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GarCo seeks shelter

Donna Gray

Everyone ” law enforcement, county government, and animal shelter operators ” agrees that western Garfield County needs a bigger, newer shelter.

With the Colorado Animal Rescue shelter at Spring Valley full, and the fact that most of the stray dogs and cats come from the west end of the county, it just makes sense, they say.

A group of police chiefs, the county sheriff, Rifle’s city manager, animal control officers and volunteers met Tuesday in Rifle to plan a new shelter that could house at least 60 dogs and more than that many cats.

CARE currently has room for 40 dogs. Of that, six kennels are reserved for dogs impounded by the city of Glenwood Springs, and six are set aside to quarantine recent arrivals. CARE accepts dogs and cats picked up by the county on a space-available basis.

Both the city of Rifle and the county have land they’re willing to donate for the shelter.

County Sheriff Lou Vallario recently told the county commissioners that a shelter with 20 kennels would cost about $600,000. However, the group also agreed that at least 60 kennels would be needed for the new shelter and the building should be built with future expansion in mind.

Operating expenses are yet to be determined, but Mesa County operates a 60-kennel shelter on an annual budget of about $400,000, said Garfield County animal control officer Aimee Chappelle.

At issue was just how to pay for operation and maintenance. Sales or property tax would be the least costly route for the county and municipalities but probably would be a hard sell to the voters.

“Every municipality and GarCo would have to put it on the ballot,” said County Commissioner Larry McCown. And there is no guarantee that the issue would pass everywhere.

A more practical, and palatable, method would be to assess a use fee for each time the county or municipality ” Parachute, Rifle, Silt and New Castle ” brought a dog or cat to the shelter. That amount, which would come from those governments’ general fund, would have to cover the cost of personnel to operate the shelter and for upkeep. Fines and licensing fees would not be nearly sufficient to cover operations.

Glenwood Springs was not represented at the meeting.

“We’re doing OK” with animal control, and the arrangement with CARE, said Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson. “We would benefit secondarily from another facility.”

The new county shelter would house dogs and cats picked up by animal control officers for a short period of time. Unclaimed animals would then be transferred to CARE and the Friends for adoption.

“Their contribution is critical to making this work,” Vallario said.

A government-run shelter probably wouldn’t affect CARE too much, director Leslie Rockey said.

“I don’t think it would hurt us. Now we have so many county dogs that we can’t take dogs from people who want to surrender them. We’d like to stay involved in adoptions.”

A consortium of local governments would run the shelter, much as the county communications center is operated, Vallario said.

Also at issue were complaints from neighbors of the CARE shelter about barking dogs in the outside runs. Steve Smith of Spring Valley, who lives a half mile from the shelter said, “The noise carries. From my house I hear them every single day. It’s a real problem if your neighbor is a dog pound.”

“I think it’s a given,” said Vallario, that noise buffers would be built into the shelter. “We don’t want it to be a problem.”

According to zoning laws, any shelter built in the county could not have outdoor runs, McCown said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the group appointed a steering committee to gather information about the cost of operating shelters in the region as well as possible funding sources for construction.

Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510

dgray@postindependent.com


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