Plans for Rifle Animal Shelter unleashed, commissioners back project |

Plans for Rifle Animal Shelter unleashed, commissioners back project

Rifle Animal Shelter Executive Director Heather Mullen goes out for a dog walk in Feb. She is hoping construction on a new facility will begin this year.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

With a $500,000 matching grant from the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners, officials with the Rifle Animal Shelter are making a final push to get a new facility for pet owners and lost pets across the valley. 

Rifle Animal Shelter Executive Director Heather Mullen said with the matching grant from Garfield County the project has received around $1 million in funding. She said the project will need around $2.2 million total to be completed. She hopes to get the additional $1.1 million from donations from individuals and the municipalities the shelter serves. 

Over 40 residents showed up for Monday’s commissioner meeting to show support for the project. The commissioners also received several letters of support, including backing from local law enforcement officials. 

“When we started the animal control division around 15 to 16 years ago we hoped to find a facility on the east and west end of the county,” Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said at Monday’s meeting. “The Rifle Animal Shelter fills the west end need for us. This shelter is the game in town that will do that for us.” 

He said he would support any support the county can provide for the new facility. 

Police chiefs in Silt, New Castle and Rifle all spoke up in favor of the project as well. 

“Not sure what we would do without the animal shelter,” Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said. 

With contracts already in place with the towns from Parachute to New Castle, as well as Garfield County, the Rifle Animal Shelter would like to bring in more animals and expand its services but has been severely limited by the limitations of its current space. 

Last year the shelter took in 1,438 animals with 1,161 getting adopted. The year before they brought in 1,467 animals with 1,128 adoptions. 

Mullen said with a new facility they would look for at least a 25 percent increase in animal adoptions. 

“We want to be a community resource and we can’t expand our services in this building,” she said. “Rifle is the growth center of Garfield County. A new shelter will allow us to provide new resources to the citizens of this town and beyond.” 

Their mission remains to aid pets and people by being an animal welfare resource within the community. 

In 2018, 46 dogs and 33 cats were taken in by Garfield County Animal Control with 19 of those animals reclaimed for a 22.7 percent owner return rate. 

Divide Creek Animal Hospital had served as the west end animal shelter for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, but shut its doors earlier this year. 

Through the first few months of 2019, the return rate for lost pets has seen a dramatic increase with 64 percent of lost animals returned to their owners through the first five months. With 38 dogs and four cats lost, 27 were reclaimed by their owner. 

The animal shelter also offers spay and neuter services as well as vaccine services with thousands of animals spayed/neutered and vaccinated each year. 

“I think if you’ve seen our trailer, it’s tight,” Mullen told the commissioners. “There’s no waiting room, which can be tough in the heat an cold.” 

Clinic appointments are currently booked two in advance, but remain limited by kennel space. 

“There is no more room,” Mullen said. “We are bursting at the seams.” 

Early schematic designs for the project show what the new spot for Garfield County pet owners could look like.

“I’m sure everybody’s been there and seen the facility,” Commissioner Mike Samson said. “The time has come, it needs help… These people are doing an incredible job with the facility they have.” 

The commissioners approved unanimously to approve the $500,000 matching grant for the new facility with the potential to bump that up to $600,000 if the animal shelter can match. 

Mullen hopes to begin construction for the new building by October, if not in the spring of 2020, with it expected to take six to nine months to be built.

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