What the fowl?! What to do when you find an animal that doesn’t say meow or woof

Rabbits relaxing at River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary in Spokane, Wash. — Photo by Taylor Oddino

SPOKANE, Wash. — Chances are that at some point or another you’ve seen a stray animal around your neighborhood. It’s even more likely that the strays you’ve seen have four legs and tend to say meow or woof.

However, some Spokane residents see strays of a different sort — strays that squeak, cluck and honk.

Spokane area shelters have taken in a variety of small-domesticated animals and fowl. According to Nancy Hill, the regional director for the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS), in 2015, SCRAPS handled chickens, ducks, a goat, a goose, guinea pigs, a pig, rabbits and roosters — oh my!

It’s true that dogs and cats are still the most abundant creatures at Spokane County shelters. In 2015, SpokAnimal, a local shelter, took in over 1,800 dogs and over 1,300 cats. Meanwhile, the Spokane Humane Society, another local shelter, took in over 1,400 dogs and over 1,700 cats in 2015. That’s a lot of paws!

However, other small-domesticated animals are making appearances around the county. These types of animals bring unique challenges to local residents who find these creatures, as well as the local organizations that take these animals in.

Hopping down the bunny trail

Stephen Thoen, a Spokane resident, knows firsthand what it’s like to find a bunny in the backyard. Several weeks ago he noticed a tan rabbit by his home in north Spokane. One of the first things Thoen did was name the bunny — Gunther was his name of choice.

“Gunther was found under a car,” Thoen said. “We thought it’d be better if he wasn’t outside — he definitely was not a wild bunny. We figured with owls and things around, it was probably better if we took him in.”

Catching the bunny was no easy feat. After Thoen and his roommates “kind of lost him for a while,” Thoen was able to locate him underneath a shed.

“We had to kind of get him out from underneath the shed, and then he hopped around for a while. Then finally we got him into a box and brought him inside,” Thoen said.

After the ordeal of catching Gunther settled down, the realization sunk in for Thoen: what do you do with a stray bunny?

“I didn’t have a cage. I didn’t have anything like that. So you have to set-up somewhere where he can sleep. [I] didn’t have any food for it either,” Thoen said.

Besides standard things like a place to sleep, food and water, those who take in a stray have to consider other aspects of the animal’s well being.

“It seemed like he was in shock. He was pretty scared, pretty shaken up,” Thoen said.

Lucky for Gunther, Thoen provided him with a blanket and worked hard to keep him warm and calm. After a temporary shelter was set-up in the garage with some spare wood, Thoen began to consider his options for how to deal with his new housemate.

“I wanted to keep him. But that’s not reasonable. I can’t keep a bunny,” Thoen said.

Thoen will soon be moving to Portland for a new job, so he realized that keeping Gunther through the move would be challenging.

“I posted on Craigslist,” Thoen said. “We originally tried to find the owner and I didn’t get a reply on that. So then we re-homed it.”

Gunther is now happily living with a family on five acres where he enjoys the company of horses, chickens and his human companions.

What are your options?

So Spokanites — what can you do if you find yourself suddenly with a new animal, say a duck or a guinea pig?

Luckily, several local shelters take in these types of critters. In addition to SCRAPS, the Spokane Humane Society is open to taking in other animals besides cats and dogs — according to Kerry Wiltzius, the development director for the Spokane Humane Society, the organization has even taken in a rat before!

However — what you need to know is that strays are processed via SCRAPS because it is the official county animal service agency that offers an online list of impounded animals. This is a way to keep record of strays and hopefully help return lost pets to owners.

According to the Spokane Humane Society website, “The Spokane Humane Society accepts animals released by their owners as well as animals transferred from SCRAPS after their stray hold. We generally do not receive strays directly, and any we do receive will be immediately transferred to SCRAPS.”

If you’re unsure whether a shelter will take the stray you’ve found, you can always call the shelter and ask. You can call SCRAPS, the Spokane Humane Society and SpokAnimal to inquire about the best course of action for your stray.

Pictures of the animals at River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary in Spokane, Wash. — Photos by Taylor Oddino

River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary

Yet even still there are other organizations in Spokane County that are striving to help the animals in the community. River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary is one such organization.

Located in northwestern Spokane County, River’s Wish is dedicated to helping animals in the community. According to the organization’s website, “River’s Wish offers sanctuary to rabbits, dogs, cats, goats, horses, donkeys, pigs, chickens, turkeys and more. It is the dream of River’s Wish, that every creature is able to live a full and joyful life.”

“We’ve been doing this since 1994. We’ve rescued and adopted out and provided refuge and sanctuary for a lot of animals,” said Kit Jagoda, the executive director of River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary. Jagoda runs River’s Wish along with her husband, Peter.

Jagoda recognizes the need to help all animals, beyond just cats and dogs.

“Rabbits are the third most common animal at shelters. We help them,” Jagoda said. “Some of the shelters don’t take rabbits in — they’re primarily dogs and cats.”

When visiting River’s Wish, it’s easy to see how some of these alternative domesticated animals require unique care to that of dogs or cats. Consider the cows at River’s Wish — their pasture area requires manure clean up via tractor — sometimes three times a week!

But Jagoda promises it’s worth it. What’s the most rewarding thing about running an animal sanctuary?

“The animals. Providing refuge, giving an animal a second chance,” Jagoda said. “Being able to find really good homes for animals — that’s really rewarding.”

Now you know

So there you have it Spokane — a variety of options for what to do when you find an animal that doesn’t say meow or woof. Check out the Spokane Humane Society webpage, the SCRAPS webpage, the SpokAnimal webpage and the River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary webpage for more information.


***A special thank you goes out to Heather Roberts, the volunteer coordinator at River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, as well as Kit Jagoda, the executive director at River’s Wish. Thank you for the tour and your help with this story!


1) Heather Roberts, River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary Volunteer Coordinator

2) Kit Jagoda, Executive Director of River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary

3) Nancy Hill, Regional Director, Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS)

4) SpokAnimal Year End Report: http://www.spokanimal.org/pdf/2015%20Year%20End%20Report.pdf

5) Spokane Humane Society statistics: http://www.spokanehumanesociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/2015-Asilomar.pdf?03fbc0

6) Spokane Humane Society “Lost & Found” page: http://www.spokanehumanesociety.org/lost-found/

7) River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary website: http://www.riverswishanimalsanctuary.org/about-rivers-wish.html

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