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Fewer pets surrendered to local animal shelters during pandemic

Kaylin Williams interacts with foster dog Grettel on a bench near a hiking trail. Williams started fostering a shelter dog from Colorado Animal Rescue after the spring semester of college was canceled for her about a month ago.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Animal shelters in Garfield County experienced a drop in pet surrenders since the pandemic began, but adoptions are down as well.

Both Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE), of Glenwood Springs, and Rifle Animal Shelter reported reduced adoption rates in March and early April compared to years past; however, neither shelter is accepting transfers from larger shelters around the region, reducing the number of available animals at either facility.

“Right now, we should have about 60 animals, and we only have 15,” said Jacquelyn Tinsman, CARE adoptions and intake coordinator. “Since our state went into shelter-in-place, 31 cats and 34 dogs have gone home from our facility.”

Located near Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus on County Road 114, CARE has a good track record finding homes for animals in the surrounding community, so they bring in animals from cities across the West, where adoption rates are much lower. 

“We deal with dogs and cats mostly, but we also take most small mammals, among others,” she explained. “We’ve had Guinea pigs, a rooster, pigs and even an alligator before.” 

With less animals coming in from the community and surrounding area, less adoptions haven’t presented a problem, Tinsman said. 

In Rifle, Heather Grant serves as executive director for the Rifle Animal Shelter.

“When this all started, we didn’t know what to expect,” Grant recalled. “We geared up to have an influx of surrenders, but that never happened. Now, as the state starts opening up, we’re again unsure of what happens next, but we’re ready for whatever our community needs.” 

Fostering support

With the spread of COVID-19, both shelters reduced staff and started conducting adoption interviews via phone and appointment.

Additionally, CARE and Rifle Animal Shelter donated medical supplies to nearby healthcare facilities and stopped performing elective surgeries, such as spaying and neutering.

“By law, we can’t send an animal home with someone without it being spayed or neutered,” Tinsman said. “So, that tied our hands a little bit.”

The shelters resumed elective surgeries during the last week of April.

Communities in the Twin Valleys stepped up to the plate and the number of foster — volunteers who temporarily adopt animals until a permanent home can be found — applications skyrocketed. 

“We normally get about five foster apps a month,” Tinsman said. “Since this all started, we’ve received over 100.” 

Grant said interest grew in Rifle, too, and the more foster homes, the merrier. Springtime is kitten season, creating a large need for temporary homes as young ones pour in before pitter-pattering out into new homes.

Rifle Animal Shelter operates a pet food bank, providing cat and dog food for pet owners in need. With some families facing dire straits, Grant said the shelter bolstered the food bank’s accessibility by relocating it to the front of their facility on County Road 265.

“We’re also working on getting food stations set up from New Castle to Parachute,” she said, explaining the stations would be plastic trash cans full of pet food. “Especially with the bus systems down, we know not everyone has transportation, making it hard for some people to get what they need.”  

Time of need

While community support has increased, CARE and Rifle Animal Shelter reported donations have slowed, and with the shutdown, neither shelter can host the typical fundraiser events that keep them afloat.

“We know it’s a difficult time for everyone,” Tinsman said, “But, anything that people can do monetarily is appreciated.”

Donations for CARE can be submitted via their website, http://www.coloradoanimalrescue.org, and people can also buy items for the shelter through its Amazon wish list. Call 970-947-9173 for more information about CARE donations.

In a time of social distancing, Grant said Rifle Animal Shelter adapted by hosting its annual “Strut for Mutts” as a virtual marathon in April, allowing people to complete their walking and running in a safe area of their choosing. 

“We normally have over 200 people,” she said. “But 90 people still signed up, and I think that’s pretty good.” 

Funds from the event, however, were down 36 percent from last year.

People can donate to Rifle Animal Shelter by visiting the shelter’s Facebook page or through their website, http://www.rifleanimalshelter.com. Grant said people can also donate pet food to the food bank as well as toys and bedding. Call 970-625-8808 for more information about how to donate.

“As things open, we’ll need volunteers for walking dogs and helping out around the shelter,” she said. “But, for now, we’re just doing everything we can to get through this together.”

ifredregill@postindependent.com


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