Volunteer program supports local animal shelter

A volunteer program is bringing adoptable pets into F.O.C.C.A.S.
For ten years, the Friends of Coos County Animal Shelter (FOCCAS) program has helped animals in the community find safe homes. Laura Jorgensen, founder and president of the program, began FOCCAS in 2005 after moving to Coos County.

“They didn’t really have an organization like this here in this county. I started my first adoption site at the seafood shelter in 2005 and we raised some money to get some flea medication for the shelter animals and we sort of went from there,” Jorgensen said. “I then saw how this community is giving, so we started taking animals out of the shelter for fostering and helping the animal shelter out and then we sort of grew into our own company.”

Approximately 300 animals are adopted from the program each year. FOCCAS takes in transfer animals from the Coos County Animal Shelter but, according to Jorgensen, most of the time these animals are owner surrender.

“Somebody comes in here and says, ‘I’m sick.’ Most of the time a lot of them are senior citizens or people who have illnesses and go, ‘I have a dog or I have a cat and I can’t take care of it anymore,’” Jorgensen said.

Owners of pets are then interviewed to make sure the animal is a good fit with the program. According to Jorgensen, unlike the animal shelter, their pets are not kept in kennels, but are placed in foster homes. For this reason, the animals must be indoor or partially indoor pets and not have behavior issues.

“We pay for all of the medical care, food, anything that’s needed. All that you really need to do is open up your home for this animal to live and to love like your own pet,” Jorgensen said.

Denese Norris became involved with the program in 2005. She has been a volunteer and foster parent ever since. She said because of the screening process of those adopting a pet she feels comfortable giving away the animals she cares for.

“When I foster an animal I really take care of them and love them,” Norris said. “She [Jorgensen] really works to make sure they’re going to a safe place where they will be properly cared for.”

FOCCAS has programs to help animals in the community in various ways. Along with the foster home program, the adoption program showcases animals available for adoption at a Pony Village Mall booth every week. The community outreach program provides dog or cat spay/neuter vouchers for families meeting the criteria. Jorgensen said these programs can be expensive but are made possible by donations and grants.

“The Johnston Foundation has given us large grants in the past years to help with community programs,” Jorgensen said. “Until recently, we couldn’t do as much as we wanted for the community because we simply didn’t have enough funding to pay the vets and everything, but with their help we’ve helped thousands of animals.”

Junior April Platt said she feels there are too many shelters that have to put down their animals and she wishes there were more alternatives such as the ones FOCCAS provides.

“I know it doesn’t always work out, but I think if people knew more about shelters they would support moving towards making no kill shelters far more common,” Platt said.

Jorgensen said she would encourage everyone to come to the FOCCAS booth at the mall and see what they have to offer.

“You never know, even if you might not want an animal, you might see somebody the next day that says, ‘Oh I’ve been looking for a white fluffy cat,’ and you could say that you just saw one yesterday,” Jorgensen said.