September 18, 2020

Sharon Harmon, Oregon Humane Society Executive Director

sharon harmon

Sharon Harmon,
Oregon Humane Society Executive Director

Sharon has been a professional in the field of animal care and welfare for almost 30 years. She has helped lead the Oregon Humane Society, the state’s largest and oldest animal protection organization, for 24 years and has served as its Executive Director since 1998. She holds a Bachelor of Science, Zoology (Pre-Vet Med), from Oregon State University and a Certificate in Nonprofit Business Administration and Leadership from Johns Hopkins University, and is a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator.

She has served on the Banfield Shelter Advisory Committee, and chaired the American Humane Association Shelter Advisory Committee. Recipient of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Humane Award for 2008, she is currently the president of the National Federation of Humane Societies. Sharon shares her home with her husband and two dogs and two cats.

History of the Oregon Humane Society, (from the OHS web site)

After witnessing the brutal beating of a horse on Front Street, Dr. Thomas Lamb Eliot took action. Gathering a group of 12 prominent Portlanders on November 17, 1868, he founded one of the first humane animal welfare organizations in the country. Initially the Society focused on the plight of draft animals but within a few years advocated for the protection of children and companion animals. In fact, OHS served as Oregon’s child and animal protection organization from 1881 until 1933.

OHS Founder
Dr. Thomas Lamb Eliot

With the understanding that the only way to better the plight of animals was to educate humans about respect and empathy, OHS included humane education in its goals.

Since 1883, teaching children responsible stewardship towards all animals has been an integral part of OHS’s mission. And this became part of Oregon’s mandate to all children in public school. In 1921, one of OHS founders and state legislator, JK Gill, proposed and saw signed into law that humane education be taught in Oregon public schools. (ORS 336.067(1)(c))

Built in 1939

In 1916, OHS took over the city pound but dropped the contract in 1972. The reason: goals of the OHS were not consistent with the goals of an animal control agency.  Since that time, OHS has been a stand-alone, non-profit organization, operating without the assistance of government funding.



In 1918, OHS purchased the 10-acre parcel on Columbia Blvd. from which it now operates. This property is host to the oldest animal cemetery in the West. One of the most notable personalities buried in the cemetery is Bobbie of Silverton. This collie pup from Oregon went on a 1924 summer vacation with his family and unfortunately ended up lost in Indiana. The family was amazed when the lost dog returned home to Silverton six months later.

 The original shelter constructed on Columbia Blvd. was lost a a fire in the late 1930s. A new facility was built in 1939 and housed the shelter’s operations for sixty years.


Our new shelter opened in 2000.
Learn about construction details and
the capital campaign in OHS New
Shelter Project 2000

In June 2000, OHS opened the doors to a new state-of-the-art facility that stands on the site of the old shelter. The new shelter has the capacity to house 92 small animals, 120 cats and 120 dogs.

Learn about the capital campaign that raised funds for the new shelter project, budgets, information about the corporate details about the building and other useful data in OHS New Shelter Project 2000(PDF), prepared by Skanska USA Building.

In September 2007, OHS opened theAnimal Medical Learning Center (AMLC) adjacent to the existing shelter.  The medical center is a state-of-the-art animal hospital that provides a full-range of medical services for all shelter animals. The new behavior center, open to the public, addresses the main reason why dogs come to shelter: frustrated owners who cannot deal with canine behavior.

We now serve the needs of over 11,500 animals each year. With over 120 staff members and a volunteer force of over 1,400, OHS is dedicated to adopt 100 percent of the animals admitted to the shelter.

Building a community of compassion is our goal – through adoption of homeless pets, animal welfare legislation, humane education, abuse investigation, and community outreach and leadership.

The Oregon Humane Society’s Investigation Department has officers in the field seven days a week, handling a variety of animal cruelty complaints. The three investigation officers are commissioned by the Governor of Oregon with peace officer authority to enforce Oregon’s animal cruelty statutes and ensure that the two million pets in Oregon are protected.

Sharon will be on the Pet Radio Show Sunday November 17th to discuss the many programs of the OHS and their cruelty investigations.

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