X-rays coming to Salem’s shelter pets

Alan Frisbie has spent about three years ferrying Salem’s sick dogs and cats up Interstate 5.

As a volunteer for the Oregon Humane Society’s Salem campus, he’s tasked with transporting animals to the nonprofit’s main campus in Portland when they need x-rays or dental work.

“I try to make the ride as gentle and stress-free as possible,” he said.

But Frisbie’s backseat will soon have far fewer furry passengers.

The Oregon Humane Society on Thursday broke ground on an expanded clinic in its Salem building on Southeast Turner Road that will add digital radiology and a new exam room to the shelter’s in-house vet care.

When the expansion opens around June, it will mean dozens of pets each year won’t have to make the trip to Portland to get medical care.

X-rays are common in veterinary medicine to diagnose animals who can’t always communicate what’s wrong.

“We don’t know if the puppy ate a rock or has something else going on,” said Sharon Harmon, CEO of Oregon Humane Society.

Becca Lulay, a veterinarian at the Salem shelter, said she typically needs x-rays to treat a pet with injuries where the scope of the problem isn’t obvious, as well as unexplained abdominal pain.

When the expansion opens, she won’t have to wait a day or two to schedule transportation for an animal and get them assessed in Portland.

“It’s nice to have that immediate image to know what they need,” she said. The extra trip can mean four or five days longer in the shelter before an animal is eventually adopted.

The $725,000 expansion is a retrofit of two rooms in Salem that formerly housed administrative staff.

Harmon said the rooms have been empty because Oregon Humane Society consolidated its administrative staff when it merged with the Salem-based WIllamette Humane Society in 2022, to be more efficient.Now, she said they can use the space to take better care of sick animals.

The expanded clinic will also allow the Salem shelter to perform more spay and neuter surgeries.

The Salem clinic has two full-time vets and one half-time, along with four veterinary technicians and a “small army” of veterinary assistants, said Dr. Steve Kochis, the humane society’s chief medical officer.

The expanded clinic won’t require more staff, but will give them the ability to provide better and more efficient care, including dental imaging.

“X-ray tells us so much more about the health of the tooth,” he said.

Donors have contributed about $550,000 toward the project’s costs. Most donors are from Salem, Harmon said.

The humane society is continuing to fundraise as they work on the renovations.

“We’re just really grateful for the community,” Harmon said.

Correction: This article originally misspelled volunteer Alan Frisbie’s last name. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.