By Joanna Bastian
A batch of kittens are extremely grateful to Mary Devlon, who nearly ran them over with her car after someone had dumped them in the middle of the road. Despite being allergic to cats, Mary jumped into action and gathered up the fur babies before they suffered from exposure, or another near collision.
Working with friends, Mary was able get the kittens treated at the Brewster vet before finding homes for all of them. During the process, Mary learned from her lower valley neighbors that the majority of people’s pets were ones that had been dumped and found.
Each year, thousands of unwanted dogs and cats are abandoned throughout Okanogan County. There are no tax-funded animal shelters in the county, but there is an amazing group of volunteers working to make a difference through three programs: the Animal Foster Care Cat Shelter (AFC), OKANDOGS Adoption Coordinators, and the Okanogan Regional Spay & Neuter Project (OK SNIP). All three programs work together to find, rescue, fix, and find new homes for dogs and cats.
OKANDOGS, AFC and OK SNIP work with shelters throughout the region to offer incentives to people to spay and neuter their animals. When people call up OKANDOGS or the AFC cat shelter with a litter of unwanted puppies or kittens, owners are asked to participate in “Moms and Dads Last Litter.” OKANDOGS and AFC find new homes for the babies if the owners agree to have their animals spayed and neutered for free. The program is paid for through donations and a cooperative partnership with four shelters: Northwest Organization for Animal Help (NOAH) in Stanwood, and shelters in Hood River, Kitsap and Puyallup.
OK SNIP works primarily with cats. Because feral cats cannot be successfully placed in new homes, OK SNIP works with owners to spay and neuter feral colonies to reduce growth, monitor cat health, and helps with food costs. For kittens or domesticated cats that can be placed in a new home, OK SNIP helps with transport to AFC cat shelter in Okanogan, and participating shelters. Donation boxes for OK SNIP can be found at Evergreen IGA in Winthrop, and Twisp Feed and Rental.
OKANDOGS has a four-step operation plan: find the dogs, get the dogs, spay/neuter and provide health care, transport the dogs to no-kill shelters. They depend on a network of volunteers throughout the county to shelter the dogs awaiting transport.
As Tom Short, director of OKANDOGS explained, “We have to be able to immediately respond to situations where dogs need to be removed from homes, or picked up. If someone is close by and can hold the dog or mom and the litter for a day or two, that would really help. We are the only game in town, and there is no public money supporting these programs.”
OKANDOGS covers the entire county, picking up dogs every day, and working with OK SNIP to transport dogs and cats two to three times a week to NOAH, Hood River, Kitsap and Puyallup. Their gas bill is $700 a month, and vet bills can run $30,000 a year.
OKANDOGS needs volunteers to home dogs in the Methow Valley. To volunteer or make a donation, visit OKANDOGS.org, which will redirect to their Facebook page. You do not need a Facebook account to view their page, which contains contact information and a donation button. OK SNIP and OKANDOGS are nonprofit, 501(c)3 organizations. Please consider either donating or volunteering to these remarkable programs this holiday season.