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Local shelter hosts dogs, cats By

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POLSON — As Adopt-a- Cat Month draws to a close, there are estimated to be 70 million stray cats living within the United States, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Most of those will never find a compassionate and caring family.At Mission Valley Animal Shelter, a combination of dedicated volunteers, staff, and community efforts combine to give these animals the best possible chance at finding a solid family.

“Our primary goal is to take in strays, abandoned, and surrendered cats and dogs and get them adopted into good and forever homes,” said Jill Simpson, who has served as shelter director for about three and a half years.

The shelter advertised Adopta- Cat Month on its Facebook page, and saw a few cat adoptions in June, including one who resided in the shelter for three long years before finally finding a home on Friday.

Because there are so many cats around Lake County, they are harder to get adopted out, according to Simpson. She said that it is infinitely better to adopt from a shelter than to buy from a store or to just pick up a random cat because the shelter spays or neuters and vaccinates the animals before there are adopted. At the shelter, kittens cost $50, adult cats cost $40, puppies cost $125 and adult dogs cost $100.

Recently, MVAS has started taking some of the kittens up to PetSmart in Kalispell, which only sells animals from shelters. This helps keep the numbers down within MVAS, allowing more room for animals, and is also a great way to get the kittens into a welcoming family.

Along with finding homes for animals, Simpson actively engages in community outreach, often giving presentations at churches and schools. This past year, Simpson went into Polson schools and gave presentations to first through fourth graders about the responsibilities that come with owning a pet and the importance of getting a pet spayed or neutered. She also spoke on how to be safe around animals such as dogs that may be unpredictable or aggressive.

The shelter has its own set of responsibilities.

A typical day at the shelter involves a lot of chaos, Simpson said, laughing. It begins early in the morning when staff and volunteers come in early to get all the dogs out of the kennel and into the play yard where they feed and water them. They then feed and provide water for the cats, who aren’t in kennels but in a cat room dedicated to their needs. After this, there is a great deal of maintenance, such as cleaning kennels, doing laundry, and changing bedding. On Tuesday through Saturday, the shelter opens to the public at 11 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. On these days, visitors can come check out cats or dogs they have seen on the website,, and begin the adoption process. However, not everyone comes to the shelter just to adopt.

“Some people come in just because they want to visit the animals or spend time with them, and that’s fantastic as well,” Simpson said.

Yet Simpson encourages adoption. MVAS works hard to get a good match between owner and animal, which often relies on the lifestyle of the owner and the breed of dog or cat. For instance, Simpson wouldn’t recommend somebody with a sedentary lifestyle to adopt a high-energy dog because the dog will need to be extremely active in order to stay healthy and happy.

Overall, animal numbers have been down at the shelter and at others across the nation, Simpson said. She credits this with an increase in responsibility and awareness of what it takes to raise an animal. Before 1970, the Humane Society estimated that for every 1,000 people in a community, 100 cats and dogs were euthanized due to overcrowding and lack of identification. If the same ratio held today with the national population estimated at 324 million, that would mean 32.4 million animals would be euthanized each year. Now, those numbers have dropped to about 2.7 million nationwide. Simpson said it’s 2.7 million more than she wants, but still a big improvement.

MVAS is a no-kill shelter, with the exception of animals too sick or injured to recover. The shelter was not always euthanasia free, but the transition was made more than a decade ago. Volunteers work hard to take in as many strays and provide for the animals within the shelter’s domain.

“We have come a long way,” Simpson said, “but we still have a long way to go.”

As a non-profit organization, MVAS relies heavily on the community in order to keep the shelter running. Seconds 2 go, a thrift shop located by McDonalds in Polson, is the primary source of income for the animal shelter. Lake County residents donate blankets, money, and food, and the community also helps out by providing services at a free or reduced rate such as pet grooming and lawn maintenance.

The shelter is also hosting two major fundraisers in the near future.

“We have a fundraiser in July, the Spay-ghetti fundraiser — no ‘meatballs,’” Simpson said. The fundraiser raises money and awareness for spaying and neutering with a clever play on a typical spaghetti fundraiser.

In September, the community is invited to bring their furry friends to the annual Pet-APalooza fundraiser complete with games, informational vvmovies and training, and contests such as most look-alike pet and owner.

A large portion of the success of the shelter depends on the volunteers, who do everything from dishes to laundry to helping train animals. There are around 50 volunteers, 20 of which come on a regular basis, according to Simpson.

“We want to tap into any particular interests or special skills that they have,” Simpson said. “Somebody may be good in photography; somebody may have some dog training background, which is wonderful.”

MVAS encourages children to come in to volunteer, but if they are under 16, a parent must accompany them. Due to safety and liability reasons, they cannot work alone with the dogs until age 18.

Anyone interested in volunteering or donating can call MVAS at 406-883-5312 or come in to the shelter at 36251 North Reservoir Road in Polson.

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