About 1500 unwanted dogs and cats are rescued every year in Delta County. But many more are turned away. One local rescue organization wants to change that by building a bigger shelter.
But to do that, they need more money. So the group Citizens Animal Welfare and Shelter, or CAWS, is launching a capital campaign.
On a recent day in February, the CAWS shelter had 11 cats and 5 dogs -- and an equal number were fostered out, says CAWS board secretary JoAnn Kalanek. Like the other shelters in Delta County, CAWS is a no-kill facility. Kalanek, a CAWS volunteer for about a decade, says the rescue movement focuses on spaying and neutering along with foster care and adoption to keep unwanted animals at a minimum. But in Delta County, the efforts are falling short. CAWS, the Delta Humane Society, the Black Canyon Sanctuary and the Friends of Cedaredge have a collective turn-away rate of about 35 percent, says Kalanek.
In Delta County alone, as many as 500 animals every year may be in need.
In rural areas, animals are often thought of as livestock, rather than beloved pets. Delta County’s poverty also contributes to the problem of neglected, abandoned or unwanted animals. For example, even though CAWS hands out vouchers for spaying and neutering, some can’t afford the $20 that’s not covered.
But there are also people who can’t bear to say no.
"For some people, turning away an animal is just not acceptable, so that’s why you end up with hoarding situations, you end up with people who start out with great motivations and good hearts, and they end up completely overwhelmed because they lose the business side, the business sense: Help who you can help, the best way you can, and that might be at the sacrifice of another. That’s the hard part," says Kalanak.
CAWS is hoping to change that. Their annual budget of about 140 thousand dollars is created through grants, small fees and proceeds from their secondhand store in Paonia, but this year the organization will launch a 385 thousand dollar capital campaign for a new county-wide facility. CAWS has already raised about 85 thousand dollars toward the goal, with their latest 10 thousand dollar gift from Union Pacific.
"I envision one day this becoming the main place where animals go, where people would go to adopt animals. At some point, all of these groups need to come together and focus resources," Kalanak says.
Back at the shelter, manager Jessica Garrett muses on her job and the endless stream of needy animals that pass through the doors of the shelter.
"They’re all really good kitties. Some days it can be hard, but I love the happiness that comes from it. There’s way more good than bad."