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While this past winter wasn’t as harsh as some winters the area has seen, it was still many days of sub-zero temps and snow. While most were prepared for the annual freeze, there are those in the community who weren’t and by no fault of their own, as they are animals who were left to fend for themselves.

“It’s so sad,” said Prairie Oasis volunteer Bev Johnson. “There have been so many animals, mostly cats, brought in that are starving and frost-bit. It just breaks my heart.”

Volunteer Julie Dyrdahl agreed, adding a majority of the animals abandoned and brought into the shelter are cats, but not always. The number of abandoned animals this winter was comparable to those in the past, no matter what the number, it’s too many.

“People think cats can fend for themselves,” said Dyrdahl. “They can’t always, they need care also.”

 The shelter has seen too many neglected and abandoned animals, with emaciation being the number one issue and frostbite being prevalent during the winter months. And then there are the dogs that come in with broken or dislocated bones, lacerations and other issues, all heartbreaking.

“We all need to keep an eye out for animals in need of help,” said Dyrdahl. “They need our help, they can’t help themselves. The most common reason animals are abandoned is when people move. Your pets are your family, take them with you or re-home them!”

If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot take your pet with you contact Prairie Oasis at (406) 450-1671. At times the shelter is full, but the volunteers there can help offering other options and phone numbers for other shelters. 

If you know of an animal that is in need of help, but isn’t yours, the proper procedure is to contact animal control at (406) 450-9663. 

Abandonment and neglect don’t only cause physical injuries to the animal, but emotional as well. Animals that have been left behind to fend for themselves tend to have trust issues, coming in scared and defensive. Trust can be regained, but it takes time and dedication.

“You just have to take it slow,” said Dyrdahl.

One of the best ways to cut down on the number of animals without forever homes is to spay and neuter your pets. Another issue, that comes with very good intentions but is not a good solution to helping, are cat feeding stations. 

“We have some people throughout town that leave out food for all the stray cats,” said Dyrdahl. “They have good intentions and are trying to help them with food. It really doesn’t help though, as it brings all the stray cats in the area together where they not only eat, but breed, adding to the problem. I think if you have a cat feeding station you should also be responsible for spaying and neutering the cats at it.”

Prairie Oasis has some very dedicated volunteers, but the need for more is always there. If you would like to check into volunteering at the shelter and what all it would entail you are encouraged to call 450-1671 to make an appointment. During the appointment you can fill out the volunteer form and see how the animals are taken care of.

“Volunteering at a shelter can sometimes be heartbreaking and isn’t for everyone,” warned Dyrdahl. “But finding a good, forever home for them is so rewarding.”

If you are short on time but want to support the shelter monetary donations can be sent to Prairie Oasis Animal Shelter, P.O. Box 398, Shelby, MT 59474. The shelter also accepts donations of Iams dog food, Iams cat food, bleach and paper towels.

“We really appreciate those who have donated money or supplies in the past,” Dyrdahl concluded. “Without their kind and thoughtful donations it would be hard to continue providing a safe place for the fur babies in need. Thank you so much!”

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