Moving Forward- An Interview with Wade Sadler, Director of Animal Services

Wade Sadler in the shelter intake dog kennels
Wade Sadler professional headshot

Sadler and MCAS leaders are focused on addressing systems issues to make services more accessible to the public, reducing how long animals stay at the shelter before finding their people to make their stay less stressful and more humane, and ensuring care provided is at the cutting edge of animal welfare industry standards.


Announced in February 2020, Wade Sadler is the new Director of Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS), a division of the Department of Community Services.

Sadler is well-versed in the mission and operations of MCAS, and ready for the duties and responsibilities ahead, having served in the role of Interim Director since April 2019, and as Business Operations Manager from 2015 to 2019 where he directly supervised the Client Services, Communications, and Animal Health workgroups.

Sadler has over 20 years of operations management experience working with the public in the local community, and is a veteran, having served as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. 

Not Your Grandfather’s Dog Pound

“We’re not your grandfather’s dog pound,” Sadler says with a glimmer in his eye. “MCAS has come a long way in the last ten years, and the majority of the credit goes to our dedicated supporters, our hardworking staff, our faithful volunteers, and the day to day care they provide for the pets and people of our community.”

Building on the success of MCAS in raising its live-release rate for dogs and cats to be over 90% in the span of a decade, Sadler and MCAS leaders are focused on addressing systems issues to make services more accessible to the public, reducing how long animals stay at the shelter before finding their people to make their stay less stressful and more humane, and ensuring care provided is at the cutting edge of animal welfare industry standards.

Helping the Pets and People Who Need the Most Support

At MCAS, Sadler has championed programs to make services more accessible to the pets and people of the community. “For me, I care about being a good steward of our local government’s resources for the public,” Sadler says, introspectively. “Yes, I care a lot about animals, but I also want to be able to help the people attached to those animals. We’re considering the social justice perspective relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and what it means for the services we offer. How do we help the people who are struggling, who need the most support, or who aren’t accessing our services?

A high priority for Sadler is strengthening partnerships with other county agencies and community groups to better serve community members experiencing homelessness, living with mental health concerns, and other vulnerable or underserved populations. “We want to ensure we’re working closely to utilize available resources fully and effectively, collaborating with other agencies and groups to help the pets and people of our community,” Sadler says. “We’ve already begun some of those discussions with the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS), the Department of County Human Services (DCHS) Hoarding Task Force, as well as our ongoing partnerships with the Multnomah County Office of Emergency Management to make sure we have effective and appropriate response capabilities in emergencies.”

Lifesaving and Safety

“MCAS has made dramatic changes in the past decade to save lives. We went from having a high euthanasia rate to saving 90% of all cats and dogs in our care. With that big pendulum swing came many other systems changes that are challenging to navigate,"  Sadler acknowledges. A high live-release rate often means more animals are at the shelter for longer periods of time than ever before. Many animals have significant medical or behavioral challenges to address, placing more demand on veterinary staff and animal care workers, and the need for more space and comprehensive enrichment practices.

“We’re interested in any ways to get pets back to their owners more effectively and quickly, or ways to prevent animals from ending up at the shelter in the first place through licensing, microchipping, and education. When animals are sheltered for extended periods of time, their people are missing them, the shelter can be a stressful place for them to wait, and there are significant overhead costs associated with their daily care well beyond any impound or boarding fees paid by the public. It’s really in everyone’s best interest- the people, the pets, Multnomah County, and the taxpayers- to do everything we can to help animals move quickly through our doors. It’s a win-win-win-win anytime we can make that happen.”

“We’re faced with more scenarios where we have to balance our capacity to provide adequate care against our desire to save as many lives as we can. Or we have to carefully consider whether an animal would be safe to place back into the community now that our capacity to achieve a live-outcome has significantly increased. We take seriously our responsibility to protect the public from animals that could pose a danger to people and other animals. Protecting pets and people is the charge of our agency and our officers out in the community.

To help navigate these positive changes and their associated challenges in order to operate the most humane, effective, and progressive animal services agency as possible, MCAS is partnering with the University of Wisconsin Madison Shelter Medicine Program for a comprehensive evaluation of its programs, services, and sheltering practices. “We want to have the highest quality of care for every animal that comes through our door, and University of Wisconsin is a recognized authority to help us achieve that. It’s not a change of course, or anything new for our agency, but it will provide more guidance to continue moving in the right direction.”

Leadership

Asked about his philosophy as a leader, Sadler says “I’m driven by a desire to help people, and to be a responsible public servant. That’s a big reward in itself. I believe in relational leadership- you have to establish relationships and trust to lead effectively. If you don’t have that, you’re not going to accomplish much. So I’m very focused on collaboration, listening to the diverse voices of our stakeholders, and establishing good communication practices as we move forward.”


For this feature, Wade Sadler was interviewed by Jay LeVitre, Development & Communications Coordinator at MCAS.