They come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and personalities. Some are as cute as a button, others large and protective. Whether you’re looking for a constant companion or a working animal, adopting an animal from a local shelter will not only save money, but a life too. Some of the animals you’ll find in Billings-area shelters have come from unimaginable situations where they went without food or water, were abused or lived in unsanitary conditions. Others were surrendered by their owners in hopes of finding them a better home. The decision to add a pet to your family is a big one, but there are steps you can take to ensure a successful match.
First, many shelters recommend having a clear idea of what kind of pet you want. Research breeds to find out if that particular pet’s personality would be a good fit with you or your family.
Each animal shelter has different fees and requirements for adopting a pet — some mandate fenced yards for dogs, home inspections prior to adoptions or phone interviews. But these practices are done with the animal’s best interest at heart. During their stay at the shelter or foster home, the caretakers get a true sense of the animal’s personality. And like any good matchmaker, they want to make sure both pet and person are a good fit.
And, if adopting a pet isn’t in your future but you’d love to help make the life of a furry creature a little more comfortable, each organization listed below could use help in getting the job done. Some organizations need fosters to help with cats or dogs. Others need material help with dog houses, food, blankets or storage bins. You could even be a volunteer at one of the shelters, simply sharing some love with the animals waiting to be adopted. Simply visit the organizations’ websites or give them a call to find out how you can lend a hand.
MISSION: Help Every Pet of Hardin started in 1983 as an organization that provided spay and neuter clinics and has since branched out into rescue and rehoming. Director Eshan Zaic, says HEPH gets the majority of their animals from neighboring Native American reservations, who often come to them in poor health. HEPH is a foster organization, meaning that rescued animals are cared for in private homes as opposed to a shelter facility.
ANIMALS NEEDING HOMES: 30
ADOPTION REQUIREMENTS: Prospective owners must fill out an application, send a vet reference to prove they have cared for the pets they currently own, and have a fenced yard.
STANDOUT STORY: Recently, Zaic took in a three-year-old dog named Gemma with a skin condition that caused her to lose all of her fur. Zaic was worried about finding the right home for her — ideally, Gemma would be placed with an owner that would be with her throughout the day. Then, as luck would have it, Zaic received a phone call from a woman looking to replace her husband’s truck dog. The man met Gemma within an hour, fell in love with her and adopted her. “Some of these dogs that come in, you think no one would ever want them … there’s always someone out there that just meshes with the particular dog,” Zaic says.
MISSION: Rimrock Humane Society is a foster-home organization that rehomes dogs, cats and other small animals. The organization prides itself on taking in animals other groups would euthanize. Fosters cover the cost of food and vet care, along with providing training while the animal waits to find its forever home.
ANIMALS NEEDING HOMES: 11 dogs, 8 cats
HOW TO ADOPT: Prospective owners must fill out an application form, submit two personal references, a vet reference and permit a home visit so RHS can verify that applicants are being honest.
STANDOUT STORY: RHS rescued a pitbull in March who had chewed up his front legs in a form of self-mutilation after being left by his former owner for weeks at a time. Brock has since been living in foster care for over eight months and after some trial and error, the family has “gotten his routine down to a science,” shelter president Sandy Church says. Brock now undergoes a series of holistic stress remedies and a special diet. Brock is indeed a special needs placement, but as they say – it takes all kinds.
4017 First Avenue South, 406-839-9244
MISSION: B.A.R.K. is a volunteer-run, no-kill shelter in Billings that also organizes a kitten foster program. The shelter was founded to provide a safe place for homeless animals in the Billings area.
ANIMALS NEEDING HOMES: 50-70
HOW TO ADOPT: Interested applicants must fill out an application, submit a vet reference and undergo a home inspection if they are a first-time pet owner. Dogs may or may not require a fenced yard, depending on the breed.
STANDOUT STORY: Shelter director Sandy Price said one of her most memorable adoption stories started with a Great Pyrenees mix named Josie who was so overweight, her feet had broken down. The previous owners had shaved her to make the dog appear thinner, but when her hair grew back it had a feather-like appearance, Price says. Fittingly enough, Josie was adopted by a blind man. “Of course, we told him everything about the dog,” Price says. Later, Price learned that the dog had saved his new owner from a house fire by dragging him out of the building. “Some of these animals are just so, so broken. If they were taken any other place they would be euthanized and then we get them over to our vet …. and we watch that animal heal, get well, become a beautiful, beautiful animal and go to a home and make somebody happy,” Price says. “That’s a lot of satisfaction.”
MISSION: Rez Dog Rescue is a foster-home organization that works to spay, neuter and find homes for stray or surrendered dogs from local Native American Reservations. Many of the dogs are mother dogs who were rescued with their litters.
ANIMALS NEEDING HOMES: 70
HOW TO ADOPT: Prospective owners must have a fenced yard or live out in the country away from traffic and keep up with vaccinations for currently owned animals. Animals can be viewed on RDR’s Facebook page or through their listings on PetFinder.com. RDR also sets up an adoption station at Tractor Supply in Laurel on weekends when puppies are available.
STANDOUT STORY: Director Sheri Lee says Rez Dog Rescue re-homes approximately 300 canines each year and is primarily concerned with addressing overpopulation on the reservations. In one instance, Lee spotted a mother dog eating a dead animal on the side of the road. She stopped to retrieve the mother along with her litter of puppies. With care and time, the dog was able to recover from mange — a highly contagious infection. “Out on the reservation every female dog, they say (will have) about 200 puppies if they don’t get off the res,” Lee says. “So, I get them in, they’re usually maimed – they’ll get hit by a car, most of them are starving. They turn out to be nice, big, healthy dogs if you get them all fixed.”
www.yvas.org, 1735 Monad Road, 406-294-7387
MISSION: Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter is an independent non-profit shelter that works in cooperation with Billings animal control to reconnect lost pets with their owners and to find homes for stray or abandoned animals.
ANIMALS NEEDING HOMES: 110 cats, 25 dogs
HOW TO ADOPT: All of the dogs are behavior tested before they are placed up for adoption to ensure that prospective owners are not put at risk. Cats are also evaluated to determine what type of environment they are best-suited for. Adoptable dogs and cats are advertised on the shelter’s website, where interested parties may also download a copy of the adoption application.
STANDOUT STORY: Shelter director Chris Anderson says in mid-December an elderly woman came to the shelter in tears with her 13-year-old. She had to move and her new residence required a $300 pet deposit which she didn’t have, given her fixed income. Rather than re-home the woman’s dog, the shelter worked with another organization to come up with the funds. “That’s what we see as our commitment to the community,” Anderson says. “Our job is to bridge animals and humans together.”
www.helpforhomelesspets.org 2910 Hannon Road, 406-896-1700
MISSION: To find permanent homes for homeless animals through their “no-kill” shelter and promote spaying and neutering to reduce pet overpopulation.
ANIMALS NEEDING HOMES: You can see the dozens of animals available through Help for Homeless Pets by visiting www.petfinder.org and searching the Billings area.
HOW TO ADOPT: Help for Homeless Pets screens all potential adoptive families through an application process. You can download the application on the organization’s website.