Posted: Jul 25, 2012 8:01 PM by Tara Grimes - MTN
Updated: Jul 26, 2012 9:26 AM
GREAT FALLS - By some estimates, more than 30,000 cats and dogs live in Great Falls.
The city-run shelter aims to help keep the population in control, but that involves euthanizing nearly half of all animals brought into the shelter every year.
Every foster kitten Great Falls Pet Paw-See volunteer Pam Lemelin brings into her home reminds her there are so many more out on the streets.
"There's absolutely an overpopulation problem, because if there wasn't, we wouldn't have to euthanize animals up at the shelter," Lemelin said.
According to city officials, in 2011 and 2010, about 40 percent of animals at the Great Falls Animals Shelter were euthanized.
Local animal advocates say pet owners need to take more responsibility for their animals, and making sure the pets can't escape.
Animal Foundation Executive Director Ellen Gauthier said she's seen abandoned or lost cats and dogs running around the streets.
"I get dozens of phone calls from people who have either found an animal that's stray, animal dumped near their home, have they no longer can keep and they want to find the best solution for getting it a new home," Gauthier said. "There are dozens of stray animals and feral cats."
Inside the Great Falls Animal Shelter, 80 cats and 30 dogs call it home.
Shelter operations director Jamie Bennett said animals arrive in many ways. "They'll come in as an owner turn-in, meaning the owner is relinquishing their ownership of that animal, they'll come in as strays, they'll come in through the county, they'll come in through city animal control," she said.
Bennett says between 2,300 and 2,500 animals go through the shelter every year, but many more are hidden from the public eye.
Lemelin says she takes part in Pet Paw-See's feral cat trapping program in the Great Falls area.
"When I first started feral cat trapping, it was really interesting to me see these colonies and there can be 20 or more cats in a colony."
After seeing several colonies in just a few trappings, Lemelin says she hopes the overpopulation problem will be under control and fewer animals will need to be euthanized.