Humane Society of Western Montana marking 50 years

2013-01-25T09:30:00Z 2013-01-28T08:42:04Z Humane Society of Western Montana marking 50 yearsBy KEILA SZPALLER Missoulian The Billings Gazette
January 25, 2013 9:30 am  • 

MISSOULA -- This year, a border collie named Lucky Dog will continue to run and play in her big backyard, and the Humane Society of Western Montana turns 50 years old.

It’s so much to be thankful for, said Terry King, former board president, donor, Lucky Dog’s person and recent supplier of kitty toys to the shelter.

King is among the Humane Society supporters who spoke recently at an event that kicked off the nonprofit’s 2013 celebration of milestones.

“In my mind, the thing that I am most thankful for the last 50 years is all the people that have worked there as staff members, volunteers, the founders, all the way back and all the way forward,” King said.

“The faces change, but those are a very giving group of people that give up a fair amount of things, including the strength of their heart.”

The shelter has a 98 percent adoption rate, but that doesn’t mean its workers don’t have hard days, King said. Some animals come in abused and mistreated, and some days, a small animal might die because it didn’t get special care.

“There’s a lot of joy, but there is some sadness,” King said.

Lucky Dog, 11, fits into the joyful category, and she’s lucky because the Kings adopted her from the shelter and she gets to live with King’s wife, Sharon.

At first, the pup struggled with abandonment and had a penchant for, as King put it, remodeling, or chewing through walls into Sheetrock.

“We worked with her for a couple years, and now, she’s the sweetest dog on Earth,” he said.

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With 14 employees on staff and an annual budget of $600,000, the Humane Society typically has 30 dogs and 75 cats at any given time, said Lora O’Connor, who has been the director since 2008.

This year, the shelter will raise a glass to its successes and the community that’s made them possible.

At the celebration dinner, longtime Humane Society supportersl talked about some milestones, such as its achievements spaying and neutering animals, the foster program, the new building and good shelter medicine.

Good shelter medicine means designing a facility that helps pets stay healthy, O’Connor said. Rooms where sick animals stay, for instance, have a separate ventilation system so other pets don’t become ill.

Shelters outside Missoula often look like prisons, and the designs put off the public, King said, noting, “It’s sad enough to go see animals that are abandoned, and then it’s doubly sad to see them in a facility that looks like a prison.”

The new Humane Society building is different, said King, who helped raise the $1 million plus for it. It opened in 2005 on U.S. Highway 93 just south of Blue Mountain Road, and King said he’s pleased that it has a friendly feel for people and is more open and free for the animals, too.

The 50-year marker means looking ahead as well, and O’Connor said the Humane Society of Western Montana aims to assess its own programs and services. It also plans to share its recipe for the 98 percent adoption rate with other shelters.

“We want to continue being the No. 1 resource for all things pet-related,” O’Connor said.

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