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Superior woman works to reunite owners with lost pets

by AMY QUINLIVAN
Mineral Independent | September 14, 2022 12:00 AM

Lifetime Superior resident Bessie Spangler appreciates what it means to be your brother’s keeper, or rather make that your canine’s keeper.

Born and raised in Mineral County, Spangler has taken on an important role in the communities along Interstate 90; she’s part animal control consultant, part dog and cat foster mom, and part pet rehoming specialist. Ironically though, her day job is finding people their forever homes as a local real estate broker.

Spangler teased, “I sort of inherited this from my mom, Sherry (Spangler) who did this for years...she was part of the Town Council in Superior, over 20 years ago, helping with animal issues in the city limits.”

After college and a few years of living out of state, Spangler moved home and started selling real estate for her dad. But with a family reputation of helping with local strays it was only a matter of time before Spangler would begin to play the part.

She remarked, “When I bought the house from my folks back in 2018, I started getting calls.”

And with another well-known volunteer pet wrangler, Lisa Knight, leaving the area Spangler has been dog gone busy lately.

She said, “I've been getting calls from the Mineral County Sheriff's Department much more often when they arrest someone with a dog or get a call about a stray.”

Leading up to her present animal shelter like duties, Spangler also founded a "Lost Pets of Mineral County" Facebook Group in 2016. There were numerous community groups that people would post lost pets to, but they wouldn't allow the "share" feature.

So, Spangler created one specifically for Mineral County. Over time it grew to around 1,300 members, helping owners find their lost pets.

Spangler noted, “Before I started the page, people would call or bring an animal to have me deal with it. But now I have them post the animal with as much information as possible; location (town and neighborhood or street name) sex, color of collar, any tags, etc. Then if I know people in that area I can tag neighbors to see if anyone recognizes the animal. Quite often the animal is recognized and it gets reunited with its owner fairly quickly.”

If someone doesn’t have a Facebook account Spangler can post it for them.

She mentioned, “It's been great having more community involvement that way.” Photos are very helpful when sharing lost pets online. Oftentimes Spangler said, “I encourage posts to be updated and left on the page so if for some reason it happens again; the animal is easily identified and can get back home.”

At this point Spangler would guess that she’s assisted with reuniting dozens of dogs and cats.

She detailed, “I've started documenting them since November 2021, as of today I have been involved with eight dogs and eight kittens. Not including the three kittens I rehomed a year ago Labor Day.”

There is myriad situations where Spangler has taken on the care a pet in need.

She explained, “I have taken in two dogs this summer when their owners got arrested, two were from someone who passed away and had no next of kin, one was abandoned at a large property in the woods, lots of abandoned kittens, and some are just lost or ran off.”

When a wandering dog or cat has been captured Spangler sets out to find its owners, and in the mean time she often cares for them in her own home.

She stated, “My mom helps me do intakes when I'm not available — we work as a team with these situations.”

“Animals do not have a voice or a choice in their situation like humans typically do; they bring a lot of joy and happiness to our lives and we don't give them enough credit for it. If I can help them along their journey to a safe and loving home or be a pitstop along the way; I'm happy to help!” Spangler exclaimed.

In addition to selflessly housing numerous four-legged companions that even aren’t hers, Spangler has three dogs and two cats of her own.

She acknowledged, “My dogs do pretty well. I had two old dogs we lost this past year, within six months of each other, and that was difficult having any extras. My German shepherd pup is getting used to the extra visitors, it just takes her a little bit to warm up. The cats could care less.”

With a big beautiful yard, and ample space for pups to romp around Spangler expressed, “I like most animals but dogs are my passion.” She added, “We always joke about our animals being the luckiest to live here at my house with a warm place to sleep and a backyard dog oasis with a pool and lots of room to run.”

And yet running around is what gets most local dogs in trouble.

Spangler noted, “The Town of Superior has the only real animal ordinances I'm aware of. I am in contact with both city-works employees when there are animals here in the city limits. There have been some instances of tickets getting written to repeat offenders with dogs at large.”

Unfortunately, the towns of Alberton, and St. Regis, along with other smaller communities in the county have no dog ordinances or laws at all. This poses a challenge for people like Spangler who are doing their best to keep up with an ever-increasing number of lost pets.

She suggested, “In my opinion I think Mineral County needs to have some policies and procedures to start being more responsible and proactive about animal control. We could start small with making a space available on County Property to house these animals, charge a fee if someone arrested has an animal that needs cared for. Possible mill levies for animal control?” Spangler added, “Look at other counties and see what they do. I'm not asking to have anything change overnight; I know it's a big undertaking, but we need to start moving in the right direction.”

And with the population growth in Montana the past few years and heavy traffic on the Interstate Spangler noticed, “We are getting more and more instances of lost pets, abandoned animals, or animals whose owners get arrested.”

Another key issue surrounding domestic animals is spaying and neutering. She conveyed, “I know of quite a few people who don't do it because of the inconvenience of taking the time to go to the vet, the cost as well as getting them vaccinated. I think a lot of people like the idea of having animals, but don't realize the responsibility and costs involved with having them.”

Pet owners have to carefully consider all of the expenses involved with having a dog or cat, things like food, vet bills, spay/neuter, vaccines, housing, and proper containment. Spangler, who has helped rehome numerous dogs recommended, “They should also think about what kind of activity level they have in a normal day; dogs especially have a lot of energy they need to burn.”

Those who know her, can attest that Spangler would do anything to save a dog or cat, and get them to a happier and safer environment. But when she’s not investing her time and energy as the neighborhood paw patroller, she does have other hobbies.

She shared, “I love to go hiking, kayaking and explore our own backyard here in Mineral County, I've been to a fair number of concerts this summer and I play golf at the Trestle Creek Women's League.”

With so many fur babies Spangler might be close to earning the title of the crazy cat/dog lady – she kidded, “Not yet...I'm sure it's coming though...they are all very supportive and help me when I need it.”

In fact, with some hard work, research, and big dreaming Spangler has a vision. She expressed, “I've thought of starting a non-profit to start a shelter here in Superior. There's a ton of planning and homework to do before I ever get to that point. I'd love to see our elected officials step up and get a group together to address some of these issues. We could work together with the Towns of Alberton and Superior and the rest of Mineral County; get some policies written and a better way to deal with these poor animals.”

Currently Spangler has three kittens that are still looking for a place to call home; they were abandoned up at the Cabin City Campground at the end of August. To inquire about the kittens, or for assistance with a lost dog reach out to Bessie Spangler on the Lost Pets of Mineral County, Montana Facebook Group.

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