s always that one sigh, that one moment when they realize they’re safe with me."What's the one animal you remember the most? "Several years ago, I met a dog that I will never forget. As she came into the shelter deformed, aggressive, and neglected, everyone looked at her like she was a lost cause. The second she and I locked eyes, she immediately relaxed. Very few people were able to touch her. She was terrified and defensive with everyone. But with me, she was a perfect angel. Toad lived with me for several years after that until inevitably she succumbed to the neurological issues her deformities caused. She taught me so much in the time I had her and I will never forget her."How do you see Common Bonds making a positive difference?"I am looking forward to seeing the impact Common Bonds can make as a central hub for animal welfare agencies in Oklahoma."What's one piece of advice you'd like to share with your colleagues in animal welfare?"Take care of yourself so you can continue to help others to the best of your ability!"Thank you, Heather, for all you do for the animals you rescue and for your partnership in Common Bonds!


  • Monday, February 20: Community Leadership Co-Chair Road Trip to Stillwater

  • Friday, February 24: Healthy Animals, Healthy Tulsa welcome reception for new Tulsa City Council and Tulsa Animal Welfare leadership

  • March 7-10: Northern Oklahoma Humane Society/Good Fix Ponca City Spay-Neuter Clinic, Marland's Place, 1300 Summers Place

  • March 23: National Puppy Day

  • March 23: Cuddly Kitten Day

  • March: National Poison Prevention Month