Bitter Root Human Association shelter overwhelmed by support after rescuing 39 huskies

Four of the huskies recently rescued from a property northeast of Hamilton check out people walking by their kennel at the Bitter Root Humane Association. The association shelter's operations manager, Cyra Saltzman, said there has been an outpouring from the community and beyond since the dogs arrived at the shelter just before Thanksgiving.

The phone never quit ringing Tuesday afternoon as Bitter Root Humane Association operations manager Cyra Saltzman told how 39 huskies, including two litters of puppies, recently came into the Hamilton shelter’s care.

“The outpouring for the public has been very heartwarming and almost overwhelming, but in a good way,” Saltzman said. “Right now, we’re asking people for patience. We know people want to help, but it may take some time for us to get back to them.”

The Hamilton shelter first learned about the huskies running wild on property northeast of Hamilton when folks from the Fox Hollow Animal Project called to report that someone one had dropped off one that needed to have a leg amputated because it appeared to have been shot.

A second report followed from a landowner reporting three dogs running free on their property. The landowners thought they might be wolves.

Those clues eventually led Saltzman and others to a property where a large number of huskies were running free. With the assistance of Ravalli and Missoula county authorities, they were able to live-trap the adult huskies and gather up the two litters of puppies, including one litter that was only a week old.

“They were all hungry,” she said. “You could tell they were hunting for food. Some were skinnier than others. … Some were submissive and scared.”

Saltzman said some of the dogs were more social, and others were wild. She said she couldn't talk at this point about the dogs' former owner.

The dogs were all captured the Monday before Thanksgiving and brought to the Hamilton shelter.

The immediate challenge was finding space for them. The shelter has 24 inside kennels and 17 of those were already occupied. The decision was made to put the huskies in outdoor kennels. There were placed four to a kennel and paired according to how well they appeared to be socialized to humans.

It’s going to take some time before the adult dogs can be offered for adoption, Saltzman said.

They need to be spayed or neutered. For that to happen, she said there needs to be space available inside the shelter while the dogs heal. The dogs also need some time to get used to having people around.

If people are interested in helping that process move forward, they can come to the shelter and spend some time sitting outside kennels to help the dogs become more social, Saltzman said. The shelter also needs food and additional volunteer help with the myriad of other daily chores that continue in spite of its new guests.

“It would be great to have people come in who are willing to sit in front of the kennels and just talk to the dogs,” she said. “At this point, we are not allowing kids to interact with them.”

The puppies are currently in foster homes and are not available for adoption quite yet.

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Saltzman has reached out to husky rescue organizations to see if they might be able to take some of the dogs. If that becomes an option, she said the shelter could use some help in transporting the dogs to their new homes.

“These dogs are not going to be the easiest to adopt out,” she said. “They are not a dog that’s going to just sit up on the couch and cuddle with you. If people are interested in adopting one, they need to take the time to do their research on the breed.”

Saltzman said they are probably two to three weeks out before adoptions could occur. Evaluations, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering need to happen first.

“Those who choose to adopt one will need to have patience and understanding,” she said. “It will take some time for them to become domesticated.”

Saltzman said it’s been heartwarming to see the outpouring from people all across the country. She’s had calls from people from South Carolina to Washington state and everywhere in between.

“I don’t think there’s been a minute between calls today,” she said late Tuesday afternoon. “There is definitely a great network of people reaching out who want to help. … I really want to say thank you to our community. They have really stepped forward and done a lot to help us.”

At this point, she said probably the best way to contact the shelter is via email at opmanager@bitterroothumane.org. The shelter's office number is 406-363-5311. Information about the shelter's hours can be found at https://bitterroothumane.org