Dumb Friends League President and CEO Bob Rohde Retiring After Four Decades

Dumb Friends League President and CEO Bob Rohde has announced that he will retire on February 7 after four decades of being a strong and steadfast voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. He has devoted his career and life to the welfare of animals and is a leading national figure in animal welfare causes.

“It has been my distinct honor to serve the animals, our supporters and this community for so many years,” said Rohde. “Together we have been able to make meaningful changes in the lives of the animals we care for while helping to improve animal welfare across the country.”

Rohde joined the Dumb Friends League in 1973 as an animal care technician after moving to Colorado from his home state of Iowa. Quickly rising through the ranks, he was named executive director of the Dumb Friends League in 1977 and subsequently became president and CEO. Since that time, his strong leadership, emphasis on strategic planning, and visionary program development have helped create one of the nation’s most innovative and highly regarded animal welfare organizations. Today, the Dumb Friends League is one of the five largest local, nonprofit humane societies in the United States in terms of programs and number of pets saved each year.

Animal welfare was much different when Rohde joined the Dumb Friends League 44 years ago. Then, there was a staff of just 17 employees and the organization was only able to save approximately 4,400 of the 40,000 animals it received each year, resulting in a live release rate of only 11 percent. Today, thanks to Rohde’s leadership and the hard work of more than 200 team members and over 1,400 volunteers, the League has achieved a 100 percent live release rate for healthy cats and dogs, and a 90 percent live release rate for all cats and dogs—a remarkable accomplishment for a shelter that turns no animal away regardless of age, health or temperament. That dramatic turnaround was achieved through Rohde’s strategic collaborations and the implementation of programs and services that have set the standard for humane organizations nationwide.

Rohde’s work didn’t stop within the walls of the shelter. He spearheaded the strengthening of Colorado’s animal cruelty laws, helped gain passage of standards of care for animals in pet facilities and advocated for stiffer penalties for persons convicted of repeated animal cruelty.

Based on his strong belief that “working together works,” Rohde brought together local animal welfare groups to collaborate and form a coalition to create better outcomes for animals on a statewide level.

Rohde is the former president of the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA), was one of the first Certified Animal Welfare Administrators (CAWA) in the nation and, over the years, has served in advisory roles for numerous pet nutrition and animal health companies.

Upon Rohde’s retirement, CEO-designate Apryl Steele, DVM, will take over as president and CEO of the Dumb Friends League.

“I made my decision to retire with the absolute conviction that I have ensured the continued growth and success of the League by personally hand-selecting my successor with the approval of our board,” said Rohde. “Apryl is extremely smart and passionate about our work and our organization, and she has a huge amount of compassion for animals. She is the best possible choice for this position and for the future of the League and the animals we all care about so deeply.”

A dynamic leader as well as a practicing veterinarian in Denver for 18 years, Steele has extensive knowledge of the community and animal welfare. She is currently on the board of the American Association of Feline Practitioners. Steele is a past president of the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society, the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association and the Animal Assistance Foundation, has served on the boards of PetAid Colorado and the Dumb Friends League, and is a veteran of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps.

Media Contact

Maia Brusseau