Tiny Tails looks out for man’s best friend

By REBECCA MARSTON/ Montana State News

Starving stray animals unfortunately are a familiar sight in any community. You see them in passing, in corners, scrounging for food and a place to sleep. Far too often, these cats and dogs are left to wander the streets, abandoned and deserted by their former owners.

That’s where nonprofits like Tiny Tails K-9 Rescue come in: Their goal is to help these homeless animals, by giving them much needed medical attention, affection and a warm bed.

Richard D. Stafford founded Tiny Tails K-9 Rescue in 2009, determined to find a loving home for every neglected animal that he could. Based out of Manhattan, Mont., the organization has since expanded their rescue efforts to Arizona, California, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming and North Dakota.

Last year, Tiny Tails found families for over 50 cats and nearly 70 dogs that would have otherwise had to be put down. In an effort to keep the stray population low and prevent the spread of disease, they also spayed and neutered 358 animals and provided 441 low-cost vaccinations.

Tiny Tails also provides a unique service in which homeless pet owners are assisted in getting the proper vaccinations for their animals, along with a leash, collar, and identification. Other services include senior-to-senior adoptions, emergency pet food or foster care and cross-country transport of pets.

Though the nonprofit specializes in care for small breed dogs and abandoned litters of puppies, they also take in cats, kittens and even the occasional domestic bird.

Like any other nonprofit, Tiny Tails is entirely staffed by volunteers and funded by donations from the community. Of the funds received for these classes, 98 percent goes towards helping animals, while 2 percent is allocated for licenses and fees.

“Rich is also employed up at Montana State University as a master electrician and dedicates about half of his personal income every year for Tiny Tails operation expenses and is always there to chip in if our donations and fundraising fall short and we need funds for an animal’s care,” said Diana Paulas, a volunteer with Tiny Tails.

With their shoestring budget, Tiny Tails often cannot afford to buy new toys for their dogs and cats. As a result, while many of their demos are free and open to the public, Tiny Tails asks that people bring toys and treats for the animals. According to Paulas, “that is the one thing we have no budget for in Rescue.”

Several years ago, the core volunteers of Tiny Tails K-9 Rescue took part in an American Red Cross Certified Animal First Aid and CPR Class in Bozeman. Their goal was to be prepared for emergency situations that arose at the rescue. During their experience, the team realized that many pet owners would probably be interested in learning more about administering first aid to their animals.

This notion prompted one of the Tiny Tails volunteers to gain certification as an instructor for American Red Cross Animal First Aid and CPR classes. Now, Tiny Tails puts on various safety classes—which run between one and six hours—several times a year in an attempt to keep people in the community in the know about how to keep their animals safe.

“It is a good idea for families with pets to know what to do in an emergency situation with their pets,” said Paulas. “Knowing when something is wrong and being able to stabilize your animal, until you can get them to the vet for more treatment can save their life.”

More specifically, Paulas said that this training provides information on how and when to handle a distressed and injured animal, when to remove a foreign object from a wound, how to bandage wounds and how to prevent an animal from going into shock. Classes and demos feature hands-on CPR training, using a dog dummy to simulate a suffocating pet.

This type of training is especially important for Montana pet owners who bring their dogs along on backcountry on excursions, miles away from a veterinarian, where the risk of injury is especially high. However, Paulas said that the first aid knowledge can also be useful even if a pet spends most of its time indoors.

“We go over the things in most homes that can harm a pet – plants that are dangerous if eaten, human foods that can be deadly to a pet, what to do if your pet is choking, when to make your dog vomit and when not to when they eat something that can harm them… how to avoid injury so you don’t have to use your first aid skills,” Paulas said.

They may not be able to save every cat and dog, but Tiny Tails is working to make the Bozeman a more pet-friendly place, one animal at a time.

Edited by Kaylee Walden

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