Stafford Animal Shelter recovers slowly from destructive flood

By 
John Carroll — Enterprise Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 3, 2022
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Sue Dailey, president of the Stafford Animal Shelter board of directors, stands inside the facility east of Livingston that was severely damaged by the Yellowstone River flood in June. Efforts are ongoing to rebuild and restore the shelter. Enterprise photo by John Carroll

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Liz Kever, left, animal care supervisor at Stafford, and board president Sue Dailey unload supplies at Stafford Animal Shelter on Tuesday. Enterprise photo by John Carroll

The process to rebuild and restore Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston began in earnest last week.

The nonprofit shelter that serves displaced animals was decimated by the Yellowstone River flood in June and has been closed for nearly two months now.

“The river was running through the building,” said Sue Dailey, president of the Stafford Board of Directors. “It was very scary getting the animals out of there. The flood destroyed everything.”

With floodwaters rushing as high as 4 feet inside the facility, staffers and emergency personnel managed to rescue all 30 of the animals — mostly dogs and cats.

But the carnage, the aftermath was devastating. Supplies and medicine were lost. Computers were destroyed. The walls and doors were ruined. Electrical and security systems were blown. Everything was water-logged and damaged.

The future looked grim for the animal shelter that has been in Livingston since 1986.

But the resolve to rebuild and restore services from board members, staff and community supporters has been incredible, said Dailey.

“The community outpouring has been wonderful,” said Dailey, a retired teacher. “The flood turned us upside down, but Stafford is an institution in this town. This is a big project to serve the community again, and it’s not going to be easy, but we are determined to do it.”

Alicia Davis, director of operations at Stafford Animal Shelter, said the physical restoration of the facility began last week as workers ripped out drywall, removed damaged contents and dried out the building with fans and dehumidifiers.

Davis said the cost to rebuild and reopen Stafford would be roughly $700,000.

“We’ve raised half of that already,” said Davis. “The community has been very supportive. We are very grateful to everybody who has stepped up so far.”

Formerly the Humane Society of Park County, the place became the Stafford Animal Shelter in 1999 when a 4,500-square-foot facility was built with a generous donation from Frances Stafford.

The shelter provides physical and emotional well-being to more than 1,000 displaced animals each year, according to Davis, and also facilitates pet adoptions and reunions.

Currently, stray and surrendered animals are being directed to Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter in Bozeman. People can also call Livingston Animal Control if they find stray animals, or reach out to Bozeman Lost Pets, a nonprofit that reunites lost pets with their families. In the meantime, the diligent work to rebuild and restore services at Stafford Animal Shelter is moving forward. Davis said she was hopeful that Stafford could restore some services in the coming months.

“We promise we will open as soon as we can,” said Davis. “Stay tuned. Our social media will keep updating people. Nobody wants to be open faster than we do.”

For people who are interested in contributing to the recovery of Stafford Animal Shelter, there are two ways to give, said Davis. You can donate online at staffordanimalshelter.org, or mail a check to 3 Business Park Road, Livingston, MT 59047.

Also on the board’s agenda is to replace Steve Leach, the former executive director of Stafford who retired recently.

“The board of directors is responsible for hiring our new executive director,” said Davis. “We have several candidates already, but the position is still open.”