Every year on a forgotten patch of land 31 miles x 31 miles, 500 dogs die from starvation, exposure, disease and neglect.
Rolette County, #1 in the state of North Dakota for joblessness; a place where domestic abuse is rampant and poverty affects every family in some way, this is an area plagued with hardship. People are struggling to get by let alone get ahead, at the end of the day there is not even a crumb left for a dog—let alone thousands of dogs.
Everyone looked away. They did too-at first.
The problem was just too big—more than a human brain can comprehend. “You won’t last 6 months up here,” everyone told them. “You’ll give up on rescue within a few weeks like everyone else has,” they said.
It’s been 3 years since Kim and Keith moved in and they are still there. Along with Lacey Strietzel they have since founded the Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue, a non-profit organization they run out of their home and garage.
A mission they spend 50 hours a week working on after their 40 hour a week jobs. These heroic souls have decided it’s better to have fleas and ticks than to look away and let these animals suffer.
In the first 6 months of rescue, Kim and Keith racked up 4 thousand dollars in vet bills. Brought in one pregnant momma after another, each more emaciated than the last—the Vet not knowing how they were still alive. Mange, parvo, starvation, broken backs and hips and gunshot wounds where the catcher missed are not cheap or easy to cure. It’s a problem so gigantic, blood-and-sweat-and-tears, day-after-day, are still never enough.
Each year after the die off, the problem doesn’t seem so bad, but the hundreds of dogs left in the reproductive cycle begin to breed and so it begins again. Thousands of puppies born over only a few seasons. Starvation, parvo, mange, broken bones, gunshot wounds, neglect or unfathomable abuse—there is mostly tragedy here, but no denying, there is cruelty too.
Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue has saved over 1,400 dogs in three years with no shelter, no steady stream of funds, supplies or support. A grass roots rescue that is primarily funded by the few people at its core. But that is changing. Minds are opening, help is beginning to peek through.
The Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue Shelter. A place where volunteers can tend to rescued or injured animals so Keith and Kim can sleep without an orchestra of barking puppies at night.
A shelter where the local school kids can get involved and be reminded that their heritage is not one of looking away and giving up, rather it’s one of taking care of the land and its animals.
Regular spay and neuter clinics convenient in the area.
With these systems in place, saving them all IS possible.