BY KENDRA EVENSEN
BLACKFOOT â€” When brothers Braden and Tracen Mangum started volunteering at the Blackfoot Animal Shelter over the summer they were just trying to prove to their parents that they could provide a good home for the dog they wanted to adopt.
But while proving their abilities and adopting their new dog, Addie, the boys realized that there were many other dogs looking for good homes too, and theyâ€™ve been on a mission to help them find families of their own ever since.
The brothers spend time at the shelter each week grooming, playing with and cleaning up after the dogs; they also take pictures of the animals and post them on their Facebook site, â€śBraden & Tracen’s Project Save a Pet.â€ť
Blackfoot Police Chief Kurt Asmus said the boysâ€™ service has made a difference.
â€śTheir efforts have been useful in getting the animals adopted,â€ť Asmus said, adding that people are more willing to adopt the dogs when they look presentable and can be seen interacting with kids.
Braden and Tracen were recently honored with plaques, gift certificates and challenge coins from the city of Blackfoot and the Blackfoot Police Department for their ongoing efforts; they plan to hold a dog and cat food drive for the shelter at Ridleyâ€™s in Blackfoot within the next few weeks.
Amanda Cevering, an animal control officer at the Blackfoot Animal Shelter, said she appreciates the Mangumsâ€™ help, which has assisted the shelter in its goal to decrease the number of euthanizations.
Roughly 800 dogs at the shelter were euthanized in 2011, but Cevering said using social media sites, rescue organizations and volunteers to increase awareness has made a big difference. Only 35 dogs were euthanized in 2012, and roughly five have been put down this year, mostly due to illness or age.
â€śI am happier,â€ť Cevering said, adding that she hates to euthanize animals who are often taken to the shelter for no fault of their own.
Verna Mangum, Braden and Tracenâ€™s mother, said many of the animals at the shelter have great qualities; some were just abandoned, while others had to be given up because their owners moved away or other circumstances changed. She and her sons are working hard to help people see the animalsâ€™ positive attributes, and to recognize shelters as a place where they can go to adopt a loving pet.
Braden said his service has taught him the importance of judging an animal for its own qualities, rather than those typically associated with its breed. Tracen agrees, and he hopes people will give dogs at the shelter a chance before they look elsewhere for a pet.
â€śItâ€™s good to save a pet from being euthanized,â€ť he said.
Although the number of dog euthanizations have decreased in recent years, officials are still working hard to give the animals at the shelter even more opportunities for adoption and a better quality of life in the meantime. At the very least, they hope to raise enough money to add a quarantine area to the shelter and a place for people to come in and meet the animals, but ultimately they would like to build a new facility.
Due to their efforts, Braden and Tracen were able to get a $1,000 ABC Summer of Service Award, which will help the shelter with its goals, and they are now in the running for $5,000 more as part of the same program.
Verna said they are also trying for other awards to help the shelter in the future and are looking for donations. Those interested in helping can call her at 208-680-5567 for more information. They can also visit blackfootpolice.org, and click on the â€śAnimal Controlâ€ť link to make a donation online.