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Animals benefit from Spay-ghetti fundraiser

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POLSON — It’s been 24 years since Mission Valley Animal Shelter first opened its doors as a temporary shelter and started welcoming in lost, abandoned, and stray cats and dogs in Lake County. As a nonprofit, these years have been marked by fundraising, community support, and hard work from employees and volunteers. This last Thursday marked the second Spay-ghetti fundraiser held at the Elks Lodge in Polson, one of a number of fundraising events held throughout the years. The aptly named fundraiser supports the spay and neuter programs at the shelter and provides pet owners within the community an easy way to spay and neuter their pets for an inexpensive co-pay price.

The $15 dinner tickets included a drink, and the night kicked off with a social hour from 5 to 6 p.m. where guests could view the silent auction items, enjoy a drink at the bar, or buy raffle tickets for a cat-themed quilt created and donated by the Mission Valley Quilters. Auction Items included a dog-themed toilet paper holder valued at $150, a photo of Polson at night donated by the Crow’s Nest Gallery, and an original watercolor painting of St. Mary’s Lake in Glacier National Park. Last year, the dinner raised about $3,000; this year about $2,000 was raised and approximately 50 to 55 people attended. “All the funds we raise from the dinner and from our auction go into the spay and neuter program,” said Sharon Hawke, vice president of the shelter.   There are two separate programs for cats and dogs. The cat program, named Einstein after a notable cat, charges $25 for a male cat and $30 for a female cat to be spayed or neutered. The dog program, named Osborne after Judy Osborne, who was a valued member of the shelter before passing away, charges $40 for a male dog and $45 for a female dog. Without assistance from MVAS it could cost up to three or four times the price to spay or neuter a pet, especially for a bigger breed dog, according to Shelter Director Jill Simpson.

The shelter helped spay or neuter about 500 pets last year. As the people have become more aware of the program, the numbers have risen.

The benefits of getting a pet spayed or neutered go far beyond the obvious advantage of keeping the population in check. According to both Simpson and Hawke, spayed or neutered pets are much less likely to develop cancer, run away from home, and, in the case of some animals, it can cut down on aggressive behaviors. For those who are worried that their animals will be adversely affected, this is completely untrue.

“The procedure has no effect on a pet’s intelligence or ability to learn, play, work or hunt. Some pets tend to be better behaved following surgical removal of their ovaries or testes, making them more desirable companions,” the American Veterinary Medical Association states on their website.

“People are becoming more responsible and realizing the needs and benefits of spay and neuter,” Simpson said.

Even within the last few years, Simpson has seen the number of stray dogs go down. She estimates that where 17 million were being euthanized in shelters before, now only four million are, which is four million too many according to her, but definitely a step in the right direction.

“It’s making a difference,” she said.

To take advantage of this program, a pet owner living in Lake County can visit Mission Valley Animal Shelter to pay the co-pay and pick up a certificate for any veterinary clinic in the county that accepts the MVAS program, most of which do, according to Simpson.

Another benefit of having the valley’s animals spayed and neutered is that there is exponentially more room in MVAS for animals that really need to be taken in.

While this number has been dropping, a few recent incidents of pets being left at the shelter during the night have shown that not all pet owners in the county are responsible. Leaving pets during the night might save face for embarrassed pet owners, but the consequences of this are severe for the creatures. One dog left at 3 a.m. a few weeks ago is still trying to recover from the ordeal and will only allow two of the workers anywhere near her.

Simpson urges owners to contact the shelter if they have an unruly pet because she wants more than anything for the animals to stay in good homes. If obedience or aggression is an issue, Simpson has suggestions for how to deal with pets after being a certified trainer and working many years with animals.

“I don’t have all the answers but I do have quite a lot,” Simpson said. If, for some reason, an animal must be taken to the shelter, for the sake of the animals and for MVAS, do it during the daytime, Simpson said.

Two of the three recent cases of dogs being left during the night were not spayed or neutered, something Simpson often sees in abandoned and stray animals, and that is a huge reason that fundraisers such as the one held on Thursday are necessary. The community showed support not just in attending the dinner, but Anderson Broadcasting sponsored the event, Country Pasta donated all of the pasta, and Super 1 Foods donated all of the hamburger meat in support of the Spay-ghetti dinner.

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