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‘Puppy Party’ planned for September

Animal shelter accepting applications for pet procedure assistance

LAKE COUNTY – The Mission Valley Animal Shelter is getting ready for their second annual Puppy Party, and they need donations and people to sign up for a special project.

The event isn’t exactly what it sounds like: “We aren’t going to be giving out puppies, but we do have some for adoption at the shelter,” said Filip Panusz, executive director. The event is more about raising funds to help the shelter operate and save more lives. A few dogs will also be at the event to visit with people and pick up cash donations in pouches on their vests. 

The Puppy Party will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7, at the Red Lion Inn in Polson. Only 200 tickets are available for the 7 p.m. dinner portion of the event. The silent and live auctions are open to all at 8 p.m. 

Panusz is currently collecting donations for the auctions and is in need of some big-ticket items. “If someone wants to donate a house, we can do that,” he said. “The sky is the limit.” Other items already on the list are a vacation to Jamaica, a 14-foot teepee, and art work. The goal is to raise $40,000 to provide funding for employee salaries, building costs, dog and cat food expenses, spay and neuter programs, veterinary care and other costs. Funds will also be used to pay remodeling expenses.

During the auction, people can become sponsors for families or individuals with animals in need of spaying or neutering. Panusz said some people want to care for their pets and love them, but they can’t afford the medical services, so auctioneers will be taking bids to match volunteers with a pet in need. The shelter is now taking applications if anyone thinks they might have a pet that qualifies for the program. The pet owner would need to show a financial need with something like a food assistance card or proof of income level. The pet owner also needs to send in a picture of the pet to participate. For more information or to submit an application, call 406-883-5312.

“This is a win for our community because we won’t have extra puppies people can’t take care of; it’s a win for the shelter because we won’t have the extra puppies coming in; it’s a win for the pet owners to get the assistance; and it’s a win for the donor to get the fulfillment of helping,” he said.

Last year, the event raised $29,837 and the funds were used to build a 350 square-foot expansion with a room for 15 puppies and a mother dog, along with four other rooms, which is how the fundraising event became associated with puppies. The expansion will be finished in the next couple of weeks. “We are working on the details and the fencing,” Panusz said.  

The walls, with fiber reinforced paneling and durable tile edging, are finished. Mason Lagerquist did the work for free. Dog-sized doors have also been installed in the new rooms. Shelter staff are able to open the dog doors from the outside of the room to let the dogs move to an additional space or go outside. The spaces are designed to be easily cleaned and sanitized.

Human-sized doors on the entrance to three of the rooms were handmade in Minneapolis. Panusz said it was going to cost $650 to have the doors shipped to the shelter, so he started looking for an alternative and found a person going east with a truck who agreed to bring the doors back for free. “It worked out perfectly,” he said.

Cats are also benefiting from last year’s fundraiser. A concrete pad was put down outside the kitty door so they can walk outside into a clean, enclosed area. The old recreation spot contained packed dirt and was difficult to keep clean. 

“Now they can have a proper clean place,” Panusz said.

The shelter’s feline capacity is at 35. Several adult cats and older kittens are waiting for homes. Three-hundred cats are currently on a waiting list to get into the shelter. In the past few months, a high number of cats and kittens were brought into all the shelters in Western Montana.

“No one had any space for them,” he said. “It was just one of those times when a lot of kittens were born. There were so many that we had to throw our hands up and say emergency situations only.”

Panusz said bringing cats into the shelter isn’t a solution. He said people don’t often adopt them because there are so many cats in the county outside the shelter. Bringing a high number of cats into the shelter also causes health problems. “If the mom can take care of her kittens, it’s better and safer for them to stay outside the shelter,” he said. “Ultimately, the spay and neuter program is the only way to fix the cat problem. We could have five other shelters here and it wouldn’t be enough to keep up with the cat population.”

A storage shed was also put on the property. Brandy Hartlein contributed $1,500 to purchase it. The inside storage room can now be used as another room for the animals. “It’s like a puzzle here. One thing happens, and it makes other things possible.”

Panusz hopes to continue with a few more remodeling projects including adding a window in the area where some of the cats are in kennels and making the area open to the public. A new meet-and-greet room is in the works where people can sit down with an animal and find out if they are a good fit for adoption. “I’m very excited about this,” he said. “People really need this space to spend time with the animals.”   

The shelter currently has 15 dogs ready for adoption and six puppies. Several cats are waiting for homes including one that sits in the office and likes to try and help people type. 

Volunteers are greatly needed at the shelter. Jerry Schoenkopf volunteers to walk the dogs at the shelter three times a week. He recently took Marley, a little fluffy mixed terrier with a gentle trot, out for walk.

“The dogs need people,” Schoenkopf said. “And in my opinion, this is a really well run small shelter. They are doing great things out here. I also think it’s important to volunteer. I believe the world is a better place when people do good things.” 

More information about the pets and photos are available on the shelter’s Facebook page. Tickets for the Puppy Party can also be purchased by calling the shelter.


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