Us in a nutshell!

giving tuesdayWe hope you think of us this #givingtuesday.

What is #givingtuesday?  It is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

We here at Stafford Animal Shelter thought it was a good day to highlight our mission and recap our services that make us most proud to be the only nonprofit animal care facility in Park County!

  • We are an “open door” shelter and accept every pet in need: abandoned, lost or homeless. We do not turn down animals based on history, health, disability, breed or age including abandoned newborn litters.
  • Once an animal is up for adoption, we have no restriction on their length of stay with us and we will keep them as long as it takes to find a them a home regardless of space.
  • We are the only Shelter in the area that accepts all domesticated pets; not just dogs and cats and we have a “zoo” where we adopt out all of our pocket pets and exotic critters like rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, ferrets, hamsters, rats, fish, turtles, sugar gliders, finches, parrots, hedgehogs, iguanas and more.
  • We work with local law enforcement and animal control to assist on cases and care for those confiscated for abuse, cruelty or running at large.
  • Provide safe harbor for pets of domestic violence victims, those suffering from unforeseen emergencies, natural disasters or evacuations.
  • We assist senior citizens and those experiencing financial hardships, through special earmarked funds, with veterinary care costs and pet supplies to avoid surrendering their beloved pets.
  • We serve the people and pets of greater Southwestern Montana, not just Park County. Many adopters, surrenders and strays come from Gallatin, Sweet Grass, Meagher, Stillwater & Yellowstone Counties and we work with Great Falls and Butte to take in domesticated rabbits.
  • We have partnerships with three Montana Indian Reservations and one in North Dakota and their local rescues to help take in dogs through our “Pure Bred Rez Dog Program” while they work to humanely decrease their overpopulation.
  • Through our Animal Care Enrichment Program “Project Happiness” we continually strive to enhance the experience for our pets here with volunteer socialization, group play, outside yards and catios.
  • We offer the public adoption counseling prior to choosing a pet, continuing behavior advice for adopters and the community as well as public dog obedience classes with our on-staff Canine Behaviorist.
  • We house nearly a thousand animals each year with approximately half being reclaimed and half adopted.
  • Every adoptable cat & dog is spayed or neutered, vaccinated, dewormed and microchipped prior to adoption.
  • We receive no federal, state government or national organization support, we are almost completely funded on small donations from businesses and people just like you!

Our shelter is a reflection of our community, we hope you are as passionate about our mission as we are.  Fundraising is a crucial part of what we do in order to keep our doors open & continue providing for the animals that we all love.

Please donate what you can with the link below, no amount is too small. #givingtuesday #staffordanimalshelter #thatsusinanutshell

giving tuesday

New Wheels for Charlie!

adopt_paralyzed_dog_in_wheelchair_stafford_animal_shelter_3“No longer able to care for my pet” is often a reason we hear for people surrendering their animals to us here at Stafford Animal Shelter.  In the case of 9 month old Terrier Mix Charlie, her previous owner was not prepared emotionally or financially to handle her special medical circumstances and thought rehom­ing her would give her a better opportunity at life. So far, his wishes have come true thanks to our staff, a special business partner and non-profit who have pitched in to help.

Little Charlie wascharlie_adopt_paralyzed_dog_in_wheelchair_stafford_animal_shelter_2 born with congenital malformation of the spine, pelvis and hind limbs leaving her back end paralyzed. Although she can not walk on all fours, she pulls herself and hops around to maneuver where she needs to be. She was evaluated by our medical staff and they determined that she is healthy and not suffering with her condition at this time. Despite her disability, right now Charlie is a happy girl who loves greeting our guests at the front desk, playing with the other dogs, cuddling with our junior volunteers and she even loves swimming.

To make her more comfortable we landscapestarted taking her to see Darcy Cook at Black Dog Rehab to help with mobility and she has been donating her time to help Charlie through massage & dry needling. Since Charlie responded so well to using Black Dog’s hindquarter harness, we thought it was best to look into getting her a wheelchair too. Realizing caring for Charlie is a large expense for us, we researched online for discounted wheelchairs and found Jason Parker and his non-profit “Gunnar’s Wheels” which was featured on The Today Show. They provide free wheelchairs to dog’s in need around the country. His organization was inspired when his beloved dog Gunnar was hit by a car and he and his wife Stephanie needed to spend $7,000+ on surgeries and wheelchair for their best pal. Their friends and family started a GoFundMe page to help raise the money and buy Gunnar a wheelchair. From that moment, he said he would “pay it forward” and to-date the auto parts salesman from Wisconsin has raised over $70,000 and shipped out 130 chairs including a pink one to our girl Charlie!

She is learning how to walk in the chair and is doing well with it, matter of fact we need to put a leash on her so she doesn’t tear off too fast across the yard, nothing is going to stop this determined little lady. A generous gift has given her a new sense of freedom which she’s never experienced and now Charlie is ready to roll into a forever home.

She is currently up for adoption at the shelter but we are looking for a foster home for her right away.  She is “potty trained” in that she knows when to tell us to let her outside,  but sometimes she has accidents.  We are doing the best we can at the shelter but we do not have the resources to provide her the care needed and worry that we cannot provide her the quality of life that she deserves here due to limited staff availability and the demands of the other animals we care for here at the shelter.  Also,  we have these fabulous new wheels and donated treatments by Black Dog,  but we must supervise her when wearing them and train her to use them, right now she’s only getting about 30 minutes a day of practice and we need help running her to appointments.   She did have a great foster home and was doing very well there but they just found out that they adding a baby to the family and realize they cannot give Charlie the attention she deserves.  Charlie currently weighs 38lbs and would need to be fostered/adopted by someone is capable of lifting her in and out of her wheelchair.   Wanting to help a dog in a wheelchair is an easy decision…taking on the day to day commitment is difficult, but it is completely rewarding. We know opting to help Charlie was the right choice until we can find her the perfect companion or rescue group who can give her the proper medical care and attention she deserves so she can enjoy her life. That beautiful big smile and joy on her face when she’s “running” around is definitely worth it!   Please share Charlie’s story far and wide and let’s help her roll on out of the shelter! We are willing to relocate her and help transport from Montana.  Please understand additional screening will be required on this special needs adoption to ensure she has a healthy and happy home.  Thank you to all the dedicated staff and donors of Stafford Animal Shelter,  Black Dog Rehab & Gunnar’s Wheels who have helped her get this far!


Obedience Classes Offered!

Tony ClassStafford Animal Shelter in Livingston Montana is now offering basic dog obedience class instructed by Tony Marcuzzo, our staff Canine Behavior Consultant and Evaluator. Most of you who have adopted a dog from the shelter have probably had the pleasure of meeting Tony or have seen him at outreach events or at “Downtown Dogs” with adoptable pets. He conducts behavior assessments on all of our dogs to determine their level of safety before adopting them into the community. He also offers continued post adoption behavior support for all of our alumni. He comes to the shelter with 7 years experience training and handling animals in kennel and shelter environment as the behavior assistant for 5 years at Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter in Bozeman, MT where he honed his training and evaluating skills. He also has guided sled dog rides for two winters where he was responsible for up to 18 dogs and 5 guests at a time in remote locations.  Not only is Tony experienced with canines,  he is the resident volunteer caretaker of horses and goats at M.A.E.R.A. Ranch (Montana Awareness, Education and Equine Rehabilitation Association) in Paradise Valley.   Tony is an excellent resource for the shelter & the community and we’re happy to have him teach the course!

To enroll,  please download the registration form here, complete and email back to, fax to (406) 222-8752 or drop off at the shelter during business hours.Enrollment for our classes are open to the public. Class size is limited in order to give individualized attention to you and your dog.

Each course is 4 weeks long, 1 hour each. Cost for the entire course is $40 for Stafford alumni, $60 for altered dogs and $80 for unaltered dogs. Proof of vaccinations is required (rabies, kennel cough, and parvo/distemper vaccinations) and (human) participants must be at least 18 years of age.

Tony will contact you to approved your dog and schedule the next open training course that fits your schedule.  Once approved,  you can pay in person at the shelter,  via credit card over the phone or online by clicking “donate” button here.  You do not need to have a PayPal account to pay online,  click the “donate” button and be sure to leave a note at check out that you’re paying for classes.  $40 for alumni, $60 for altered dogs, $80 for unaltered.  Please wait to be approved to pay for your spot in dog training class.  All classes must be paid for before the night of class.

Feel free to email Tony at, (406) 222-4938 or (406) 222-2111 with any questions.  All proceeds from classes benefit the shelter, thank you for your support!

Stafford Ski Day @ B Bar Ranch Jan 14th 2017!

bbar-ranch-ski-trailLocated in the beautiful Tom Miner Basin in Emigrant, The B Bar Ranch is graciously hosting a Cross Country Skiing day to benefit Stafford Animal Shelter. Join us Saturday, January 14th, 2017 to ski on some of their 20 km of groomed trails. They have both classic and skate skiing covering varied terrain, something for every level of skier (even telemark skiers can find a couple of sweet spots for cutting turns). Cost is $25.00 for adults and $10.00 for children
under 12 (6 and under are free). Price includes skiing and lunch (soup, sandwiches & cookies – vegetarian options available). Skiing is from 9-4 with lunch served from 11:30 to 1:30 in
their Nordic ten
t. 100% of the admission is donated to Stafford Animal Shelter! Please bring yourbbar-ranch-skiiing own skis. If you don’t have them you can rent from our local, shelter supporting shop in Livingston – Timber Trails 406-222-9550. Northern Lights & Bangtail Sports
in Bozeman also rent skis. Please RSVP to B Bar Ranch at 406-848-7729 so we can plan ahead. They will provide you directions to the ranch at 818 Tom Miner Creek Rd. Emigrant, MT. B Bar Ranch
We look forward to you joining us for a fun day to help raise lots of money
for the animals! (sorry folks, we all love dogs, but please leave your dogs at home for this event)b-bar-ski-day-poster

Cesar Milan Meets “Montana” Gang!

Bozeman, MT – March 6th, 2016

When we found out that world renowned dog trainer and TV personality Cesar Millan, “The Dog Whisperer” was coming to Bozeman we were excited at the chance to hear him speak. Cesar is famous for taking the most hard to place dogs and rehabilitating them.  He is especially drawn to misunderstood “bully breeds” like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers and works with them at his Dog Psychology Center in California.

Our Development Director, Alicia Davis,  took a long shot and emailed his company asking them to come visit Stafford when they were in the area and help us with our long term stay a Pit Bull named Montana.

Assuming he receives thousands of emails a day from people asking him to help,  it was no surprise we didn’t receive a response. That is until Alicia opened her email the day before the show and was pleasantly surprised to find a response from Cesar’s assistant dog trainer. They would not be able to visit the shelter,  but they did invite us to the show and asked us to speak about our shelter and highlight some of our adoptable dogs.  We were thrilled for the opportunity and quickly put together staff, volunteers and suitable dogs for the show the next day.   We all got to meet with Cesar before the show and introduce him to the dogs and talk about Stafford.  He was very interested in our Rez Dog Program, our high placement numbers for dogs in our community and he suggested that we help him transport eligible dogs from overcrowded kill shelters in California and rehome them in Montana.  He also had his crew send us information on recruitment for Search and Rescue dogs in California as they are looking for sporting dogs and working dogs that we tend to have in Montana (ex. Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Retrievers etc..) Caesar is an outspoken advocate for “Don’t Shop, Adopt” and was very supportive of our work and spoke about it before he introduced us on stage.  He demonstrated corrections on our dogs for exuberant puppies, hyper active adolescents, overexcited walkers who pull on the leash, food snatchers, toy obsessed dogs and those with a strong prey drive.

The highlight of the evening came when he met Montana.   Montana’s handler brought her out onstage with Cesar’s Pomeranian named Benson. Montana could not focus on anything but going after Benson’s fluffy little tail.  The front clip leash and gentle leader were not working well and Montana was very anxious and pulling to reach the small dog.   Cesar then had his turn at our girl. With a very simple leash technique and his calm and assertive energy, he had her sitting and lying down as the Pomeranian pranced in front of her.  She was content. For those of us that know Montana, it was a true joy to watch and it inspired hope.  Hope that in the hands of the proper owner,  she will make for a happy and healthy pet.  Our experience with Cesar and his crew was one we will not soon forget.

(Montana is our longest term stay at the shelter.  She was found at Alberstons as a stray and has been with us since Dec 2015.  She is a 4 year old American Pit Bull Terrier who adores people and attention,  but is not fond of other dogs or cats. She is one of the staff favorites and can often be seen in the office hanging out, playing ball in the yard or pulling our volunteers on a scooter. Come meet her today!)

Stafford in the news: People Magazine-Dog saves owner from bear








Dog with Chronic Injury Saves Owner From Grizzly Bear Attack

kate-carmen-768Photo: NANCY DUNHAM

NANCY DUNHAM @@NancyDWrites 10/20/2015 AT 4:13 PM ET
When a grizzly bear threw Kate Cholewa, 53, to the ground and jumped on her, his teeth ripping into her head, Cholewa’s black lab mix leapt into action and saved her life.

The attack came suddenly during the pair’s regular walk through their favorite place, Point of Rocks Fishing Access Site, not far from their home in Emigrant, Montana, near Yellowstone National Park.

“We were walking along enjoying ourselves,” Cholewa recounted to PEOPLE.

The Chicago native, who moved to Montana to attend graduate school in 1987, had never encountered a bear or even seen tracks during her walks with Carmen the dog, who she adopted as a pup 12 years ago and now weighs about 90 pounds. Like all area residents, though, Cholewa is well aware that bears are prevalent. The best way to avoid bear encounters, as signs throughout the area warn, is to ensure the animal hears your approach.

Keep up with your favorite celebs in the pages of PEOPLE Magazine by subscribing now.
So it wasn’t unusual that Cholewa sang as the two walked during the early afternoon of Monday, Oct. 12. She was actually midway through a rendition of Dido’s part in the Eminem song “Stan” when she glanced over and saw the hair on Carmen’s back standing up in a way she’d never seen before.

Until recently Carmen had always led the way on their walks. But after she was diagnosed with a torn ACL a year ago, Cholewa started taking the lead to protect Carmen’s delicate rear left leg. Though surgery could repair the tear — which vets predicted would result in Carmen’s death within six months of diagnosis — Cholewa sought alternate treatment so Carmen wouldn’t be traumatized by months of confinement in a kennel. Carmen continues to thrive.

“I was about two steps ahead of her when I turned and was face-to-face with a bear,” says Cholewa, who estimates the bear weighed about 500 pounds. “I have no idea if it jumped on me or hit me. All I know was that I was suddenly on the ground with a bear on top of me. I remember thinking ‘I’m going to die.’ “
Cholewa couldn’t see past the bear but felt Carmen’s presence and thought she heard her barking. Suddenly the bear stood up.

“I knew I was supposed to play dead, but I just couldn’t stop from scrambling away,” she says. “All I could think was that my dog was still there, probably being ripped apart.”

And that thought tore her heart apart.

Cholewa adopted Carmen from the Missoula Humane Society when the canine was just a puppy, and it didn’t take long for the duo to bond.

“I wanted a dog that loved hanging out, was content to just be with me while I worked,” says the author of the novel of Shaking Out the Dead, who is midway through her next book. “We bonded right away.”

Of course there’s no way that Cholewa could have known the extent to which that bond would be tested.

As she scurried from the attack, her heart pounding with fear, she grabbed her cell phone and called 911. As the operator asked if the bear followed her, Cholewa heard a rustle and turned to see Carmen bolt to her side.

“The only time I let go of my head [that was gushing blood] was when I was helping Carmen into the car,” she says. “Usually I help her because of her leg, but we both jumped in the car and waited” for the police to arrive.

As the ambulance transported Cholewa to the hospital, she told rescuers of her concern about Carmen. They assured her that Carmen was at Stafford Humane Shelter in Livingston, where she was cared for until Cholewa brought her home.

“It meant so much to know she was cared for and not alone,” says Cholewa. “I think it’s wonderful there are such places where I could adopt her and then would care for her when I couldn’t.”

Cholewa and Carmen are working to return to everyday life, though Cholewa doubts they ever truly will. That’s not because of the scrapes, cuts and bumps on Carmen or Cholewa’s facial bruises and head lacerations.

“I actually believe this was a sacred event,” says Cholewa, who awaits a copy of her 911 call to retrace the details of the incident. Various aspects of my professional life “made me cynical and I thought I would have to write my way out of them in my next book. But this encounter brought me out of that cynicism. I looked a grizzly in the eye – my dog looked a grizzly in the eye – and we both got out alive. This incident didn’t change the world, but it truly changed something in me.”


Many people don’t know that Stafford Animal Shelter’s resources and services extend well beyond surrenders, adoptions and stray reclaims.  We provide valuable services to the community through our special funds such as the “Guardian Angel Fund” which allowed us to help “hero dog” Carmen and her owner Kate when they were faced with this emergency situation. We also offer safe haven and care for animals in domestic violence households,  emergency evacuations (such as wildfires and floods) and cruelty/hoarding situations.  We could not offer these resources to our community without the help of individual and business donors.  We can be there for the animals, because you are there for us! Please consider donating in honor of Carmen and all the other dogs who are helped by Stafford Animal Shelter in their time of need!

A very special thank you to Kate Cholewa for the shout out in People Magazine! Carmen has certainly brought the spotlight to senior dogs and shelter dogs…two of our favorite things here at Stafford Animal Shelter! We’ve always known how special these dogs are, but thank you for sharing your story and influencing others to give shelter dogs a chance! They’ll save your life in ways you never thought possible…

Give securely online with the form to the right, or send your check to: Stafford Animal Shelter, 3 Business Park Road, Livingston, MT 59047. All donations are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

Stafford Animal Shelter Has New Pack Leader

Photo of Steve Leach with Jacob, who was just adopted, by Melanie Renee Photography

Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston is pleased to introduce its new Executive Director, Steve Leach. Leach comes to Stafford with a strong business background and a lifelong love of animals. He believes his extensive experience as a marketing executive for some of the nation’s top magazine publishers (including Time, Inc., Hearst, and Conde Nast) will translate well into promoting Stafford and the important work it does.

Leach is impressed with the facility at Stafford, its dedicated and caring staff and board, the cadre of compassionate volunteers, and the services Stafford provides the community. “One of my first visitors was a veterinarian who has worked at Stafford and other shelters. He told me that for most animals that end up here, it’s the best day of their lives. I am committed to ensuring that statement remains true. I couldn’t be more proud or excited to be joining the Stafford team and to have the opportunity to make a difference.”

Board President, Sue Dailey, says Stafford shares Leach’s enthusiasm. “The members of the SAS board feel very fortunate to have Steve on board as our new Executive Director. His wealth of experience and enthusiasm will be a great addition to the Stafford team!” Stafford Animal Shelter, built in 1999, is there for you when your pet is lost, you’re ready to adopt a friend for life, or have animal behavior questions. The only nonprofit animal shelter in Park County, they serve the people and pets of the greater Southwestern Montana community as the only Shelter in the region that accepts all lost or unwanted pets; not just dogs and cats but small and exotic pets too. Stop by 3 Business Park Road east of Livingston Tuesday through Saturday between noon and 5 pm to meet the new Executive Director and the many pets waiting for homes – from puppies to parrots to barn cats to bunnies. To contact the new director, phone 406/222-1311 or email

Shelter Broken Into

breakin2Between 6 pm on Thursday February 5, 2015 and 8 am Friday, February 6 Stafford Animal Shelter was broken into by person/persons unknown. They pried open a kennel and forced a dog door to get in; all entry points have now been triple reinforced and will be nearly impossible to breach. While we are happy to report that no animals were hurt, we are very sad that someone chose to target a nonprofit serving pets. Stafford Animal Shelter keeps no cash, other than a few coins in a donation box, nor veterinary medications on the premises. While unhurt, the pets in the Shelter were traumatized and still exhibiting stress the next morning and a great deal of destruction was wrecked on the Shelter.

Stafford Animal Shelter was closed Friday, February 6th while the police breakin1investigated and the destruction was cleaned up. The Shelter will be OPEN for business again during normal business hours Saturday the 7th at noon.

Anyone with any information that may shed light on the crime is encouraged to contact the Park County Sheriff’s Office at 406/222-2050. The animals that experienced the break in are unable to shed light on the perpetrators. “There are forty eye witnesses but nobody’s talking,” says Executive Director Steve Leach referring to the Shelter pets we wish could tell us who the culprit was.

As Stafford Animal Shelter is in an isolated, nonresidential area we have been broken into three times before and would like to invest in a surveillance system to help prevent, and to prosecute, future crimes at the Shelter. Donors may make a note on any donation they would like to go to this fund. Checks may be mailed to 3 Business Park Road, Livingston, MT 59047 and secure online donations can be made at

Stafford Animal Shelter thanks our wonderfully supportive, caring community and appreciates the public’s understanding in our temporary closure.

Thanks to our friends in the media, the Livingston Enterprise and Bozeman Daily Chronicle, for helping get the word out  and our many friends in the community who have expressed their concern and made donations to the Surveillance System Fund.

Follow up article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and KZBK Channel 7.


Stafford Shelter Wins Award

KZBk imageStafford Animal Shelter is honored and pleased to have been nominated by members of the public for the KZBK and First Security Bank’s “Our Community First Award”. We received a fine plaque, donation from First Security Bank, and a television spot in which to talk about our services. See the video here and thanks to all our friends and supporters for thinking of us and the critters we serve with this award and every day with their support! Learn more and make year-end tax deductible donations here.