Wednesday morning, Community Animal Services of Pueblo voluntarily gave up its license to operate an animal shelter for the city and county of Pueblo following an investigation by the Colorado Department of Agriculture that failed the shelter three separate times at the beginning of March.
“Relinquishing our license is the fastest way for us to get care for the animals,” Kim Alfonso, the acting board president for PAWS for Life Animal Shelter, said in a statement.
Tuesday, city councilors and county commissioners heard from the board members, including Alfonso and Ruth McDonald, to ask them about the investigation’s findings. Many of the lawmakers expressed their desire to see the operators, PAWS, relinquish their license.
Late last year, councilor and commissioners approved PAWS to take over operations of the shelter when they promised a lower budget and the city created a no-kill shelter ordinance.
The inspector with the Department of Agriculture cited multiple violations that were not fixed by the time of the next investigation.
He noted multiple animal deaths, animals in kennels smaller than what the state allows, cats kept without proper or any litter box at all, healthy animals kept with sick ones, improper sanitation, and improper quarantine, among a plethora of other accusations.
“Each time the board felt one problem was addressed as it relates to the care of the animals, another cropped up,“ Alfonso said in a statement.
Animals that were in the facility are now in the process of being transported elsewhere. As of 7 p.m. Wednesday evening, other shelters from around the state were on site in an effort to help move them.
“Our top concern is the ongoing health and safety of all the animals in the shelter and to make sure they are transferred to facilities that can address any health issues and help find new homes for the animals,“ Department of Agriculture spokesman Ben Walther said in a statement.
Walther said Community Animal Services of Pueblo cannot adopt out or take in any more animals, including strays.
Dozens of people showed up to the animal shelter Wednesday morning and into the afternoon in hopes of adopting one of the animals. Many of them said they were drawn to the shelter by a Facebook post saying there were $25 adoption fees for animals.
Early in the afternoon, the shelter locked its doors and stopped adoptions.
The Department of Agriculture has instructed Community Animal Services of Pueblo to transfer all animals to Pet Animals Care Facilities Act-licensed facilities.
“It’s such a shock,“ Dr. Kent Hill said. “At one point, we really did feel like Pueblo was a standard for the United States, for other cities in Colorado for how they could have a more compassionate shelter care.“
Hill is a chiropractor whose office is right next to the shelter. He said he volunteers his time to help walk the dogs when he can.
Hill is also one of the driving forces behind the ordinance to ban anything but no-kill shelters in Pueblo.
Nearly two years ago to the day, he adopted a dog from the facility, but it wasn’t easy.
“I begged and pleaded with the manager, please let me adopt this dog,“ Hill said.
The dog was marked as aggressive and was going to be put down. Hill took it to another shelter for evaluation and was eventually able to adopt it.
“That’s what really started this whole thing,” Hill said. “Prior to that, people didn’t know three to four-month-old puppies were being euthanized in the Pueblo tax-funded animal shelter.”
Hill said he doesn’t regret the ordinance and what has happened at the facility since.
Animals are being transported to the following shelters, according to a person with the shelter:
- Dumb Friends League in Denver
- Cooper’s Companions in Boone
- Happy Cats Haven in Colorado Springs
- ARF Animal Rescue Force in Teller County
- Steel City Alley Cats Coalition in Pueblo
- Misfits in Pueblo
The state said strays will also be housed at the original PAWS facility.