Pets allowed in homeless shelter during extreme cold

Ashland will allow homeless people to bring their pets into a city overnight shelter, but only when temperatures drop to 20 degrees or below.

When temperatures are above 20 degrees, pets will not be allowed in the regular overnight shelter that is held each Thursday night through April in the city's Pioneer Hall building across from Lithia Park.

Ashland has laws in place that also allow it to open a city building on other nights when temperatures dip to 20 degrees or below.

Pets will be allowed during those emergency shelter nights during extremely cold weather.

Ashland City Councilors voted earlier this week to allow pets inside the city shelter when temperatures hit 20 degrees or less, citing the danger to life.

Some homeless people will not stay in an overnight shelter if they can't bring their animals.

The First Presbyterian Church of Ashland hosts a Monday night shelter while the Trinity Episcopal Church offers shelter on Wednesday nights.

Those churches allow pets and have reported few problems, except for a few soiling incidents.

Community volunteers, including members of the Rogue Valley Unitarian Fellowship and Temple Emek Shalom, operate the overnight shelter in the city building after winning approval from the council in January to offer that service.

A council majority had originally been unwilling to allow pets into the city shelter, citing liability risk, potential danger to guests and volunteers and other issues.

The council then unanimously agreed to a compromise that allows pets in the shelter during extremely cold weather.

"For me, it's a recognition that in times of emergency, we can do things differently to get people help," Councilor Greg Lemhouse said.

Councilors adopted a number of conditions to try and prevent possible problems.

Shelter volunteers must designate an area in the shelter for pets, cover the floor with thick plastic, clean and sanitize any soiled areas and notify Jackson County Animal Control if a dog bite breaks the skin of a shelter guest or volunteer.

Pets must be kept inside crates, although they can be taken outside on leashes to relieve themselves.

Dogs that become threatening or are otherwise unmanageable must leave the shelter.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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