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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Browning Shelter Houses Four-Legged Fire Evacuees

Volunteers look after a canine evacuee at the makeshift shelter in Browning.
Courtesy Lewis & Clark Humane Society
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Volunteers look after a canine evacuee at the makeshift shelter in Browning.

When authorities Saturday ordered the residents of Heart Butte to evacuate in the face of an approaching wildfire, Gina Wiest decided to help some of those who were being forced out of their homes. The Red Cross had already set up a shelter for the people, but Wiest, executive director of the Lewis and Clark Humane Society, knew there was no shelter for the animals.

"It had kind of been in my mind that we could help communities as the need arose because I had a fair amount of the emergency equipment."

Three years ago, Wiest was part of the team that rescued over 150 neglected malamutes from a breeding operation in Jefferson City, and she still had the kennels and cages left over. So Wiest called friends in Browning and humane society staff in Helena, and set up a temporary shelter for pets whose people were being evacuated.

"We have been going out and getting animals as people have requested. Say I live at such and such an address they’ll hand us keys to their house and say we left our animals in there and can you go get them," Wiest says.

Humane Society staffer Owen Morgan is looking after the 80 animals housed in a 4-H building in Browning. He says they’re doing okay, mostly.

"Some of them, I think you're starting to go a little antsy. They're not used to being in such confined places, so there are a few of them that are starting to really stress out, and we are trying to do everything we can to keep them occupied. But, yeah, they're definitely starting to get stressed the longer they’re being in the kennels."

The animals include the usual dogs and cats, some rabbits, one vole - a small rodent like a mouse - and a turtle. Keeping this makeshift ark fed takes money, and Wiest says the Humane Society is getting some help from the Humane Society of the Unites States, but it’s also started a crowd-funding campaign to raise about $7,000 for supplies.

"That'll be put right back into helping of the people of Heart Butte to get established, buying them food. whatever else we can use that for."

She says the Lewis and Clark Humane Society expects to keep its Browning shelter open for five to ten days, until evacuated residents get the “all clear” to return home. 

Find LCHS on Facebook.

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