Shelter Directors Respond to Events at the Humane Society of Fremont County

In response to recent events at the Humane Society of Fremont County local shelter directors have come together to issue a statement. See the full story here and read the statement below.

We are Colorado animal welfare organizations who are committed to preventing animal suffering, to enhancing bonds between people and animals, and to creating safe communities. We have been monitoring this very sad situation in Canon City with great concern. There is a pervasive misconception that the Humane Society of Fremont County (HSFC) only has two options: euthanize healthy animals or continue to adhere to a policy that leads to a life of incomprehensible suffering for many animals. This shows a stunning lack of compassion for the cats, dogs and community of Canon City.

Managing a shelter solely to maintain the image of a high live release rate — without addressing the needs of the animals housed within it and the safety of the community — is simply unacceptable. Emphasizing live release numbers over the day-to-day needs of the animals in HSFC’s care has had the effect of gas-lighting the public: it creates a culture where the Board of Directors, local media, and community leaders believe that everything’s fine (“move along, nothing to see here!”), as long as the live release rate stays at a certain number. This is not true.

Over the years, we have partnered with HSFC to transfer cats and dogs to the front range where adopters are waiting for them.

HSFC would only consent to the partnership, however, under the following terms: if a veterinarian or behavior expert determined that the animal was suffering and could not be helped, or if the animal was so dangerous that it was likely to severely maim or kill another animal or a person, the animal was required to be transferred back to HSFC.

Although we found these terms unduly restrictive, we agreed to them because we were anxious to help alleviate the suffering of the animals at HSFC and save whatever animals we could.

Recent events, however, have made this untenable. Specifically, we have seen videos of animals at HSFC throwing themselves against the walls of their kennels and circling until their paws bleed. Furthermore, we have witnessed what happens when HSFC places dangerous dogs into the Canon City community. When we saw these things, our compassionate teams were heartbroken, knowing the amount of suffering that animals that we received were likely to endure if we sent them back to HSFC.

Fortunately, there is another way: Socially Conscious Sheltering. In a Socially Conscious Shelter, every healthy and safe animal is placed. Every single one. In a Socially Conscious Shelter, appropriate euthanasia decisions are made. Decisions that end incurable suffering and decisions that protect the other animals and the people of the community. And Socially Conscious Sheltering is already being done successfully across the State of Colorado. In fact, the entire state of Colorado is at a 90% live release rate—all while making appropriate euthanasia decisions.

As of today, we will no longer be transferring animals back to HSFC. Because the transfer-back requirement is part of our transfer agreement, sadly, we can no longer accept animals from HSFC either. We simply cannot work with HSFC under the current leadership philosophy. Especially when we know there is a better way that has already been successfully implemented across the state: Socially Conscious Sheltering. We look forward to reestablishing our partnership when HSFC policy changes.

The animals and people of Canon City, of Fremont and surrounding counties, deserve better.

Judy Calhoun, CAWA, CEO Larimer Humane Society
Jan McHugh Smith, CAWA, CEO Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region
Alice Nightengale, Director, Denver Animal Protection
Apryl Steele, DVM, CEO Dumb Friends League