MISSOULA, Mont. – Local organization Working Dogs for Conservation received a $250,000 grant from Petco to help animals and the environment around the world.
Working Dogs for Conservation trains detection dogs for various 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 tribal college students where they will learn to be dog handlers.
Pete Coppolillo, executive director, said the dogs are exceptional for conservation efforts because of their high energy, sensitive noses and people-friendliness.
“They go running around in the fields and here in some sort of laboratory, and they love their handlers,” Coppolillo said. “They want to tell us what they found. It’s really the component that makes them so special. And, of course, they can learn a new smell in an afternoon, so they’re really flexible.”
The organization currently trains about six dogs and has 45 working dogs around the world involved in various projects ranging from anti-poaching 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 the collection of wild foods safer.