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Bitterroot

Stray dog snafu

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The Ravalli County Commission kicked up a bit of controversy a few weeks back when it opted not to award a government contract for boarding lost dogs to the Bitter Root Humane Association, a Hamilton-based shelter that's held the contract for nearly three decades. Commissioners instead voted to turn the contract over to the Victor-based Noah's Ark Veterinary Hospital.

The decision stirred emotions at BRHA, prompting President Kathy Good to draft a heated letter. Good stressed that the average funding allotted to BRHA has gradually decreased in recent years, from as much as $30,000 annually to just $10,000 last year. "Without BRHA, there would be NO services for county residents to help stray and homeless animals," Good wrote, "and many more would be abandoned, become feral and run wild, risking public safety."

The county did offer to appoint BRHA as a secondary vendor for lost dogs. The association's board turned it down, with Good stating that multiple vendors would just confuse pet owners searching for lost dogs.

Shura Bugreeff, owner and veterinarian at Noah's Ark, says she never intended to get caught up in a political mess. For the past six years, she's been housing stray animals "on my own dime and finding them homes," she says. But earlier this year, she was approached by a group of citizens looking for alternatives to continuing the contract with BRHA. Then, Bugreeff says, she got a call from one of the Ravalli County commissioners. So she applied.

"I do it anyway for free, so the fact that someone was actually going to pay me or there might be a possibility that I could get compensated a little bit for what I already do seemed like kind of the smart move," says Bugreeff, who hopes to use the contract to involve children and the community in caring for lost dogs.

Since getting the contract in late August, Bugreeff has taken in four dogs from the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office. Three of them were reclaimed by their owners. "They have enough dogs to carry," she says of BRHA. "If I can do a little bit to relieve the burden, I know it's easier for everybody."

Good declined to elaborate further on the political fallout when contacted by the Independent, except to say that BRHA would continue to accept any lost animals from citizens and county law enforcement. "To turn them away would be against our mission," she says.

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