Humane Society of Northwest Montana Seeks to Raise Funds After Operations Hampered By Burst Pipes, Water Damage

A pipe at the Humane Society's Kalispell facility burst during the Flathead Valley's deep freeze last month

By Mike Kordenbrock
Kate, an Australian cattle dog mix from the Humane Society of Northwest Montana, walks in the St. Patrick's Day parade through downtown Kalispell in this Beacon file photo.

January was a difficult month for the Humane Society of Northwest Montana, and now the Kalispell branch of the nonprofit organization, which cares for stray, abandoned and rescued pets and facilitates their adoption, is asking for the public’s help after last month’s cold weather dealt an unexpected blow to their budget.

Things began to take a turn for the worse the week of Jan. 13, when a blast of Arctic air settled over the Flathead, leading to a deep freeze that caused an attic pipe to burst. That pipe was part of the air exchange system connecting to the boiler at the Humane Society, and which also transports heated water, according to Stacie DaBolt, the executive director for the Humane Society of Northwest Montana. The pipe break caused water damage on the first floor in an area where cats were being kept, and also caused a loss of heat for an area that, at the time, was housing puppies.

Cold temperatures in January led to multiple pipes bursting at the Humane Society of Northwest Montana’s facility in Kalispell and causing water damage in parts of the building. Photo courtesey Humane Society of Northwest Montana.

DaBolt said they were fortunate that only eight cats were being kept at the time of the water damage. Those cats were quickly placed in foster care until the situation could be improved.

Repairs were quickly underway, including to drywall that had been damaged, but the cold struck again roughly a week later, when two more pipes connected to the boiler and air exchange systems broke, according to DaBolt, who said that caused even more water damage.

Last week, the Humane Society of Northwest Montana launched a “Boiler Blues” fundraiser, which DaBolt said is intended to help pay for both the repairs and drywall damage caused by the two rounds of pipe damage, and to put spray foam insulation in the attic space that has been the source of so many problems in the hopes of preventing a recurrence in the future. Insufficient insulation is what DaBolt suspects allowed the cold to put such a strain on the shelter’s internal systems.

“We’re really trying to raise the funds for this because we just don’t have that in our operating budget,” she said, adding later that the Humane Society has been losing revenue because the damage has essentially decommissioned a significant portion of the building, which has largely prevented them from taking in animals and has greatly slowed down adoption opportunities. In a couple instances, they’ve been able to find room to take in animals, but that room has meant putting animals in offices, which is where some animals inside the building had already been relocated to when the pipes burst. “We’ve just been dead in the water,” she said.

All of this comes after DaBolt says they saw an increase in adoptions last year, going from about 380 in 2022, to about 460 in 2023. As the Humane Society seeks to raise funds, they continue to wait for parts to arrive and repairs to wrap up so that they can fully make use of their facility again soon.

“The community, when it comes to animals, is always very supportive, and they’re always very on board, and doing whatever they can to help,” DaBolt said. So, that’s why I’m hoping that we can get the word out, and get some help financially, so we’re not going into this first quarter already in a big hole.”