North Dakota

Western Edge animal rescues brace for influx as temps drop – The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — Animal rescues in southwest North Dakota are consistently exceeding capacity, and the situation will get dire as temperatures drop. Although there are several animal shelters in the area, there is never enough space to house every homeless pet.

“It’s literally trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon,” said Beth Hurt, President of Second Chances. “That’s how it feels.”

Raise the Woof has not been able to run surrender events as often as they would like because they are already at full capacity and have to turn people away.

“Unfortunately, we’re always full,” said volunteer Susie Lefor.

They would like a building to house rescued animals temporarily so they could take more, but could not find a suitable location.

“It’s been a particularly bad year,” said volunteer Nicole Cloutier. “Every month, our vet bills total at least $10,000. Often there are more.”

Every local rescue is in constant need of animal foster homes, volunteers, cash donations, food, and pet supplies like bedding, toys, and bedding.

“We desperately need the outreach,” said Sara Cox, vice president of Oreo Animal Rescue. “We can’t do anything without our community to help us.”


Dickinson wife Nikki Wolla gives treats to her foster dogs, Frankie, Izzie and Jessie, who are available for adoption through Raise the Woof.

Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press

OAR primarily focuses on injured pets and can usually make room for them.

“We are blessed to have opened a kennel room for hospitalized patients at the West Dakota Vet Clinic,” said Cox. “We’re turning people away who may have found a stray cat in the town of Dickinson, not injured or anything, just found the cat or dog, and we’re referring them to the animal shelter just because that’s the first way for those who do might be looking for the animal… We have owners who want to reach out and drop off their pets at Oreo’s. We help them find homes, but we don’t necessarily rescue them.”

Some are found homeless on the streets, other puppies mistakenly bought by people ill-equipped to care for an adult dog.

About once a month, a caller threatens to kill their pet if rescue doesn’t make it, Lefor said. Many local animal rescue services rely on networking with other rescue organizations in the state to find shelters for pets.

Cox said they experience “kitten seasons” in the spring and fall, when they’re particularly overloaded with kittens.

“Those are the times when people are either taking their cats outside because it’s warm outside, or taking them outside because it’s almost winter and they don’t want to deal with it anymore,” Cox said. “So mostly, I think it’s a matter of carelessness more than anything.”

Cold-weather kitten season is in full swing.

“A lot of people want us to set more traps,” said Kady Walker, co-sponsor at Meowsers in Bowman. “A lot of people call us and want us to pick up kittens and stuff before it gets cold. When it’s warm, people don’t worry about them as much.”


Cat shelters built by volunteers at Second Chances are available to anyone in need.

Contributed / Beth Hurt

She added that they currently care for 27 cats and kittens, but space will narrow as the herd grows.

“Let’s say we have all these kittens for another four months, we’re going to be up to our eyeballs and not know what to do,” Walker said. “We couldn’t be so full if it was just adult cats.”

Hurt said the problem is particularly heartbreaking in the winter. While some dog breeds do well in cold climates, all domesticated cats over 40℉ should be kept.

“It’s just so hard because people don’t realize it, but cats aren’t made for this climate,” she said. “As a result, almost all cats that come to the shelter in winter have frostbite or upper respiratory infections. They are only very sick because their lungs are actually very weak.”

Second Chances offers DIY cat shelters for anyone who needs one. They are made from styrofoam coolers and straw and can be placed in barns, sheds or other buildings.

“If they have to put them outside, they actually put them in a Rubbermaid tote bag so they’re waterproof,” Hurt said. “It’s better than nothing. I mean, ideally they’d be in a heated building, but you know, if they don’t have anything else, it’s something.”

Anyone who wants to help can donate Styrofoam coolers, straws and plastic storage containers. Coolers must be large enough to hold about 2 cats, and containers must be 45 gallons or larger and have a locking mechanism on the lid, Hurt said.

“We’ve had a shortage of Styrofoam coolers this year, so we’re still taking them if people have them,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a very cold winter, so we’re worried about that.”

The price is right about pets

Cox said spaying and neutering pets is essential to reducing the number of stray animals.

“I think the best way people can help is by taking the initiative to help themselves in situations,” Hurt said. “If you can do something, if you can build a shelter yourself or take care of an animal that you can see for yourself, that’s a big help.”

For cats in the area that are feral or otherwise unsuited for indoor living, Hurt says the Barn Cat Project can bring together people who need outdoor cats. The program requires those who adopt a barn cat to provide adequate shelter, food, and water in exchange for the pest control that cats naturally provide.

“We’re trying to find homes for those who are already in the shelter and can’t be adopted because they’re not lap cats,” Hurt said. “You don’t really have a lot of options. If they are not adopted as pets then that is their only choice, their only chance of survival is if we find them like a farmer or country house to live in.”

Those interested in donating or adopting a pet can see the rescued animals and apply for adoption through each organization’s Facebook page and website. Other websites that offer animal rescues post their available pets on and

Furever Full in Dickinson is also working to ease the burden on animal shelters by helping the less fortunate. It is a pet food and supply bank that offers help to struggling pet owners.


Nicole Cloutier sits with her foster dog, Gretel, and their 10 puppies, who are available for adoption through Raise the Woof when they are old enough.

Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press

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