POLSON – The Mission Valley Animal Shelter has an idea that could curb the number of stray dogs roaming the Flathead Indian Reservation.
As the number of strays grows, so too could a community effort to keep the animals and people safe.
It’s a good day for this stray who was just adopted. This one is hoping for a home. They are just two of the hundreds of stray dogs found on the streets in the small towns on the Flathead reservation.
“Sometimes we figure out their story and figure out how to get the home. Often we never learn where they came from,” said Mission Valley Animal Shelter Director Filip Panusz.
Panusz’s shelter is often filled with strays, animals with no permanent home, which has become a problem in Lake County.
“Some are community dogs, fed by community members and there’s not really one person who owns them,” Panusz said.
Like many, he’s concerned about these dogs. Many are hit by cars along the busy Highway 93. Without effective animal regulations in many areas, he created a plan he hopes will reduce the stray dog population, by forming community advisory councils starting in Ronan, Pablo, Arlee and St. Ignatius.
“We’re hearing from citizens who are worried about the animals. We’re hearing concern for citizens who are concerned or upset about the animals for a variety of reasons, either for scaring kids or chasing livestock, or posing a threat in a different way”
The councils would work with the shelter. Schools, police and the community forming relationships that could get the dogs off the streets and into permanent homes.
One thing to know about a dog from the reservation that didn’t have a home, they are generally young. They’re healthy and very social. They have to be to survive life on the streets.
But when a stray has been on the streets for a while, there’s a greater chance they’re abused. Panusz says they’ve seen several dogs with BBs embedded in their fur.
The hope is to find these dogs as soon as they can, and to get them vaccinated, fixed and homed successfully.
“So we need to work with the community with people who have connections with the locals to open up those lines of communications and establish relationships so there’s mutual understanding of what people need and what they want and what we’re trying to accomplish
The Mission Valley Animal Shelter is the only one like it serving Lake County, and is currently undergoing a expansion to create more room for their animals. Panusz says they’re on pace to place close to 400 dogs this year.
Panusz wants these community councils up and running by May 1, and he’s looking for volunteers. You can click here to learn more on how you can adopt, donate or volunteer.
Reporting by Jill Valley for MTN News