The Lewis and Clark Humane Society
The LCHS is a private, community-based, not-for-profit organization that provides shelter for unwanted and stray animals (primarily dogs and cats), while working to end pet overpopulation, reduce the need for euthanasia, and improve the humane treatment and well-being of companion animals. It serves a population of roughly 70,000 residents in southwestern Montana and a service area covering roughly 5,500 square miles.
The shelter is operated by 8 full-time staff on an annual budget of approximately $1,000,000. Its operation is governed by a 11-person board of directors. The shelter’s revenue comes from donations (57%), local government contracts (23%), and service fees (20%). Over 300 volunteers work at the shelter each year contributing over 5,000 volunteer hours.
The LCHS provides five primary services:
Shelter: It provides a safe, clean, and comfortable shelter for abandoned or stray pets. The organization contracts with the cities of Helena, East Helena, and Townsend, Lewis and Clark County, and Broadwater County to house the animals brought in by animal control officers and citizens. It also provides shelter for the dogs and cats of families in emergencies such as forest fires, women and children in domestic crises who don’t want to leave the family pet behind, and animal cruelty cases going to trial.
Adoption: The LCHS works to provide permanent homes for all healthy animals in the shelter. Adopted animals leave the shelter spayed or neutered and fully vaccinated, and with an ID microchip implant, a pet ID tag, and one free visit to a local veterinarian. Staff and volunteers ensure suitability between pets and owners, work with animals that have behavior problems, and provide the opportunity for potential owners to try out an animal in their home for several weeks to see if the adoption will be a good fit.
Protection:Citizens concerned about the welfare of dogs, cats, horses and other domestic animals can call the LCHS. We will work with local law enforcement and animal control. Please call 447-8461.
Public outreach and education: The main reason people give up a pet is due to the animal’s behavior. The LCHS works to educate pet owners on how to address those problems so they can continue to enjoy their companion animal. Staff provide pet training workshops, visit schools, and host shelter visits by 4-H and other youth groups. They also provide information to the public on responsible pet ownership, preventing abuse, and the need to spay and neuter pets to reduce overpopulation.
Euthanasia and cremation: The LCHS euthanizes pets at the request of owners due to old age, illness, or behavior problems. It also provides pet cremation services for owners who request them.
Over the past half-century, Americans have greatly changed their attitudes toward stray and unwanted pets, from disregard and indifference to a concern that animals be treated humanely and that owners reduce pet overpopulation by having their dogs and cats spayed or neutered. Residents of the three-county LCHS service area have similarly changed their attitudes.
Up until the 1960s, abandoned and lost pets were routinely held in crowded outdoor pens at the Lewis and County Fairgrounds, and then shot. The LCHS formed in 1964, pressuring the city to build a small shelter at the current site on East Custer Avenue next to the sewage treatment plan. However, for several years the dogs and cats continued to suffer in crowded, unsanitary conditions.
In 1975, spurred by growing complaints, the city of Helena agreed to transfer responsibility of the shelter’s operation to the LCHS. The organization immediately began improving the small railroad car-sized shelter and the treatment of animals. It hired a full-time director, recruited volunteers to expand daily operations, refurbished the building, and added indoor puppy runs and a cat room.
The LCHS began promoting pet population control. Local veterinarians voluntarily spayed and neutered all dogs and cats before they were adopted. Vets also volunteered to euthanize animals with sodium pentobarbital, a far more humane method than the previous use of carbon monoxide. They also trained shelter staff to administer the drug.
Over the next 20 years, the shelter continued to grow to meet increasing needs by area residents and local governments. A new dog ordinance by the city of Helena increased the number of strays brought to the shelter each day. The human population continued to grow and increase the number of household pets in the three-country area.
At the time, most of the shelter’s operations budget came from the city of Helena and Lewis and Clark County. However, the revenue was not enough to meet growing needs. In 1980, the organization raised $50,000 from private sources for a dog kennel addition and a new outdoor exercise area. More improvements came in 1994, 1998, and 2002 that increased office space, added a meeting room, puppy runs, cat rooms, and cat play areas, and built a crematorium.
While the LCHS was adding to and improving the original shelter, it was also adding and improving services that would increase adoption rates, reduce euthanasia rates, and improve animal welfare.
It formed a committee to investigate complaints of pet cruelty.
It started education programs to teach people how to care for animals humanely and the importance of animal birth control to prevent pet overpopulation.
It built a new outdoor kennel for strays so that adoptable dogs in the shelter wouldn’t have to be euthanized to make room while the temporary residents waited for their owners.
Itstarted a foster-care program in which families volunteered to take in long-term resident dogs for a few weeks. This boosts the depressed animals’ spirits and, as a result, increases adoption rates.
It also started its Paws-ability Program that allowed potential adopters to try out a dog or cat at home for a few weeks. More volunteers were recruited to exercise, socialize, groom, and conduct dog obedience training. Another program began training dogs with specific behavior problems such as shyness and jumping that prevented adoption.
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