Stray dogs travel to Montana for new homes

Deb Hill
Friday, August 26, 2022
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Joan Perrigo holds her new best friend, a Chiweenie named Sissy Mae. Sissy Mae came in the second group of dogs transported from central Texas to Central Montana when a Texas shelter became overwhelmed with dogs. Photo courtesy of SAFE

When volunteers with Lewistown’s SAFE organization (Saving Animals From Euthanasia) heard a Texas shelter was overwhelmed with dogs, had no room and would have to start killing them, it was a cry for help that couldn’t be ignored.

“We try to keep our efforts local first, then Montana animals, but this shelter in central Texas went from being a ‘no kill’ shelter to euthanizing two times a week because of the overflow of dogs, and we just had to help,” said SAFE Executive Director Peggy Butler.

Using social media, Butler and her team of volunteers notified the Central Montana community of the situation, resulting in the adoptions, so far, of 27 pups.

“The director of the Texas shelter reached out to almost 30 different shelters and rescues,” Butler said. “The first time, we placed 12 of the dogs and we were the only ones responding at that time.”

Later other shelters, from Utah, Wyoming and elsewhere in Montana also responded, and SAFE is on its third round of saving Texas dogs.

Butler said all the dogs they’ve found homes for are young.

“The oldest so far was 5 years old,” Butler said. “Most are very young, but with all the females we’ve received you can see they have already had puppies.”

That was one of the difficulties of placing these rescues – while they came with all their vaccinations, had been wormed and treated for fleas and ticks, the Texas shelter lacked funding to spay or neuter so many dogs.

“We’ve had to pass that cost on to the adopters,” Butler said.

Luckily, just this week on Thursday, Butler was notified that SAFE was a recipient of $1,000 funding from the Charity Golf Tournament.

“We’ll be able to use that funding for our spay/neuter clinics,” Butler said. “We offer a huge discount on the surgeries as SAFE pays about 70% of the cost. We hope to offer another clinic this fall.”

Meanwhile, SAFE continues to assist the Texas shelter in placing dogs with good owners. The process is that photos of the dogs are available on the SAFE Facebook page, and those who would like to adopt are asked to fill out an application. Once approved they are put in touch with the Texas shelter to arrange transport, paid for by the Texas facility.

“It’s a leap of faith because people are adopting dogs they’ve never met, but it’s working beautifully,” Butler said. 

In fact, the Texas dog Butler herself is fostering from may never leave – “She’s turning out to be a fantastic playmate for my dog,” Butler admitted.

As to why the Texas shelter is so suddenly overwhelmed, Butler said she can only guess. 

“Their animal control is bringing more dogs in three times a week. It’s horrendous. It might be the aftermath of COVID adoptions, which people are now dumping. Texas has really lax laws about animals,” Butler said. 

As if the Texas situation wasn’t enough, SAFE is also assisting the Chinook shelter with 30 dogs left when a person died and there was no one to care for his animals. 

“The Chinook shelter only has five kennels, so they are in need of help,” Butler said.

Anyone interested in assisting SAFE or in adopting a pet can contact Butler at (406) 366-5905.