(HELENA) As some people in northern Lewis & Clark County remain under evacuation orders due to the Alice Creek Fire, Valley Veterinary Hospital in Helena is ready to take in their pets and animals.
Dr. Tia Nelson said her hospital hadn’t taken in any evacuated animals as of Monday afternoon, but they have enough room to house 25 to 30 horses, about 20 large dogs, and several dozen cats, if the need arises.
The hospital also works with other people throughout the Helena area who have volunteered to provide temporary housing for animals if needed.
Nelson said Valley Veterinary has opened itself up to evacuees’ animals for more than 15 years. She said that during that time, she’s been impressed by the number of people who donated food and other supplies or offered to house animals.
“It’s amazing; there are always more people calling to offer help than people who actually need help,” she said. “It’s just a remarkable place that we live.”
Nelson said if you have to evacuate, it’s important to make sure your animals have identification, so they can be returned to you.
For dogs and cats, that can just be the collar tag they would normally wear. For large animals like horses, it’s more difficult.
“Leaving halters on is dangerous, but you can take a dog tag and braid it into their manes, and that works pretty well,” said Nelson. “Another thing that we’ve seen people do is write their telephone numbers in indelible ink on the horse’s hooves.”
Nelson said if you live in an area under threat from a wildfire, you may want to bring your animals out before an official evacuation notice, so you can get out more quickly if needed.
“When people call me and they say, ‘It looks like there might be a pre-evacuation coming and we don’t know what to do with the horses,’ it’s like, ‘Bring the horses to town now; we’ll deal with them, and then you can deal with the rest of the things at your home,’” she said.
If you’re in one of the affected areas and want to bring an animal in, you can call Valley Veterinary at (406) 442-0188. Nelson said people might not always be able to call ahead, but it can help them determine where each animal needs to go.