Animals evacuated amidst natural gas crisis in Española

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The Española Valley Humane Society faces frozen pipes and gas outages during coldest week of the year. Community support saves the lives of many, but the crisis isn’t over.  
On Thursday, the staff at the Española Valley Humane Society thought that the worst weather was behind them, but when water bowls in the dog kennels started to freeze over mid-day, they knew that the challenge was just beginning.
The private non-profit organization operates
within the walls of an aging city-owned building and it wasn’t until about noon that the employees noticed that temperatures within the shelter were dropping.
At that same time, the front desk received a call from the City of Española to inform them that gas was out in the entire area and water was soon to follow.
Immediately, the shelter staff sprang into action to evacuate all of the cats and dogs in the adoption kennels. Within four hours, 96 animals had found a safe place to stay in foster care for 48 hours with members of the community from as far away as White Rock, El Dorado and Dixon.
The shelter is currently empty except for animals on quarantine, and those are all being housed in the part of the building heated by electricity, rather than gas.
However, the shelter’s woes are not over. Because all of the healthy, adoptable pets are out of the shelter, they are not available for adoption to the public at the moment, but the cold has had no effect on incoming shelter traffic. At 8 p.m. Thursday, staff received news that they would receive 14 cats on Friday morning from someone who was unable to care for them, due to family issues unrelated to the cold and strays continued to arrive throughout the day.
“Our problem of sheltering our pets from the cold has been solved,” said Lisa Gipe, shelter manager, “But our biggest challenge is yet to come. We have animals coming in, but we don’t have a chance to get the current animals out into permanent situations, so this weekend, we are going to need adoptions. Not just want them, but need them, or else there simply won’t be a place for all these animals to come back to once the heat is back up and running.”
Española Humane is optimistic that the water will be up and running on Saturday and with donated electric and propane heaters, the shelter will at least be warmer for the animals than being outdoors, so, all weekend, adoption fees will be cut in half to encourage people to come forth and offer permanent homes to nearly 100 cats and dogs who will return to the facility on Saturday morning.
“We were so blessed to have the community come forth and support these homeless animals,” said Nina Chiotasso in Community Outreach. “Now we just need their help in spreading the word about adoptions, and why this weekend is more important than any other in helping these furry babies find forever homes.”
In addition to actively seeking out adopters, the shelter is still requesting donations of blankets and 20 gallon tanks of propane to keep the kennels warm for those animals in stray hold or quarantine who are not able to go to foster for medical or behavioral reasons. Staff will offer 50 percent off adoptions at 10 a.m. today.
Española Valley Humane is the only open-door animal shelter in Rio Arriba County. The shelter provides low-cost spay/neuter, vaccination, humane education and adoption services, and is funded primarily through private donations.