CANON CITY, Colo. — The main shelter in Fremont County went from euthanizing more than half of the animals that came in, to saving nearly all of them by adopting a “no kill” philosophy. But could — or should — that model be used in all of Colorado?
The Humane Society of Fremont County in Canon City provides service to the entire county and surrounding areas. They are an open admission shelter, meaning they accept all animals that are brought to them. They take in about 1,600 animals per year. Four years ago, statistics show the shelter was “saving” (returning to owners, adopting out, etc.) only 44 percent of the animals that were brought in.
“If you were a cat your chances of leaving this building weren’t good,” Doug Rae, the shelter’s director said.
Rae took over in 2014. He immediately turned the traditional shelter, which euthanized animals for a variety of reasons, into a no kill shelter. He refused to put down an animal unless it was severely or gravely injured or ill.
“It was like walking in and flipping a light switch. The change happened that quick,” Rae said.
In his first three months, the director said they were able to save 96 percent of all the animals that came into the building. That number has risen over the last four years.
“Last year was 99 percent. This year through August we are at 97 percent,” he said.
Fremont County is the only county-wide open admission shelter in the state that is no kill. Pueblo recently passed a controversial law called the Pueblo Animal Protection Act (PAPA) that will go into effect on January 1. Most county-wide shelters in the Denver metro area do not abide by the no kill philosophy.
“We do not euthanize healthy animals or safe animals,” Dr. Apryl Steele, President & CEO of the Dumb Friends League, told Denver7.
The Dumb Friends League is the largest shelter in the state, taking in close to 20,000 animals per year. The CEO says the only reason for euthanizing an animal would be for major or untreatable medical conditions or injuries, or animals with behavioral issues they deem as a potential threat to the community. She insisted that animals are not put down because of space or how many they take in.
The Dumb Friends League save rate is around 90 percent, according to Dr. Steele.
“We’re choosing to do this because we’re compassionately thinking about the animal. We’re not just passionate thinking about how it makes us feel,” Dr. Steele said.
“If I save 90 percent of the animals, we just did a really bad job,” Rae said.
Back in Fremont County, he said reasons for not going no kill have been debunked not only by large shelters in places like Austin, Texas, but also by his small-town successes within Colorado.
“We’re underfunded, we’re understaffed, we get too many animals in, and we’re still making it happen,” Rae said.
There are many viewpoints and opinions to the idea of “no kill.” Denver7 will be going 360 on the issue Friday night at 10 p.m. Stay tuned for story updates.