Rosie Fund Gets Help from the ASPCA ®

The Stafford Animal Shelter has a special fund just for animals who have one-time major medical needs called the Rosie Fund. It was created for Rosie, a dog who had fallen off the back of a pick-up and badly wounded her leg, which later needed to be amputated. We see a number of animals each year who need a considerable medical procedure like Rosie’s.

Before surgery
Before surgery

Earlier this year, we received a generous grant from the Lil BUB’s Big Fund for the ASPCA, to our Rosie Fund specifically for cats who needed special medical care.

Gracie May, who has been with us since September of 2013, developed entropion a few months ago. This is a condition in which the eyelids roll inward, causing lashes and hair to constantly scrape the surface of the eye. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness due to ulcers forming on the cornea, inflammation, or scaring. This irritating and painful condition can occur in young animals (some breeds, like pugs, are more predisposed to it) and is called “primary entropion.” Animals may also develop the condition later, which is referred to as “secondary entropion,” which is what Gracie had. Though the exact cause of hers is unknown, this can happen if there is an irritation to the eye causing eyelid spasms, trauma, or chronic inflammation. Gracie frequently squinted and had watery eyes, as can be seen in the “before” photo on the left. The hairs constantly scraping across her eye caused her pain. Like most other animals suffering from entropion, she required corrective surgery.

After surgery
After surgery

Thanks to Lil BUB and the ASPCA®, Gracie was able to have her surgery. She is now pain-free and feeling much happier; see her “after” photo on the right. Gracie May is a sweet, mellow girl who is still available for adoption!

Join Our Team!

Former Executive Director Vicki Blakeman
Former Executive Director Vicki Blakeman

Have you always wanted a job where you made a difference? Love pets? Then joining the team at Stafford Animal Shelter may be for you. There are several positions open for a wide range of skill sets.

Important position open at Stafford Animal Shelter until filled: Registered Veterinary Technician Supervisor (full time). Click on the title of the job to learn more about the requirements and application process. Join our fun, pet-loving team!

We are amidst our search for a dynamic new Executive Director. While we can never replace recently departed Executive Director Vicki Blakeman, Stafford Animal Shelter is searching for their next leader. Vicki left the Shelter in a strong, stable, and positive position and leaves a lasting legacy of community engagement and Shelter improvements. The Executive Director position plays a key role with the board, staff, community and supporters along with overseeing programs, fundraising and budgeting and long-term planning. The initial round of application reviews closed November 15, 2014 but if the position is not filled in this first round, we will reopen it.

We take animal care seriously but have fun too!


Running Fur a Paws

Long-standing and generous supporter, Pam McCutcheon of Small Dog Realty, will be running auser_photo-54286fb03da7b half marathon on November 16th and is doing a Crowdrise fundraiser for Stafford Animal Shelter. Pam not only gives a portion of her real estate sales to local animal shelter and rescue groups but also does a variety of fundraisers for pets and the groups who care for them year round! She is also an education advocate for pragmatic animal care solutions that get to the heart of animal suffering issues (like the importance of spay/neuter to minimize unwanted pets and adopting pets instead of supporting unhealthy puppy mills). Please consider making a donation to the Crowdrise fundraiser through December 14th (great year-end tax deduction!) to honor Pam’s year round dedication to animal advocacy – your gift will go directly to the care of abandoned, unwanted and abused pets served by Stafford Animal Shelter. Thanks for caring! Here’s the link.

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Project Happiness Begins

Our new grassy yard will be fun for pups and people alike.
Our new fenced, grassy play yards will be fun for  pups and people alike.

You’ve heard that it’s coming: Our new animal enrichment program, Project Happiness. We are excited to say that we’re wrapping up the initial phase of the Project- some administrative details and the creation of some terrific new outdoor areas (thanks to a host of fabulous volunteers, see the list below!) – and are now ready to begin the next stage.

A dog awaiting adoption romps in one of the new runs
A dog awaiting adoption romps in one of the new runs

We are asking for volunteers to help us provide enrichment for the animals. To participate, we ask that folks have spent at least 10 hours volunteering with us so that you are familiar with the facility, the animals, and have an idea of how things work.  After that, a short training session is required for the species of your choice (cats, dogs, or both) to participate. At the end of each session, a training for working with the exotics will be offered for those interested. Once a part of the Project, we ask for a commitment of at least one hour per week for three months.

Enrichment is a vital part of an animal’s well being while in a shelter, just as important as food, safety, and medical care. Just like people, stress can wreak havoc on an animal’s health and behavior. Our enrichment program is designed to help relieve stress by giving animals something to do or think about and giving them extra attention. By helping them stay happy, you will be helping them stay healthy and be adopted more quickly.

Cats prepare to tackle a treat puzzle.
Cats prepare to tackle a treat puzzle.

In Project Happiness volunteer trainings, we will discuss basic body language, identifying stressed or fearful animals and how to help them, group and individual enrichment activities (like food/treat puzzles, providing smells to investigate, exercise, etc.), Gentle Leaders for dogs, walking on a harness for cats, basic obedience commands, and more. We will also discuss our system of tracking enrichment activities and each animal’s progress. (Don’t worry- it’s a simple log, not hours of tedious paperwork!) Though many of you may already be familiar with some or all of these topics, it’s important that we are consistent for the animals’ sakes. Mixed messages about what a command means or how to behave in a certain situation can cause more stress rather than relieve it. If you would like to sign up for a training or have any questions, feel free to email

For extra help in the creation and construction of Project Happiness Spaces for pets, we are very grateful to: Tom & Claire Lemke, Dennis & Darlene Tilton, Jodi Litchfield Designs, Yvonne Venturino, Alicia Davis, Mike Gomez, David Drake, Brandy Jacobson, Native Landscaping, Irrigation from Hank Fabich of Green Again, JD Prosser fencer and Dunkle Fencing, Murdochs for fencing, Master Gardener Coordinator Tracey Mosley, Aaron Kling and his volunteer group and Heather Bellamy and Matt Fettig of Northwestern Energy. We can be there for the pets because you all are there for us!

Red-Eared Slider Ban

Red-eared slider turtle
Red- eared slider turtle

Owning a red-eared slider turtle without a permit from Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is now illegal in Montana. These turtles, named for the little red markings on their heads, have been popular as pets and purchased from pet stores for many years. Unfortunately, too many owners have regretted their decision and released their turtles into the wild. Due to their adaptability and omnivorous diet, these turtles have the ability to edge out native species. In fact, they are listed among the top 100 most invasive species in the country.

The Humane Society of the United States is working on a relocation project for many of the sliders currently living in Montana. These turtles will be collected and driven to Burro Lake in Texas. Included in this project is an offer to relocate any turtles currently being kept as pets to prevent them from being released into the wild. Surrendered turtles from all over the state are being taken care of- and taught to swim in ponds, catch food, and be wild- in Billings by Humane Society Wildlife Capture and Field Project Specialist Dave Pauli. In October, they and the many sliders captured from local waters, will make the trip to Texas.

What does this all mean to Montana turtle owners? If you have owned your turtle prior to July of this year, you may keep it so long as you obtain a permit. Unregistered turtle owners can be fined $100. You have the option of surrendering your turtle to avoid any issues. If you have questions, or a turtle, contact Stafford Animal Shelter at 406/222-2111 or the Billings office of HSUS directly at 406/255-7161.



Stray Animals

Cats can wear collars, too!
Cats can wear id tags, too!

Now that the weather is warmer, we are seeing an influx of stray animals coming to the shelter. We would like to remind everyone to call us ASAP after you discover that your pet has gone missing at 406/222-2111. Photos on our Facebook page or emailed to us at are very helpful as people describe animals differently.

Don’t assume that your pet has not lost their collar and wait for us to call you. Even if we have seen your pet before, please call us. After five days in our custody, the animal becomes ours and is evaluated for adoption. All adoptions are final and we will not ask the adopters to return your pet.

Be aware that injured animals may be offsite at a veterinary clinic or the finder may have offered to foster them until an owner is located- when you call us, we can put you in touch with those parties.

When reclaiming an animal, be aware that there are fees and that these are set by the city or county and are not under our control.

Please put identification on your pets (dogs AND cats) and make sure that your microchip contact information is current. We have no way of reaching out to people without this information. Id tags on pets often lead to reunions without the animal having to come to the shelter, as the finder can just call you directly.

Have a fun and safe summer!


Trap Release Information

More and more dogs are getting caught in wolf and coyote traps in our region and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is working to expand trapping. The traps don’t have to be far from trails or public lands and are very difficult to spot. Working the mechanics of the traps to free an animal is counterintuitive and requires knowing how they function and each trap’s release mechanics. When your dog is caught; they are in pain and panic, making freeing them even more challenging. Being prepared and aware is important. This useful video about releasing traps is not graphic – they use a stuffed toy – and has great information.

Shelter Staff is Woman of the Year

Photo of Venturino by Lynn Weaver

     Stafford Animal Shelter is proud to announce that on her 20th year as a Shelter volunteer, our own Yvonne Venturino is the Bozeman Daily Chronicle Balance Magazine’s Woman of the Year! Read the article here.
     Most of us want to make a difference but few make time to volunteer consistently or extensively. Fewer still are dedicated to a cause for two solid decades. Yvonne Venturino has donated thousands of hours and considerable skills to help the abandoned, abused and lost pets of our region since 1992 – and her involvement continues to expand.
     Venturino is a true renaissance woman who’s tapped into her leadership ability, bank account, creative talent, humor, knack for design, empathy, nursing skills, and – perhaps most astonishingly – continues to help do the dirtiest, poopiest, cleaning imaginable.
     Venturino began as a foster parent and advocate in the 1990’s when there was no animal shelter serving Park and Sweetgrass Counties and became an early Board member. A professional photographer whose work illustrates her husband’s vintage gun articles and books, she’s been the primary photographer of adoptable pets since the beginning.
Her patience and skill in capturing the unique personalities of animals including hedgehogs, three-legged dogs, skittish rabbits, solid-black cats, pythons and parrots is formidable. She raises the bar by collecting bright backdrops to pair with each pet’s coloring and uses props like miniature top hats, Christmas Sleighs, tiaras, feather boas and reading glasses. She can make rats cute. Venturino’s work has helped an estimated 10,000 pets get adopted and today a thousand people visit weekly to see her pet photos.
     Venturino’s involvement increased when the physical Stafford Animal Shelter was built in 1999. Cleaning kennels and rigorous medical protocol were added to her leadership, photography and fostering roles. Her forte is ‘Special Projects’; raising money with greeting cards and books of her photography, sewing and painting pet prayer flags and clothing for retail sale, taking paid pet portraits, creating lavish displays at fundraising auctions, crafting insulated doggy doors and cat hammocks and she’s currently spinning llama fur into pet beds. Seemingly, there’s nothing Venturino can’t do, and inspirationally, won’t do to help homeless pets. She does it all with flair but never fan fare.
     Congratulations to Yvonne Venturino on her well deserved award and for twenty years of dedicated service.