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In the United States today we face many issues with feral cats and dogs. Euthanizing them simply because they do not have a home should not be a solution to this problem. There are other ways to get these animals off the streets and into someone’s care. These animals can spread unhealthy diseases, not only to other animals but to humans also. They can pose problems for our society and can be a nuisance to some. A large number of stray dogs and cats roam freely in northeastern Montana. Most cats and dogs run the streets and are not given any kind of care. Many of them may not get the medical attention needed, resulting in a large number of animals being unvaccinated. Some of these animals can become feral, due to the lack of human contact, and dangerous to the human population.
Stray dogs in Northeast Montana have many health problems. The most common health issue is mange, which is caused from a mite on the dog’s skin. Demodectic Mange is the most common and causes loss of fur. The dogs become itchy and smelly, but this type of mange is curable (Demodectic Mange in Dogs, n.d.). Sarcoptic Mange is transferrable to humans, and is the worst type of mange for a dog. It is also transferrable from one dog to another (Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs, n.d.). Another common disease for dogs is the Canine Parvovirus, which attacks the dog’s intestinal tract. The Parvovirus is contagious and can be transmitted by any person, animal, or even object (Parvo in Dogs, n.d.). Another intestinal parasite common around Northeast Montana is Giardia. This parasite is passed through infected feces. Dogs can also become infected with Giardia by coming in contact with contaminated surfaces or drinking from contaminated water, but it is curable.
In Roosevelt County, Montana there is a program called Wolf Point Pound Puppies that was started in February of 2013. It is an animal rescue program that was founded by Mary Vine, a Wolf Point resident who works for the county health department. The rescue started by getting dogs out of the pound after their time in the pound was up. Dogs are usually kept in the pound for six to ten days. In the past, if they remained unclaimed at the end of that time they were euthanized. Wolf Point Pound Puppies realized there was a better way to deal with the stray cat and dog problem. Mary Vine contacted an acquaintance, Tina Bets His Medicine, who works at the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Department as the administrative assistant and at the Wolf Point City Police Department as the domestic violence advocate. Since the start of the Wolf Point Pound Puppies Rescue in 2013, they have re-homed or relocated more than 600 dogs, according to Bets His Medicine (T. Bets His Medicine, personal communication, April 19, 2015).
Wolf Point Pound Puppies is not alone. Montana has developed an organization called the Spay Montana Truck. This truck travels across the state setting up clinics to spay and neuter not only dogs, but cats also. This truck has been making Browning, Montana one of its personal projects, seeking to help the reservation and it’s free roaming dogs. The hope is that this clinic will help cut down on the feral dog and cat populations. This organization doesn’t just spay and neuter animals, but also provides education, support, food, and medical care for these animals (Kandt, 2015). A clinic such as this in a state where there is a high volume of feral cats and dogs is a positive way to help these animals stay healthy and keep a steady population.
There are also various programs nationwide that use dogs in positive ways and can be a solution to getting stray dogs off the streets. One program is the Drug Detention Dogs. These dogs clear buildings, sniff out bombs, and locate contraband. Often times police dogs are imported from other countries. Why not save the money of importing them and take a stray dog that fits the criteria and make him into a hero? These dogs aren’t just dogs once they enter this program; they become a family member to the police unit with which they work. They become their partner’s new best friend.
An article written by Gregory Fritz called, “The Special Talents of Psychiatric Service Dogs,” discusses how dogs are used for therapeutic purposes. There are “seeing-eye dogs” for the blind, seizure detection dogs, and those that are used for specific tasks like reminding a patient to take medications (Fritz, 2011). Depending on what services are needed from the dog, determines what training the dog needs to go through. This program could be a helpful project for the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Also, getting our stray dogs off the streets, away from the pound, and into a home where they are not just a dog but a helpful hand is another bonus of this program.
Hearing about stray cats and dogs who don’t have anywhere to go, are picked up, placed in the pound, and euthanized because there is nothing else to do with them does not fix the problem. Why not put these animals in a home or program where they can be used effectively and given a second chance? If other counties, towns, and cities can implement these kinds of programs, we can too, making our feral dog and cat population a controllable problem. We need to get them off the streets and into homes or programs. As a society, we need to come together and make a difference for these animals. They matter too.
Chante’ Japp and Dave Bets His Medicine are students at Fort Peck Community College in Poplar, Montana.
Demodectic Mange in Dogs. (n.d.). PetMD. Retrieved from www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_multi_Demodicosis?page=show
Fritz, G. K. (2011). Editor’s Commentary. The Special Talents of Psychiatric Service Dogs. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 27(10), 8.
Kandt, T. (2015, April 23). Spay Montana “Dog Warriors” Making a Difference in Browning. Independent Record.
Parvo in Dogs. (n.d.). PetMD. Retrieved from www.petmd.com
Sarcoptic Mange in Dogs. (n.d.). PetMD. Retrieved from www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_dg_sarcoptic_mange