There are a lot of reasons why Jo-Anne Dixon loves the Wood River Valley, but one of them stands out a bit more than others.

“This is a community that clearly loves its pets,” Jo-Anne said, as she should know. Jo-Anne is both the Medical Director and the Executive Director for Mountain Humane.

Born in Canada and raised in the Evergreen State, Jo-Ann moved to the Wood River Valley shortly after completing her doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University in 1997. She then worked for nearly a decade at the Sun Valley Animal Center, which is when she first got involved with the local animal shelter.

Jo-Anne began volunteering her time to give free exams at was then called the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley. After taking a short respite when her twins were born, Jo-Anne went to work for the shelter. Housed in a small, rundown building just west of Hailey, Idaho’s first no-kill shelter—like much of its pets—were struggling to survive.  But instead of being overcome by the challenges, Jo-Anne and her team decide to see them as opportunities.

“It was tough. We realized that the only way to tackle pet over-population was to address it at the source, so we decided to start our no-cost community spay/neuter program, which is free for anyone in Blaine County,” she said. “Animals don’t have check books and struggles for access to care are as real in animal medicine as it is for human medicine.”

Within five years, the county’s stray pet population hade been reduced by half and soon the shelter was operating on over 1,200 pets per year. The stray numbers dropped so much that they were able to start bringing in pets from high-kill shelters around the region. Despite all their success, the shelter was still too small and dilapidated to properly handle all the animals. That’s why they called on the community to help, and help they did.

In February of 2019, the non-profit animal shelter opened a brand new 30,000 square-foot facility. It has become a model of what animal shelters are becoming in our country, places that do much more than simply adopt out animals. The 100% donor-funded organization also changed their name to Mountain Humane to encompass all they do for pets and our community.

“Going from a small, converted janitors’ closet to this state-of-art facility is very rewarding,” Jo-Anne said from new office. “We see our shelter as a leader for the State and this new facility will help us to be a catalyst to make Idaho no-kill by 2025.”

There’s no doubt that we love pets here in the Wood River Valley and it is a big reason why our community is such a special place.

“Animals are a medium for people to care about each other, to give back and to connect,” Jo-Anne said. “”We are an animal shelter, but it’s really about people. It’s about being humane.”

By Mike McKenna

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