July 13th, 2010
Submitted by EARS volunteer Kim Diloreto of Neenah, Wisconsin
For 62 dogs and 25 cats from the Eastern Montana Humane Society, today was a red letter day (or should I say red shirt day).
Around mid-morning, the rumble of a diesel semi-trailer belonging to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) broke the silence of the eastern Montana prairie just outside the town of Baker. As the semi idled on the country road, three of UAN’s Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) volunteers stood among their HSUS teammates and were sworn in as temporary local deputies of Fallon County. The group, joined by Fallon County law enforcement and local animal control agents, then spent the morning gathering animals from the humane society property—tagging, photographing, comforting and loading—in preparation for a five mile trip to their start on a better life.
The animals were removed from the shelter due to violations of the Montana animal cruelty code. Large numbers of dogs and cats had been found living in filthy, cramped pens and crates. Many of the animals were housed for long periods of time in unsafe and unsanitary enclosures, and some were suffering from skin and parasite infections.
At the Fallon County Fairgrounds in Baker, more EARS volunteers waited for the animals to arrive. A huddle of red shirts, they glanced at their watches and paced like expectant parents. A day and a half of their hard work had turned an empty indoor arena into a temporary shelter complete with a cozy cat room, indoor runs for the bigger dogs and a medical area staffed with three veterinarians. Along the length of the arena, two rows of shiny kennels (courtesy of the PetSmart Charities Emergency Relief Waggin’ program) waited with fresh bedding and bowls of clean water.
By mid-afternoon, the waiting was replaced by a flurry of unloading and sorting. Big dogs in big runs. Small dogs in kennels. Each cat in his or her own cage. Through the afternoon the animals each had their turn to be seen by a veterinarian as the red-shirted EARS crew filled water bowls and kept kennels and crates clean.
In one of the large runs, a skinny black collie mix was lavished with constant attention by the EARS and HSUS volunteers. They nicknamed her Spinner because she frantically chased her tail in circles. Her poor ragged tail had been worn to a skinny soggy rope of fur. When they figured out calm words and attention would stop her from spinning, the volunteers moved Spinner to the large run and rounded up rawhide toys and peanut butter to keep her occupied. They took turns rubbing her belly and taking her for walks around the arena. At day’s end, she was still out and about, laid out on her side at the end of her leash, half-asleep, half in someone’s lap, looking content.
In the cat room, an uber-affectionate feline (nicknamed Van Gogh) was capturing hearts. The poor sweetie had lost the tips of both ears—something the veterinarian said was all too common for cats forced to live outdoors in cold climates. The smallest bit of attention would send the pretty cat into a series of wriggles and flips. Clearly she was savoring her clean, soft bedding and the dozens of friendly faces she saw around her.
Read more about this situation in the Billings Gazette.
Photos: EARS volunteer Debra Hutcherson of Larue, Texas photographs a dog during intake at the Eastern Montana Humane Society seizure; staff and volunteers from UAN and HSUS wait to unload animals at the temporary shelter; EARS volunteer Barb McGonigal of Bloomington, Minnesota with Spinner; Van Gogh says hello.