BILLINGS — On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Gianforte visited Dog Tag Buddies in Billings as the final stop of his 12 Days of Giving, where he donates portions of his salary to nonprofits.
“Dog Tag Buddies covers all the costs and the training to pair rescue dogs with veterans that need the companionship," Gianforte said on Wednesday. "They’re making a difference in people’s lives and that’s why I was pleased to donate part of my salary to their efforts. I encourage other Montanans to learn more about it and maybe volunteer or consider supporting them themselves.”
It was the final stop on the holiday tradition the governor started in the wake of his election.
“It’s critical that we help our veterans be self-sufficient and prosper once they return from war. Many of them have invisible injuries, PTSD and other things," Gianforte said. "Dog Tag Buddies has shown that through the companionship of a dog and really two years of effort to build that relationship. The dog helps the veteran and the veteran helps the dog."
The tradition was started in 2021 as a way to highlight nonprofits across the state.
"This is a tradition we started three years ago to highlight Montana nonprofits that are doing good work in the communities," Gianforte said. "It’s what Montanans do. It’s neighbor helps neighbor.”
Four of the 12 nonprofits were gifted a quarter of the governor's salary. Dog Tag Buddies, Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Kalispell, Hi-Line Home Programs in Sydney, and The Lifeguard Group in Missoula all received checks that came out of Gianforte's own pocket.
“I was up in Sydney at Hi-Line Home Programs. They help parents with kids with developmental disabilities. We were at Eagle Mount in Bozeman, which helps people with disabilities and people fighting cancer have outdoor adventures. We kicked off the state food drive for the Montana Food Bank Network. We got with Promise 686, which helps adoptive families adopt kids out of Montana foster care," Gianforte said. "So again, there’s lots of great work going on. We picked 12 of the best this year and we’re pleased to come along side them and encourage other Montanans to consider supporting."
For Dog Tag Buddies, the gift of $20,425 left many speechless. Gianforte's annual salary is $118,397, according to Ballotpedia.
“To say that we were shocked is an understatement. But to be so honored by his generosity knowing how much he’s invested in the state of Montana, not just in his service as governor but by donating back his salary to other nonprofits," said Deede Baker, the founder and executive director of Dog Tag Buddies, on Wednesday.
The costs associated with training the service dogs are high.
“For those who don’t know, training a service dog for the first two years, it takes about $25,000 a team because we are investing everything into these dogs and the humans. So we’re paying for all of their needs. Their food, their crates, their equipment, the veterinary care, and the training," Baker said. "These veterans are coming to training once a week every week. So the commitment from the veteran is huge. I have trainers that are traveling around the state to make sure that we can meet those veterans where they’re at. So what the governor has donated to us is really going to make a huge impact in that. Making sure that we’re able to continue serving at that level is important."
Meaning donations like these are crucial to continue the good work.
"That’s a kick that a lot of nonprofits need," Baker said. "We kind of pick up the gap where others can’t, so it is important for us."
To learn more about Dog Tag Buddies, click here.