Reaching Out – Planned Pethood and The Montana Spay/Neuter Task Force work together in Montana’s Native American Nations

584In 1996 a board member of The Montana Spay/Neuter Task Force, (MSNTF), read an article on a young veterinarian who had converted a school bus into a mobile spay and neuter unit. The board member passed the article along to Jean Atthowe, then president of the Task Force. The vet was Dr. Jeff Young of Planned Pethood Plus in Denver. Jean reached out, Dr. Young and his then partner strapped a canoe to the top of the bus and set out for the Blackfoot Nation, who had invited the Task Force to help them control the bands of roving dogs that had become a safety risk for the community.

In the following years, Dr. Young helped with a number of free spay neuter events set up by the MSNTF at the request of tribal councils throughout Montana. Jean worked tirelessly with the communities, organizing local volunteers who fed and sheltered Task Force volunteers, veterinarians, and technicians who spayed and neutered dogs and cats free of charge. By 2001 all the Native American Nations tribal councils in Montana had set aside funds for vouchers for the events, to cover travel expenses for vets, and were fully on board with the Task Force mission to stop pet overpopulation at its source.

In addition to running a busy low-cost veterinary clinic, Dr. Young is the long distance running coach at North High School in Denver. Dr. Young and organized the Planned Pethood Posse, a volunteer group composed of North High students dedicated to animal causes. Since the early 2000’s the Posse has traveled to Montana with Dr. Young and other Planned Pethood volunteers to help with MSNTF events. The Montana trips are part volunteer effort, part travel opportunity, and part running camp. The track student volunteers are a dedicated lot. While in Montana they run twice a day, typically for an hour or more. After their morning runs, they help prepare animals for surgery, and work with residents in the community they are visiting. As the trips are two weeks long, groups of high school students rotate in and out over the course of the trip.

This year, several international veterinary students also joined the Planned Pethood team. Two students from Mexico, two from Portugal, two from the former Czech Republic, and one student from the United Kingdom all traveled to Denver to hone their surgical skills and donate their time. Over six hundred animals were spayed or neutered. As Jean Atthowe explained, “this is about more than just helping dogs and cats; it brings communities together.”

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