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Working together to make a difference for animals in the San Luis Valley

In August 2018, the Dumb Friends League was approached by an Alamosa county commissioner for guidance on building a regional animal shelter to serve the San Luis Valley, which is in south-central Colorado. While there are three licensed animal shelters and six licensed rescues in this area, the need for animal care is great, and the League is excited to help support efforts around homeless pets and bring additional awareness to the animal welfare community in rural Colorado.

Plans for building a new regional animal shelter in Alamosa are in the early phases, and work on the initiative is progressing although the project in its entirety has not been approved. Phase 1 was approved by the League’s board of directors and included hiring a shelter manager to oversee the daily operations of the existing Valley Humane League Shelter and staff. Jennifer Thomas began as the Valley Humane League Shelter manager at the end of March, and, along with the League, she will help ensure the community is adequately supported by an existing shelter while plans are finalized for the new facility. Thomas has lived in Antonito, which is 30 miles south of Alamosa, for the past five years and is not only familiar with the area but also with the animal welfare community.

“I’m excited about this opportunity,” said Thomas. “I know the needs and the lack of available resources throughout the community. We can make a real difference.”

The Dumb Friends League has formed a partnership with the Valley Humane League through a management services agreement, which details the partnership, is expected to be signed within the next few weeks. In late March, both organizations participated in forums with stakeholders, including veterinarians, local shelters, city and county personnel, and the community to talk about the initiative and the current and future animal welfare needs throughout the San Luis Valley. It was also an opportunity to discuss the shared interest in seeing the new shelter serve as a Community Animal Center, providing socially conscious sheltering to the area, enhancing the work of current groups and collaborating with them to better serve the community.

“Everyone we’ve met and spoken with so far recognizes there are needs that must be addressed, and they want to be a part of the solution,” said Vice President of Community Solutions Duane Adams. “In Denver, we have so many service providers and means, and sometimes it’s easy to take that for granted. We know that elsewhere people also want to take care of their animals, but they don’t have the resources to do so. We’ll be bridging that gap.”

As part of a needs assessment conducted by the Dumb Friends League, other services, such as transfers, low-cost spay/neuter services, behavior assistance, access to subsidized veterinary care, vaccine clinics and humane education classes, were identified as community-related programs that will be considered after the first year of operation.

In addition to executing the management services agreement, work will continue to identify leadership, put systems in place, determine costs and finalize a location. Phases 2 and 3 still require approval by the board of directors to move forward. Assuming approval is given, between now and July, the team expects to use the conceptual floor plan to have detailed designs created and bid out the project to have contracts in place mid-summer and begin construction in the fall.
While the initiative is still in development and being finalized, the excitement around the possible new facility and the commitment to helping the animals and people in the San Luis Valley remains strong. As the project progresses, updates will continue to be provided.

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