Roice-Hurst helps county through crisis

Avery Johnson, an adoption specialist with Roice-Hurst Humane Society, walks Yeti, a female black lab, from the Mesa County Animal Shelter. Yeti is one of eight dogs from the shelter now staying at Roice-Hurst.



Keeping the Grand Valley’s fuzzy friends alive is about community.

In order to help Mesa County Animal Services manage limited space during their seven-month-long renovation project next year, the Roice-Hurst Humane Society has transferred more than 100 of Animal Services’ homeless dogs and cats to Roice-Hurst’s shelter.

And there are many more on the way in the next couple of months.

Lending an extra hand to the county required Roice-Hurst to find the resources to spay or neuter, vaccinate and chip the extra animals — in order to make them “adoption-ready” — and plan ahead, limiting the number of out-of-state animals the shelter typically would take in, said Anna Stout, Roice-Hurst’s executive director.

Roice-Hurst has worked with Mesa County for years, helping to adopt out some of the homeless animals the county receives. But when Animal Services needed to move out of their facility during a major renovation, reducing the area available for holding animals to less than half of what it was, Roice-Hurst “stepped it up,” Stout said, prioritizing local pets and creating space to house them so that the county wouldn’t be faced with the need to euthanize animals due to space limitations.

“We believe that our community’s animals are our responsibility,” Stout said.

But local acts of caring often beget wider reverberations of care, and such went the story for Roice-Hurst.

As a reward for its drive to lend a helping hand to its community, Roice-Hurst was lent a helping hand from the larger national community, receiving a Rachael Ray Save Them All Grant from Best Friends Animal Society, perhaps the nation’s foremost homeless pet advocacy and activist organization.

The grant awarded $10,000 to Roice-Hurst to help it defray the costs of attending to all the pets the shelter is taking off the county’s hands — an important monetary boost for a nonprofit organization that receives all of its operational funds by grant and donation.

Roice-Hurst and Mesa County Animal Services first agreed to partner up in caring for animals that might be affected by the renovations during monthly meetings regularly held between Stout and Frye — a rare partnership in the pet shelter world, according to Stout’s experience.

She said rivalries and hostilities are common between various pet shelters and animal services organizations in cities across the country.

“We’re so fortunate to have the relationship that we do with Mesa County,” Stout said, adding that the collaboration likely appealed to Best Friends.

“I think that’s one of the things that made this grant possible,” she said.

Yet the collaboration between Animal Services and shelters also makes the Grand Valley “lucky as a community,” Stout said, because pets in need receive much better care.

This better care isn’t unquantifiable. Hard numbers support it.

Doug Frye, Mesa County Animal Services’ manager, said the county hasn’t euthanized a healthy, adoptable animal since 2010, and that’s largely because of area shelters that free up Animal Services’ space by taking on the county’s adoptable pets.

“With space issues, that was a huge concern that I had — to be able to say that at the end of all this,” Frye said of the pressures the necessary renovations put on his ability to hold animals. “If I run out of space, bad things start to happen.”

Frye has garnered help from Roice-Hurst, CLAWS, Grand Rivers Humane and the Rifle Animal Shelter, all of which have taken on extra Mesa County pets over the past several months.

He said he was prepared to lean on Montrose and the Denver Dumb Friends League for help, too, but he hasn’t had to yet.

For its part, Stout said, Roice-Hurst is working harder to adopt out animals, particularly larger dogs, which can be challenging to place in homes.

“By moving them through quickly, we’re able to continually refill the kennels,” she said.

Roice-Hurst is often able to unload several animals a week off the county’s plate, Stout said.

“If Roice-Hurst’s doors close, I’d have a big problem,” Frye said.

The relationship isn’t one-sided, though. Stout said she gets important support from Frye and Animal Services, as well.

Frye will train Roice-Hurst staff, for example, to ensure pet evaluations are standardized throughout the area and the two organizations have also put on a few events together.

“I think at the end of the day, we understand that we are working toward the same goal,” Stout said — reducing the numbers of homeless pets through responsibly managing the animal population and placing animals in good homes.

In order to meet this goal, Roice-Hurst is always looking for grants, she said. They applied for the Best Friends grant a few months ago and heard just this week that the shelter would receive one.

“Best Friends has been taking notice of work Roice-Hurst is doing to really serve our community,” said Stout, who has been invited to speak at two recent Best Friends events.

While the grant will undeniably aid Roice-Hurst in care-giving, it’s not a cure-all for the shelter.

The grant requires Roice-Hurst to help adopt out 200 dogs during the renovation process — a goal they should easily achieve, Frye said — but this amounts to only $50 per dog, which won’t even fully pay for a spay or neuter surgery.

But Roice-Hurst isn’t in over its head. In fact, Stout expects the shelter to continue to take higher numbers of pets from Mesa County after the building construction finishes next month.

She said the partnership during the renovations has led Roice-Hurst to “reflect on its commitment to local animals,” and now that shelter operators know they can transfer large numbers of animals from Mesa County, they hope to continue offering higher levels of aid.

Want to help? Stout said the best way is to support local shelters by donating to their efforts and adopting animals, if residents are equipped to do so.


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