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Emaciated Great Dane Rescue Spurs Call for Enhanced Animal Welfare in Okanogan County

Okanogan County, WASHINGTON [August 11, 2023] — The discovery of an emaciated Great Dane in Okanogan County has galvanized local communities and resonated statewide. For Okanogan Angels, Team Okanogan Animal Rescue, and multiple other county rescue groups, such cases are regrettably not uncommon. Private individuals from these organizations are continually grappling with the influx of lost, found, abandoned, and neglected dogs, underscoring the urgency for enhanced animal welfare infrastructure. Okanogan County is the largest county in the state of Washington and is roughly the size of Connecticut, encompassing 5,300 square miles. Okanogan County does not have an animal control officer and does not have a publicly funded shelter. If an animal is found inside city limits in some of the towns, there are small, cinderblock holding facilities available. Over 1,200 dogs and 2,000 cats were served by the private, primarily home- based rescues in 2022 alone. 


On August 1, administrators of the Lost and Found Pets of Okanogan County Facebook group received a distressing report concerning an emaciated dog believed to be a Great Dane, sighted on the "Loup" section of Hwy 20—a familiar route connecting Okanogan and the Methow Valley. The word "emaciated" triggers a rapid and unified response from the rescue community—whether through phone calls or fieldwork. This past week witnessed a cohesive endeavor exemplifying the collaborative spirit of these organizations. Rita Kessell, a member of Team Okanogan Animal Rescue, promptly reached out to Jennifer Harrison, President of Okanogan Angels, upon receiving alerts about the emaciated Great Dane. Their collaboration led to discussions on viable strategies, which included leveraging Okanogan Angels' locally constructed large dog trap, utilizing available team and community resources, and devising a preliminary plan of action. Jennifer Sherwood, a dedicated dog foster parent for Okanogan Angels, enthusiastically joined the mission, equipped with traps, sustenance, and determination. Many days were spent following the leads sent with various sightings. 


The dog was so elusive, there were no photographs taken of her. Luckily, within hours of a medical professional spotting her and reporting her very dire condition, she was trapped by Rita Kessell at the Loup Loup Ski Bowl. Ms. Dane's recovery journey commenced, with Rita transporting her to Okanogan Valley Vet, renowned for their commitment to quality care. When she arrived at the clinic, she weighed 51 pounds and had other medical conditions. Her road to recovery will be long, but everyone is optimistic she will survive. Efforts are underway to amplify her story in the hopes her family has been looking for her. 


While Ms. Dane's condition steadily improves, her name remains undecided, setting the stage for a contest that concludes on August 13. Each $10 donation provides an opportunity to contribute a name to the contest, and the excess funds from the initial fundraiser for Ms. Dane's care will be allocated to Okanogan Angels' Low-Income Spay/Neuter Voucher Program—a testament to the organization's dedication to holistic animal welfare. Okanogan Angels' establishment in 2022 sought to address the dire need for structured animal assistance in the county, particularly for canines. Similarly, Team Okanogan Animal Rescue initiated operations during the same period, focusing on long-term objectives. The overarching goal of both organizations is to establish a comprehensive facility capable of accommodating current and future needs within the county and neighboring communities. 


Okanogan County's sole nonprofit animal rescue facility faces constraints due to aging infrastructure, massive numbers of dogs, and a remote location at the county's outskirts. The establishment of a comprehensive shelter facility would ensure timely veterinary care, spaying/neutering procedures pre-adoption, and a safe haven for these vulnerable animals. "Ms. Dane's recovery underscores our community's capacity for positive change," affirms Rita Kessell, Team Okanogan Animal Rescue member. "Collective efforts will truly shape a more compassionate landscape for animal welfare in Okanogan County. 


The community has multiple avenues to contribute to the ongoing efforts to improve animal welfare and to provide the additional assistance and support needed. Contact information for the two groups involved in rescuing Ms. Dane are listed below. 


Okanangels: – Attention: Jennifer Harrison 


Team Okanogan Animal Rescue: – Attention: Rita Kessell  

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