The Homeward Pet Adoption Center in Woodinville connects thousands of cats and dogs—in all shapes and sizes—to their forever homes each year.
After more than two years of limited visitors as a result of pandemic precautions, the no-kill shelter honored its 32nd anniversary by offering tours for the public and a chance to meet some furry friends on Wednesday, Feb. 16.
Executive Director Nanette McCann said Homeward Pet moved into its current downtown Woodinville location (13132 NE 177th Pl) in 2001. The shelter is now searching for a new place to call home.
Homeward Pet was given notice that property owners were not going to renew their lease in 2019, McCann said. The contract was extended for five years, she said, partly due to the pandemic. The shelter will need to vacate by 2024.
Operations Director Jim Keller said the adoption center hopes to stay in the Woodinville or Bothell area.
“That’s been our home forever,” he said.
Homeward Pet will begin raising money to locate a building and establish a new shelter setup over the next two or three years, McCann said.
“We want to be visible. We want to be easily accessible. And yet, we’ve got all these animals that want space and they want a yard where they can run,” Keller said. “That’s not always easy to find when you’re trying to look downtown.”
Keller and McCann both remain positive about the situation. According to staff, a new space could allow them to further expand the shelter.
The shelter currently adopts out over 2,000 dogs and cats each year, McCann said. The majority of pets stay in foster care until their adoption appointment, she added. In 2021, the average length of stay in the shelter was 14.4 days for dogs and 9.7 for cats.
Homeward Pet relies on its 800 active volunteers to keep operations running smoothly, she added. About 300 people volunteer on a regular basis.
Keller said the shelter, previously known as Hooterville Pet Safehaus, was founded in 1990 by a group of people who believed that every animal should find a “safe, caring home.”
The shelter was not immune to the negative impacts of the pandemic, McCann said. Homeward Pet closed to the public from March to June 2020. As a result, the shelter switched to an appointment-only system.
Potential pet owners are encouraged to visit the Homeward Pet website and complete an online application. From there, an adoption counselor reaches out to see if the family would be a good match for the animal.
Before the pandemic, Keller said, the front lobby would be packed with over 30 people waiting to meet an available animal.
“It’s less stress for staff and for the animals,” he said. “That’s why we’ve continued to do that.”
To address varying needs in the community, Homeward Pet features an owner surrender room, pet intake center, behavior services area and food bank. About 25% of adult dogs and cats come to the shelter due to owner surrender, McCann said.
“We want to provide them some privacy and an opportunity to say goodbye to their animal,” she said. “We do it in a private space where there’s a lot of tears that are shed, but there’s no judgment on our part. They want to do what’s best for their animals.”
The shelter’s intake and retention manager strives to solve struggles that families may encounter in order for them to keep the animal, McCann said, such as access to pet food.
In 2010, Homeward Pet began offering low-cost spay and neuter services. Then next year—when the shelter moved to its current location—volunteers began organizing a pet food bank as well.
The food bank now collects and distributes supplies from 35 different retail outlets to support other nonprofits and families in need, Keller said.
“A big change for this organization, but also I think for animal welfare, is the rise of pet retention services,” he said.
Homeward Pet also offers temporary housing for animals, Keller said. For example, an owner might be staying in the hospital or deploying with the military. The shelter works with that person to fit their needs, I have added.
To learn more about volunteering or adopting from Homeward Pet, visit the shelter’s website at www.homewardpet.org.