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Flathead County Animal Shelter picked for elite pilot program

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The Flathead County Animal Shelter was chosen for a prestigious shelter pilot program. They're one of just four shelters in seven northern states chosen to take part in the program that teaches staff new practices in shelter care.

In 2017 the shelter euthanized just 3.3 percent of its animals, which is significantly less than the nation's overall rate of 15.8 percent. Shelter director Cliff Bennett said that's part of the reason they were chosen.

On Thursday an injured dog was brought into the Flathead County Animal Shelter receiving medical care in a high-tech oxygen tank.

"We have some things in this shelter you wouldn't normally find in a rural shelter," said Bennett.

Bennett told NBC Montana specialized equipment and care are also factors in why the shelter was one of the four chosen for the Northern Tier Shelter fellowship program hosted by the University of Wisconsin.

"It's humbling, you know, and it's an honor to be picked," Bennett said.

He said the local support is what makes it possible.

"We probably wouldn't be considered for this program without the help of the public and Flathead Shelter Friends, that's the other thing that makes a big difference in this shelter is the support we get as well as from Flathead County,” said Bennet. “Flathead County is proud of our numbers, as well, and we can have a shelter we can all be proud of."

This pilot program will help the animal shelter continue to provide the best care for their animals.

Bennett said he will learn at the university for a week then continue with weekly conference calls for a year on animal care and medical protocols.

He is not the only shelter staff member who learns from this program. They already have one in place for shelter veterinarians.

"He’s doing it from a management point of view, and I am doing it from a veterinary point of view,” said Flathead County Animal Shelter’s veterinarian, Meg Gordan.

"It's just one more step in terms of how do we keep re-evaluating ourselves. How do we keep asking the question what can we do better?"

That goes hand and hand with providing the best medical care to animals who are in dire need of it

A shelter in Livingston was also chosen. Bennett said they will share what they learn with all of Montana's shelters.

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