Flathead County, MT

Flathead County is located in the northwest part of Montana, along the Canadian border. Its population is about 91,000 people. The county has a municipal shelter, the Flathead County Animal Shelter, which houses animals and adopts them out, and an animal control division that works with the shelter and provides animal control throughout the county. I was told in a telephone conversation with a shelter representative that the shelter also receives strays from the cities of Kalispell (population 20,000), Whitefish (6400), and Columbia Falls (4700). The shelter accepts owner surrenders with a $20 fee, but reserves the right to decline surrenders when full.

The shelter used to be high-kill, but has steadily improved over the years. The shelter’s director, Cliff Bennett, attributes their success to several factors, including foster, volunteer, marketing, and adoption programs as well as spay-neuter efforts and outreach to rescues. A non-profit in Kalispell, Flathead Shelter Friends, provides help and support to the shelter. An article posted on Petfinder describes many of the innovations the shelter has made, including a strong return to owner initiative and many projects to make the animals more comfortable while in the shelter.

It appears that the shelter’s live release rate has been above 90% since 2010. According to a news report, the county had a 9% euthanasia rate in 2010 with an intake of 2200 cats and dogs. And the Flathead Shelter Friends reported, on a page that has since been updated, that the county had a live release rate of 92% in 2011. The shelter’s 2012 statistics are posted on its website and show a 97% live release rate for the year, with an intake of 1950 cats and dogs. In 2013, the shelter had a live release rate of 98%, with an intake of 1764 cats and dogs. If animals who died or were lost in shelter care are counted as part of the euthanasia total, the live release rate was 95% in 2012 and 97% in 2013.

Flathead County, Montana, was originally listed by this blog on April 24, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Ravalli County, MT

The Bitterroot Valley is located near the western border of Montana and follows the Bitterroot River from Missoula south to the Idaho border. Ravalli County (population 40,000) is in the valley. Towns in the area include Hamilton (the county seat, population 4300) and Stevensville (1800).

Stray animal and owner surrender sheltering is provided in Ravalli County, Hamilton and Stevensville by the Bitter Root Humane Association (BRHA). A shelter official told me in a telephone conversation that BRHA has no conditions on owner surrenders and that surrenders are accepted upon presentation. I was also told that BRHA takes in some transfers from rescues and other shelters when they need help. BRHA refers most feral cats to a local TNR program.

BRHA has a whole suite of enrichment programs for dogs and cats during their stay at the shelter. The programs for dogs include play groups and one-on-one training. Cats have colony housing. Before leaving the shelter to go home with an adopter, animals are spayed or neutered and microchipped. BRHA has a volunteer corp that helps with humane education and offsite adoptions.

The Ravalli County commission recently decided that initial intake of stray dogs would be by a local veterinarian. The ultimate responsibility for stray dogs will still be assumed by BRHA, though, because the veterinarian said she will not euthanize strays who are not reclaimed or adopted and instead may have to take them to BRHA for sheltering.

A shelter official sent me BRHA’s statistics for 2012. They took in 1048 animals in 2012, which is an intake of 26 per 1000 population. Their live release rate was 96%. Owner-requested euthanasia is not done unless medically indicated, and is counted with other euthanasias.

Ravalli County, MT, is counted in the Running Totals as a 90%+ community.