Have a Heart

Have a Heart

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Pogge, Drew
Tail wagging, tongue lolling, a yellow lab smiles as only a dog can through the passenger window, driving away with her new owner. Curled up in the lap of her new caregiver, a kitten purrs with contentment. At Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter, these scenes are replayed daily as people find pets and pets find people.

Heart of the Valley, Inc. is a non-profit animal shelter servicing the Gallatin and Madison Valleys. The open doors of the shelter accept “all lost, abandoned or surrendered companion cats, dogs, and rabbits” says Angela Sandoval, development assistant for the shelter. It is a “No-Kill” facility, an often misunderstood term. Sandoval says, "‘No-Kill’" means that no adoptable animal will be euthanized, no matter how long that animal stays at the shelter. Animals with untreatable medical conditions or those that present a threat to the community because of aggressive behavior are humanely euthanized. Last year 2,250 animals found their way to the shelter. Of those, 1,458 of them were placed in new homes and 565 lost animals were reunited with their owners. Heart of the Valley (HOV) is more than a storage facility for lost or abandoned pets; it is also a “resource for pet ownership education and training for all members of our community,” Sandoval explains.

That community is growing quickly, with a projected growth of “32% by 2025 in combined Gallatin and Madison counties” says Sandoval. This growth means “HOV’s intakes will increase despite an aggressive spay/neuter program,” says Sandoval, taxing an already insufficient facility. This winter, HOV broke ground on a brand new, larger shelter of the future.

The current building, built in 1973 on two acres of abandoned landfill, has “cracked and flaking walls [that] harbor diseases. At best there is space for about 100 animals inside; the rest (about 80% of dogs and 25% of cats) are housed in outdoor pens, even during the winter,” says Sandoval. Expansion of the current building is impossible because excavation is prohibited on the former landfill. Happily, there is an alternative.

A new 19,850-square-foot facility, located on 58 acres of donated land near Gallatin Field, “will house all animals in multiple rooms with sound abatement, natural light, and proper ventilation. Adoption areas will feature animals in clean quiet areas conducive to showing animals at their best.” Sandoval says. In addition, there will be a full veterinary suite for on-site care and surgeries for shelter animals. Sandoval continues, “The building will not be fancy or elaborate, but simple and efficient to clean, sanitize, and operate: a low-stress environment for animals and a welcoming environment for potential adopters.”

The new shelter will also play host to a variety of charitable and educational programs in the community. “Heart of the Valley’s campaign to build a new facility is an investment not only in the lives and health of our lost, abandoned, or surrendered companion animals, but also in the enrichment of our thriving Montana community,” says Sandoval.

The community plays a large part in the success of the shelter. “Volunteers are vital to the ability of HOV to run on a daily basis,” says Sandoval. “HOV is always looking for mature, reliable individuals who are willing to make a long-term commitment to the shelter.” The greater Bozeman community has donated $3.7 million of the $5 million needed for completion of the building and the HOV endowment. Heart of the Valley will hold Dog Ball 2007, on June 15 to help raise the remaining funds. Dinner, drinks, live music, and live and silent auctions make this the “premier, single largest fundraising event for HOV,” says Sandoval.

For more information about HOV, volunteering, the campaign for the new building, or the Dog Ball, contact the HOV Development Office at 556-4651 or [email protected] or visit montanapets.org/hsgv/index.html.

Have You Seen This Dog?

Not all lost dogs make it to Heart of the Valley—some wind up far away, in a new and strange place, while their owners spend long, bewildered nights hoping they’re safe. Dog theft, however inconceivable to those of us who consider pets a part of the family, occurs sporadically around southwest Montana. One such theft occurred in Paradise Valley last November when Lea, a 65-pound female black-and-tan hound, was stolen from Rick Bittendorfer’s house near Emigrant. Rick claims that his neighbor is the culprit; she disapproved of how the dog was treated, he says, despite the fact that Lea enjoyed long hikes, elk-meat dinners, and plenty of affection from Rick and his wife. Let’s hope there’s another explanation—it would be a shame if a neighbor couldn’t be neighborly enough to respect another person’s particular brand of love and care. After all, outside of blatant cruelty, it’s not our place to dictate how people should treat their animals—all we can do is try to care for our own the best we can. And the best way to care for Lea is to return her to her family. If you think you may have seen Lea, or have any questions about the theft, call Rick at 222-0430.

-Mike England
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