Rifle Animal shelter embarks on new building

Shelter hopes to break ground on new building north of the high school in the spring.

Architectural rendering of the new Journey Home Animal Shelter in Rifle.

The new animal shelter in Rifle is closer to becoming a reality.

The Garfield County commissioners finalized a $600,000 grant after the shelter raised matching funds from community members and municipalities, and the Journey Home Animal Care Center could be open as soon as November.

That’s none too soon for executive director Heather Grant and her team, who have been operating out of a retrofitted toy hauler for years.

“I think every one of us is ecstatic. We keep saying, ‘We won’t be here next year,’” Grant said.

Right now, the administrative office is too small to accommodate the staff and volunteers. They use the laundry room as a break room, kitchen and animal intake area.

As county commission chairman John Martin put it: “It was a fanny-bumping office, I can tell you that.”

“We all work in some not very fun conditions,” Grant said.

But the need for animal services has been growing. Last year, the Rifle Animal Shelter served 1,792 animals.

“That is more than we’ve ever done in this building,” Grant said. With the need growing for community services, spays and neuters, as well as treating rescue dogs and offering adoptions, Grant and her team began the process of raising funds and making plans for a new center in late 2018.

The commissioners included the $600,000 in the 2020 budget, but attached a condition: The shelter would have to raise matching funds from other municipalities and donations.

A lot of community members really stepped up, as did towns from New Castle to Parachute, to contribute $615,000 to match the county’s grant.

“That really was the game changer,” Grant said.

“Hats off to you for matching the funds. We gave you the challenge, and you stepped up and met it,” Commissioner Mike Samson said.

“It’s going to be a beautiful facility and a blessing for the whole county,” Samson said.

At the new facility, which will be built near Rifle High School’s bus barn, Grant hopes to increase rescue intake and adoption by 25 percent, provide up to 150 more spays and neuters than the shelter is doing now, and expand medical services for community animals.

Hopefully, there will also be behavioral training programs for shelter dogs as well, Grant said.

So far, the project has raised more than $1.8 million, including a $200,000 grant from the Animal Assistance Foundation, $90,000 from the city of Rifle, $50,000 from Alpine Bank, $250,000 from two anonymous private donors, $15,000 from Parachute and $10,000 from Silt.

The project is still short around $350,000, and Grant is eager to discuss donations.

But in the mean time, the shelter is finalizing drawings and hopes to break ground in the spring.

“It’s going to make coming to work more fun, not only for us, but for the animals,” Grant said.

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