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Apryl’s VIP message – January 2021

Apryl Steele with Cat

Happy New Year! It is the time of renewal, engagement and hope.

Before moving on, let’s take a look at how the last couple of months have unfolded at the Dumb Friends League. Then, let’s say a collective, “Good riddance” to 2020.

In November, the League was impacted by the pandemic due to our greater community’s spike in the virus. Throughout the month, we had 25 team members test positive for COVID. Thankfully, each has recovered, and we are relieved to understand that none of these exposures happened within the workplace. The community rate of infection resulted in children, spouses and partners being the major source of exposure, and the many safety precautions we have employed for our team appear to be working well. We have not relaxed our vigilance, and we continue to add more safeguards to protect our staff and volunteers. One of the most important control measures has been encouraging and supporting any team member in staying home when they have any sign of illness. The League has committed to paying these folks without them having to use vacation time. We know that this practice has prevented the spread of COVID.

Having this policy and managing our community spike, however, has resulted in workforce shortages. There have been times when 20 percent of our team has been out, and we have had to adjust operations as a result. We closed Solutions—Veterinary Hospital for four days, and as soon as our staff was healthy and sufficient, we opened this vital service again. We have temporarily limited our behavior hotline calls to League-associated animals so our Behavior team can focus on the animals in our care. Much of our public spay and neuter and vaccination work has also been suspended. What has not changed is our commitment to every animal that needs a safe place to go, caring for behavior and veterinary needs for all animals in our care, completing families through adoption, responding to companion animal cruelty and neglect, training and rehoming previously abused horses and preventing suffering of animals.

I am relieved to report that in December, COVID cases amongst our team decreased considerably, and we are thrilled that there is a vaccine on the horizon.

Thankfully, these challenges have not impacted many of our initiatives. The San Luis Valley Animal Center is on schedule to open in March 2021, a few short months away. We completed the Malone Center Shelter Veterinary Hospital, and our team is thrilled to be working in this incredible space. By the time you read this we should have completed the final phase V of our 5+-year construction project! Phase V creates the Robert Sturm Foster Area and our new behavior wing. Due to our successful fundraising and careful construction budget management, we were able to add an additional project that will result in the LuLu Education Hall. This hall will be a meeting and event space that can accommodate 350 guests, be divided into three individual areas for smaller meetings and humane education work, has a catering kitchen and an outdoor patio. In a few short months, this project should also be complete.

For the last 30 years, the League has honored two of our community partners with the Friendship Award and our Sheilagh R. Malo Award. The Friendship award is given to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to the community by promoting specific programs that help the League achieve its goals. Zoetis received this year’s award as they have been wonderful partners in many ways including donating anesthetic drugs that have helped us spay and neuter more than 20,000 animals and laboratory analysis equipment to help sick pets at Solutions—Veterinary Hospital.

The Sheilagh R. Malo award is presented to a person who displays a long-lasting commitment to helping animals, demonstrated kindness toward animals, is committed to humane principles, advocates for animal welfare concerns and achieves positive results on animals’ behalf. This year, we were thrilled to honor Senator John Cooke, who sponsored SB-104, which was vital in giving Bureau of Animal Protection agents the tools they need to address cruelty and neglect. Despite a strong misinformation campaign, Senator Cooke used his knowledge from 30 years as a sheriff to guide a factual discussion and successfully pass this legislation.

We also awarded our Employee of the Year honor to our entire staff that has been resilient, hard-working and flexible during a most challenging year. Big congratulations to our three volunteer winners—Lotte Jehlik Volunteer of the Year: Ammar Vaseemuddin, Dedicated Service Award: Kathy Vanegas and Young Adult Volunteer of the Year: Annah Bender. We couldn’t do what we do without our wonderful volunteers!

I have great optimism for 2021. While we are still in a pandemic, there is a plan and the necessary tools to get our society back to normal. I suspect it will not be the same, as hopefully we have learned and will innovate from the many new ways of doing things that we explored. May 2021 be a year of healing, reconnecting and exploring how we want our future to look. May you use your heart and your mind to create the future you want. Be brave!

Speaking for those who cannot,
Dr. Apryl Steele
President and CEO

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