As strong rains and rapid snow melt hit Yellowstone National Park in recent days, flooding took out roads and caused damage that will close portions of the park longterm. Cities in the region have also been heavily impacted. An animal shelter in nearby Livingston, Montana, faced a time crunch as flood waters from the Yellowstone River quickly grew. Despite their facility being inundated with water, all the animals were rescued.
As areas across the region surveyed flood damage, Stafford Animal Shelter shared a post on its Facebook page detailing its own situation. The organization said that despite damages to vehicles, the building itself, and items inside, 100% of its animals and humans survived, including the pet fish.
They wrote, “We are so grateful for those who put themselves in harms way to save our pets during that awful flash flood. We have the most dedicated & caring staff and volunteers! As you can see from the water line & damage, it was swift & severe (and scary!)”
Alicia Davis, the shelter’s director of operations and outreach, told The Bozeman Daily Chronicle that as they were trying to evacuate while the Yellowstone River rapidly rose, the water level went from non-existent to waist-high within just seven minutes. Then the clock was running to ensure the safety of the roughly 30 animals in their care.
Davis says, “The water was just rushing. This entire area was like being in the Yellowstone River.”
In the rush that followed, five dogs were moved to the second floor of the shelter’s barn, later to be retrieved by a swift water rescue team. Several cats, birds, fish, a guinea pig, and a rat, which were up on higher perches and ledges, were evacuated the next day. Three other dogs had to be turned loose due to lack of time. One followed the volunteers and staff as they swam to higher ground.
Ultimately, all of the pets made it safely out of the damaged building, which the staff fears is nearly a total loss. The animals are now either in foster homes or at neighboring shelters.
The community is rallying behind Stafford, with the shelter saying supporters have launched fundraisers or directed tip jar proceeds toward the rebuild. A Facebook fundraiser had already raised nearly $15,000 within two days. These donations have been key, as restoring the building could take time, and damages could be so severe that a new location would be needed.
If you’re interested in learning how you can help, check out Stafford’s Facebook page for updates.