Monday, 26 October 2020

Roll Up Your Sleeves — Save More Lives

They say, “Dog is man’s best friend.” But let’s not leave out the ladies’ appreciation for pets, and that includes the family cats.

This is an important, and exciting, in the history of the Mission Valley Animal Shelter (MVAS) — the only such facility in Lake County. Executive Director Filip Panusz is leading the way in expansion and upgrading of the animal shelter, located on North Reservoir Road about a mile south of Polson.

Panusz and his staff — including shelter manager Steve Reynolds and office assistant Leslie Camel Stewart — are busy preparing for Puppy Party II. It’s the huge annual fundraiser for the Mission Valley Animal Shelter, set for Friday, Sept. 7 at the Red Lion Inn in Polson.

The event will include live and silent auctions, and begins at 6 p.m. It will be an evening “full of food, friends and furry fun.”

Tickets to Puppy Party II are going fast, according to Panusz, and the shelter is still taking donations for the auctions.

Panusz came to MVAS as executive director early in 2017, and the shelter is making huge strides via his leadership.

What Panusz calls the Puppy Addition is largely being funded by proceeds from last year’s Puppy Party. It is near completion, and will increase their dog capacity from 11 to 18, plus a litter of puppies, according to Panusz.

In May of this year, MVAS inaugurated their volunteer Advisory Councils for Community Canines in four Mission Valley communities to help expand rescue efforts, and to grow outreach and relationships within these communities.

THE MAJOR reason for MVAS remodeling and expansion is overpopulation of the facility. They would rather not turn any dog or cat away, and would prefer to find an adequate, new home for them. And there is no official “animal control” in Lake County, according to Panusz

“It’s critical,” he said of the expansion and upgrades. “It’s extending our ability to serve the reservation. There are a lot of strays (dogs).”

At first glance, the MVAS expansion and upgrades are quite apparent.

During the project, Panusz was excited to share information about the new double-sided dog kennels, which high-tech “doggie doors.”

“We can make them larger or smaller,” Panusz said. The outside area is fenced which “gives us a lot of flexibility.” It is sub-divided fencing to separate dogs.

The addition features crafty tile work around the base and windows. The tile was donated by businesses in Polson and Missoula, and a local man did the installation, pro bono.

METAL PANELS inside the kennels provides durability and ease of sanitation, and reduce noise — which can help calm a dog.

Also added was a Real-Life Room, meant for privacy for a stressed-out dog. “It’s a home-like environment that is more peaceful,” Panusz said.

In the kennel area, Panusz finally has his own office space that can be converted to a kennel. And full-time manager Reynolds has some private space. Reynolds has been at MVAS for about three years, and became the manager last October. Camel Stewart was hired in January 2018. There are also MVAS attendants and specialists.

On the east side of the MVAS building is a new fenced concrete pad. It had been just dirt and was “unsanitary,” Panusz said.

MVAS HAS added a “quarantine room” for ill dogs whose sickness could spread to other animals in the shelter. “We need to handle those dogs minimally,” Panusz said. “It’s going to be critical.” That room had been used for storage, but a 8-by-12-foot shed was brought in a couple of weeks ago for that purpose.

That room is divided and shares space for the new “intake room.” Formerly, entrance for incoming animals was through the front office area. Not anymore. It’s now on the southeast side of the building, and has a separate entrance.

“It’s going to work really well,” Panusz said of the quarantine and intake rooms. “It’s kind of like a triage (in a hospital for humans) … The number-one thing is health and safety.”

FUNDING FOR MVAS operation and help with expansion and upgrades comes somewhat from grants, such as through the Northern Tier Shelter Initiative (NTSI) program. MVAS received a NTSI grant early in 2018.

Shelters such as MVAS are supported financially by the American Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals. An ASPCA representative will visit MVAS in September for a walk-through of the facility, and to discuss plans for completing the project.

“The big thing is funding dollars for it,” Panusz said. “We could get some from ASPCA.”

MVAS recently launched their new website, which is The new resource will help MVAS answer questions, increase community involvement, and most importantly, get animals into loving homes more quickly.

Also, MVAS has adopted new computer-based software, installed a new stainless steel sink and purchased a new dog scale.

“We are saving more lives, and the stories of our rescues have inspired our Facebook following to grow from 2,200 to 2,500 in the past 15 months,” stated on the Puppy Party II flyer. “

MVAS IS committed to staying on the rescue path, and the expansion and upgrades will help us make an even bigger difference in the community.”

If you would like to adopt a dog or cat, go to the MVAS website and complete an application. Adoption fees are on the site.

To make a donation of auction items for Puppy Party II, or for other information, call 883-5312.

MVAS office hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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