Colorado animal shelters join forces in the name of four-legged friends | SteamboatToday.com

Colorado animal shelters join forces in the name of four-legged friends

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Mufasa, a Pomeranian, Sanford the black lab, Caesar the poodle and about 10 kittens peruse their surroundings, settling in to their new home.

The 13 four-legged friends arrived Thursday at the Routt County Humane Society Shelter from their home in Basalt at the Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE), the nonprofit animal shelter serving Glenwood Springs and Garfield County.

"On Wednesday, we transferred a majority of our shelter pets to partnering shelters in the state to make room for owned pets from people who were under the mandatory evacuation," said CARE Development and Events Manager Samantha Pickard. "We needed to be prepared and make room because we knew there would be an influx of animals from the evacuations."

The new Steamboat Springs residents, along with 65 other four-legged evacuees, were transported by volunteers to five other Colorado shelters, including Humane Society of Pagosa Springs, Summit County Animal Control and Shelter, Lake County Animal Shelter, City of Rifle Animal Shelter and the local Routt County Humane Society, as a result of the hundreds of homes evacuated from the Lake Christine Fire in Eagle County.

"We still have quite a few owned cats and dogs coming in today and tomorrow," Pickard said. "We're just trying to hang on to as many owned pets as possible, but lodging is limited."

This wildfire, believed to be started by people shooting tracer rounds at a firing range, was threatening homes near Basalt. According to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, currently 1,793 people are still under a mandatory evacuation notice, and a total of 664 homes have been impacted by the evacuation. The fire was 0-percent contained as of Wednesday evening.

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"It's devastating for the owners and their pets," Pickard said. "But, at the evacuation facilities or hotels, it's hard to have pets there, and some won't allow it. It's a high-stress situation, so we are just trying to keep everyone comfortable and safe."

The CARE shelter was also seeking local relief, asking the community to foster shelter animals or to help volunteer transporting animals and provide the CARE staff with assistance to help with the influx of four-legged evacuees.

"This is the first time we've had to deal with evacuations on this scale," Pickard said. "It was incredible the support from shelters across the state. Every shelter we asked came through for us and, within a day, all the animals were transferred all over the state."

The hope is, the animals will be adopted at those shelters and, if need be after the shelter is clear again, they will work with the partnering shelters to take the animals back.

While the RCHS took a few evacuated dogs from Hurricane Harvey that tore through Houston, Texas, this is the first fire evacuation intake of animals RCHS has been involved in.

"We certainly do transfers when shelters reach out when they need help," said Alexis Pagoulatos, RCHS executive director. "Typically, it's not a wildfire situation like this, but many times, if we have the space, we always will try to help."

This week, RCHS has put out a request to the Routt County community to help the shelter prepare and sign up fosters for these animals who will likely need temporary placement due to the small facility.

"We sometimes are limited with the space we have and try to do the best we can, but that's why we try to get the animals we can into a great foster home," said Pagoulatos. "The more fosters we have, the more animals we can transport in and help."

The shelter has 18 permanent dog kennel structures, with five of those dedicated for any strays or animals in need the Steamboat Springs Police Department brings in, as well as 29 kennels for cats with free rooms totaling about 14.

Typically, the shelter has about four dogs in foster care. Depending on the situation and need, the shelter can choose from a pool of about 10 dedicated foster families for dogs, puppies and about 10 for cats and kittens, as well.

For the animals just arriving at RCHS, Pagoulatos said they are given a few days to decompress and cope with the stress of travel. Once they are settled in, RCHS staff works with the animals to assess their behavior. Each, however, is different. One that's really nervous may be tough to get out and walking, or some may need to be hand-fed or paired with one of the foster families.

For foster families, RCHS provides all of the pet supplies and guidance needed, while fosters provide the love and safe haven in their homes.

For those interested in being fosters, fill out the RCHS form on their website to get started at routthumane.org/get-involved/foster. Foster homes do have a Colorado state-required annual home visit — performed by a RCHS representative — to be eligible.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.