Press "Enter" to skip to content

Animal Shelters

by Louise Olsen-Márquez

Sidebar – October 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

The quality of shelters and the services they provide vary dramatically in the region surrounding Chaffee County. To the south and west, shelters are more hand-to-mouth than AVHS is, but to the north and east there are two well-established and successful shelters: Summit and Frémont.

The Summit County Animal Shelter is an example of a successful shelter which could inspire dreams at Ark-Valley. The facility is funded by Summit County. Sue Toledo from the shelter says their facility offers not only the basics of a good shelter, but even educational perks to the community, such as free dog obedience classes. And Summit’s spaying and neutering program is so widespread that there is actually a shortage of puppies and kittens available in the area.

Twenty-five years ago, a pack of domestic dogs killed a child in Summit County and the community responded, realizing the need for humane animal control. Toledo attributes Summit County’s success to a fiscally aware staff and supportive county commissioners who know the value of having a good shelter in the community.

Park County has a holding area in Fairplay which transfers animals to Bailey, which also has a holding facility, and they work with Inner Mountain Humane Society in Pine Junction.

Westcliffe, in Custer County, holds pets in The Barn, and then takes them to Cañon City.

Cañon City is unique. The Frémont County Humane Society shelter was established in 1950 by the Wann Foundation. Ralph J. Wann, a Cañon City businessman, willed a large endowment to fund the shelter.

Tom Cameron, manager of the Frémont County shelter, says he watches other shelters struggle with funding and he feels that his shelter couldn’t support itself on donations and grants and small stipends from the city and county as most shelters do.

In Saguache County, the town of Saguache does not have a dog-at-large ordinance. The city refers calls to Dr. J. Childress in Monte Vista, a retired vet who houses and tries to find homes for pets, but he does not do spaying, neutering, or vet care.

Alamosa County has a complicated history — often dependent on a few individuals and the availability of funding. There are also several organizations working specifically on their own animal-control projects.

Alamosa County has a pound: an arrangement with a local veterinarian to keep lost or feral pets for a number of days and then euthanize or adopt them out. There’s also the Valley Humane League, funded by donations, which has been closed since May due to lack of funds. Currently they are only finding foster homes for dogs.

Another organization is the San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society which operates on donations and shelters cats. The Baby Pet Rescue is doing long-term research on the area and keeps track of statistics such as the number of dogs put down at the pound since Valley Humane League closed in May — twice the number per month — and the effects of spaying and neutering programs that have been used, such as periodic mobile clinics from the Front Range.

Dr. Kristina Steinberg, who has a family practice in Alamosa, started Feral Friends and considers it a hobby. Based on a program in Washington D.C., she funds a program to trap, neuter and release cats. She purchased live traps, traps feral cats in the county and brings them to local veterinarians to spay or neuter and vaccinate, then releases them back into their colonies. She feels the problem of cat colonies and overpopulation could eventually be solved because the Alamosa area is relatively isolated geographically.

The city and county have asked each of the groups to elect one member to make up a board to start defining long-term goals such as building a shelter. The trick is to get everyone working together.

Donations can be sent c/o Dr. Kristina Steinberg at 6580 Cottonwood Lane, Alamosa, Colorado 81101. If you have a specific area you want your donation to go to, specify it and she will see that your donation goes to the organization currently handling that area.

Gunnison has the Gunnison Animal Lovers’ shelter which is primarily funded by donations, but Animal Lovers can house only a few dogs and cats at a time. Their main problem is students who come to college with a pet, but have to give it up because they can’t find housing that permits pets. The organization rents space from a local veterinarian.

Lake County is in transition. The city of Leadville had a relationship with local vet Dennis Linemeyer similar to Salida’s relationship with Kit Ryff at Mountain Shadows, but Dr. Linemeyer gave notice to the city some time ago: after August 31, 2002, he would no longer handle the animals picked up in the area.

The night and day issues of animal control are now in the lap of Calvin Dawe, policeman and code enforcement officer. After months of discussion between city and county government, some decisions have been made. Land has been re-zoned and the cost of building a concrete cinder block housing unit with a kennel system will be shared equally by Leadville and Lake County.

The facility will have the capacity to house 12 dogs, plus two isolation units, and Dawe will take care of it when he is not performing other police duties. Officer Dawe hopes to have the facility open by the time the snow flies, and his long-term goal is to hire two other employees.

Leadville always has an increase in feral dogs just after ski season when pets are left behind, so the city hopes to provide a drop-off place this year for dogs that people no longer want. Meanwhile, Leadville will depend on the kindness of shelters in nearby counties.

The new Leadville facility is accepting donations which can be sent to: Lake County Police Office c/o Officer Calvin Dawe, 800 Harrison Avenue, Leadville, CO 80461.