Dog rescue receives grant to expand conservation efforts

MISSOULA, Mont. - The local organization Working Dogs for Conservation received a $250 thousand grant from Petco to help animals and the environment all over the world. 

Working Dogs for Conservation trains detection dogs for different conservation efforts. These dogs are unique because they are all rescues. 

This grant will be used to train more dogs near Missoula and also develop more internships for students from tribal colleges where they'll learn how to be handlers. 

Pete Coppolillo, executive director, said dogs are exceptional for conservation efforts because of their high energy, sensitive noses and relationships with people. 

"They'll run around out in the fields and here in a lab kind of setting, and they love their handlers," Coppolillo said. "They want to tell us what they found. That's really the component that makes them so special. And, of course, they can learn a new odor in an afternoon, so they're really flexible."

The organization is training about six dogs right now, and has 45 working dogs around the world helping with a variety of projects from antipoaching work in Africa to detecting invasive weeds on Mount Sentinel here in Missoula.

Early next year, the organization will team up with Indigenous Vision to detect and map contamination on the Blackfeet Reservation, things like heavy metals and pharmaceuticals. 

The project aims to help the environment and public health by making wild food collection safer. 

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