Kona, Skagway's newest adoptee, left Angoon this winter. Skagway's Paws and Claws animal shelter, run by Katherine Moseley, has been helping unwanted Angoon puppies find homes, as well as helping fund spay/neuter clinics to attempt to end the cycle of unwanted pets.
Four Angoon pups awaiting adoption were loaded into Kim Getgood's truck for a trip to Juneau.
Story last updated at 6/17/2009 - 11:00 am
SKAGWAY - Katherine Moseley can't sleep well at night if she knows an unwanted puppy could be in danger.
The Skagway-born president and founder of Paws and Claws Animal Shelter in Skagway has been working with the community of Angoon, about 170 miles south, to find homes for unwanted puppies - and to prevent more unwanted puppies in the future.
The partnership began three years ago with a newspaper article in the Juneau Empire about a dog situation in Angoon: there were too many unwanted and homeless dogs that weren't getting spayed and neutered, resulting in litters of homeless puppies.
Moseley got in touch to see if there was any way her shelter could help, and ended up arranging to find homes for five puppies, four in Skagway and one in Juneau. Another litter of puppies found homes this past year.
"Basically, we've been taking in puppies as needed," Moseley said.
Finding homes for puppies is important, but to get at the root of the problem, more dogs need to be spayed and neutered, Moseley said.
She recently arranged a spay and neuter clinic in Angoon to try to address the puppy problem at its roots. Thanks to a donation from Paws and Claws, Dr. Steve Lowry of Southeast Alaska Animal Medical Center was able to provide low-cost or free services to Angoon animals May 22-23.
According to Kim Getgood, who runs the Angoon Business Center, many Angoon residents have found it too expensive and difficult to get veterinary care from Juneau, since in addition to the cost of care, owners would need to arrange to fly and stay with their pets, often for a couple days.
"It's definitely not as easy as it is if you're living in an urban area," Getgood said. "There is just no way we could get that medical attention for animals if it weren't for Paws and Claws. It's just a godsend."
At the recent spay/neuter clinic, four dogs were spayed or neutered, and a few more received other care. Four might not seem like very many, but Getgood thinks it's a good start.
"That's a huge start," she said. "You just keep chipping away at that."
Help also comes from the air, with local airline operators offering free flights for some four-legged passengers. Wings of Alaska flies dogs from Juneau to Skagway free of charge for Paws and Claws. Alaska Seaplanes also flies dogs from Angoon to Juneau free of charge for the Angoon Business Center. Both airlines donate dog kennels to villages when they don't have any available to ship dogs out, Getgood said.
Paws and Claws, not surprisingly, began with a dog. Six or seven years ago, a stray dog showed up in Skagway, Moseley said. He was a beautiful dog, likely a malamute or malamute mix, and everyone was trying to catch him - to no avail.
A month passed. The day Moseley said, "I give up," the dog appeared on her porch.
"Then he kind of chose to live with us," she said. "After I had rescued him, I got thinking (about) what had been done with stray dogs in Skagway."
With support from the City of Skagway and additional money, Moseley worked to expand the local impound facility into offering more preventative animal care.
"Since I started the shelter we have not any unwanted litters of puppy in Skagway," Moseley said. "People are really good here. It's amazing."
Paws and Claws has also helped find homes in Skagway for some cats from Haines. Paws and Claws was formed around the same time as Haines Animal Rescue Kennel (HARK), and the two organizations have a close working relationship.
Other than the occasional owner surrender of the dog, Skagway has had few problems with unwanted pets, so Paws and Claws has been able to help pets elsewhere find homes and secure grants to help people spay and neuter their pets, Moseley said. They also do community outreach programs, such as educating kids about dog bite awareness.
"We just help where we can," Moseley said.
Moseley said she is grateful to the people who donated to make it possible for the spay neuter clinic in Angoon, but also thankful for the people who were able to take good care of their dogs and get them neutered and spayed. She strongly encourages all dog owners who don't want puppies to get their pets spayed and neutered as soon as they can.
Angoon Business Center acts as the coordinator for the puppy project, Getgood said, but getting the dogs ready for transit has "definitely been a team effort." Local artist JoAnn George, "one of our big trappers," has been instrumental in rounding up the dogs in the first place, she said.
Getgood said there is still one more dog pack that needs to be dealt with.
"We have a serious dog problem and we're really trying to deal with it humanely and get it under control," she said.
Up in Skagway, the puppies have found happy endings to their tales.
Moseley reported that Paws and Claws has a "good group of volunteers that are really good at going down and helping care for the puppies" while they await placement in homes. Once placed, Moseley said all of the Angoon puppies have been doing well.
"So far everyone has gone to excellent, awesome homes," Moseley said. "We see the dogs all over town because people hike with them, take them everywhere they go."
Paws and Claws welcomes volunteers and donations. Donations can be mailed to Paws and Claws Animal Shelter, P.O. Box 666, Skagway, AK 99840
See more photos of the Angoon puppies and dogs at www.myangoon.org.