After Receiving 41 Huskies, County Shelter Overflowing

By Beacon Staff

Flathead County Animal Shelter Director Kirsten Holland knew the recent sudden influx of 25 homeless Siberian husky mixes was going to be a heavy load on her already-crowded facility. Then, two days later, that number had climbed to 41.

“The day after we got them, one of the females had a litter of eight puppies,” Holland said. “The day after that, another female gave birth to eight more.”

County officials seized the dogs on June 25 after finding them living in cramped, filthy quarters in Evergreen. They were being kept in a small camper, where animal control officials say they did not have food and water readily available, and were covered with fecal material.

“They were in pretty deplorable conditions,” Holland said.

The dogs’ owner, Juanita Camille McGranor, 66, was arrested and charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony. She was released the next day into a house arrest arrangement.

In the meantime, the huskies have fallen into the care of the county shelter’s staff, who are also receiving help from several other volunteer agencies and groups, including animal wardens, the Flathead Spay and Neuter Task Force and the Humane Society of Northwest Montana. The newborn puppies and their mothers are being kept at the shelter, while the other dogs have found a temporary home in a horse barn at the Flathead County Fairgrounds.

Holland said the dogs all needed to be cleaned, spayed and neutered and have various health issues addressed. Volunteers and staff have also been working to socialize the dogs. “They’re not aggressive, but they are scared,” Holland said. “We’re trying to get them used to being around people again.”

When the Flathead Spay and Neuter Task Force, a nonprofit that offers low-cost services, heard about the dogs, they put out an e-mail asking their volunteers for help. “I was shocked that within 24 hours of when the e-mail went out with a call to help, there were all these people coming out of the woodwork asking what they could do,” Barbara Palmer, a task force member, said.

On Saturday, volunteers gave up their Fourth of July holiday to gather for an impromptu spay and neuter clinic, delivering the dogs from the shelter and fairgrounds to the task force and offering their services.

Even with the outpouring of help, officials say there’s still room for the public to chip in and help care for the dogs. The shelter is looking for volunteers willing to adopt, do foster care, help at the shelter or provide monetary aid.

Despite an influx of animals stemming from the economic downturn, the shelter thus far had managed not to exceed its capacity this year because, even as more people brought in cats and dogs, more were coming to adopt as well. The huskies, of course, have changed that.

“What we really need from the public is for people who have been on the fence about adopting to come forward,” Holland said. “It’s our busy season anyway, and we need to make room for these huskies.”

For people who can’t adopt, Holland suggested using the shelter’s foster care program, where they agree to house the animals for the short term. The program allows foster parents both the opportunity to help an animal in need and the chance to see if they’re ready to take on a pet full time.

People can also make donations for the dogs’ care through the more recently created nonprofit fundraising organization called Flathead Shelter Friends. Donations should be earmarked “Husky Rescue” and sent to P.O. Box 567, Lakeside, 59922. The group can be found online at www.flatheadshelterfriends.org.

The puppies will not be ready for adoption for nine to 12 weeks and the shelter does not manage “pre-adoptions,” but the older dogs have been vaccinated, de-wormed and spayed or neutered, and are ready for new homes.

“Really, even above money right now, it’s just about getting room in the shelter,” Holland said. “Here we can let them out in the yard, get them rehabilitated and back into the land of the living.”

Another abused dog also found its way to the county shelter last week. A black-and-brown neutered male German shepherd mix was discovered by a hiker tied tightly to a tree about 50 yards off a trail near Coram.

It was malnourished and had a bad yeast infection covering its body, Holland said, and early vet inspections show that it may have been shot in the ear. With care, the dog is recovering, she added, and despite its medical conditions is “happy and bouncing all over.”

The sheriff’s office is still searching for the owners who will likely face animal cruelty and abandonment charges.

For more information on any of the dogs or questions, contact the shelter at 752-1310.

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