Flathead dog trainer rescues pit bulls to find them forever homes

Coleen Hilton hugging rescue Bebe.PNG

There are many animal shelters in Montana, but in the Flathead there is a specific rescue just for pit bulls.

Shelter volunteers notice that a pit bull might take longer to get adopted or may not even get adopted at all.

"These dogs don't get the chance in a regular shelter,” said dog trainer and Paws of Perseverance founder Coleen Hilton. “They don't get the exposure with trainers, you know to understand, ‘OK, let's give it some time. Let’s see how they really are.’"

Coleen Hilton has six certifications in dog training. She used to volunteer at the Flathead County Animal Shelter where she was getting pit bulls adopted.

"The county started seeing more and more come into the shelter, and they asked me, ‘You know, the dogs you train get adopted -- can you take any?’" Hilton said.

She started a pit bull rescue about two years ago called Paws of Perseverance. Her training regime focuses on positive reinforcement.

"You have to learn to identify, you know, is it anxiety, or are they truly reactive,” Hilton told NBC Montana. “Are they truly aggressive with other animals?"

Currently she is working with a dog named Bella, or Bebe for short. She has only been with Hilton for a week, and she is already getting adopted.

"Our succession rate because of the training is anywhere from 85 to 95 percent,” said Hilton. “We don't have dogs come back, we don't have dogs put down."

It is no easy job. She works up to 14 hours each day, seven days a week.

"It's tough, but we saved a lot of lives because of it,” said Hilton.

Bebe was used for bait in dog fights in Texas before Hilton rescued her.

She takes in surrenders and tries to take dogs that would otherwise be put down.

"These dogs aren't monsters,” Hilton said. “They never were. The biggest monsters are the humans that created them."

Local volunteers, a nationwide network of rescue groups and more help her in this fight. She’s partnered with Flathead Community Foundation, Petsmart and others. She hopes she will have a facility soon.

"The demand is so high, we can't answer as much as people would like us to,” Hilton told NBC Montana. “In all reality I need to be able to run 40 and 80 dogs every day."

If you want to learn more about the nonprofit shelter or want to donate click here.

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