Our Story

A brief history about how we got started

Our Mission

Advocating for the welfare of all animals through compassion and care.

Our Vision Statements:

  • To enhance the lives of all companion animals through humane education and partnerships
  • To create a safer and happier world for all companion animals
  • To enhance the human-animal bond through education and responsible pet ownership

Our Key Values:

  • Compassion: for those we serve, animals and humans.
  • Leadership: inspiring hope and kindness through strength, education and example.
  • Kindness: towards people and pets that find themselves in difficult situations.
  • Transparency: in our relationships and partnerships with the work we do.


How We Came To Be

Over the last 26-years our organization has helped tens of thousands of animals. Our programs and services helped over 1,000 animals in 2015. In 2016 Ark-Valley Humane Society had a 97% Live-Release Rate. As the year drew to a close, we saw the length of time it took for an animal to find a home decrease (commonly referred to as Length of Stay), another indicator of our progress. Our community assistance spay/neuter programs provided over 250 animals in Chaffee County with free or low cost spay/neuter surgeries. Creating a foundation that supports ongoing growth, organizational maturation and provides the tools to face the challenges of tomorrow was and remains critically important to us. We are progressing to our goal of being a model animal welfare organization with a top-notch facility that offers progressive humane programs, which is a notable transformation in animal welfare from where AVHS began in 1991…

In the early 1990s Buena Vista, Colorado had only The Shed, which was overseen by law enforcement. It consisted of unheated, short-stay kennels for stray dogs. Dogs sweltered in the heat of summer and water bowls froze in winter. No services were available for cats. A group of concerned citizens decided it was time for a change. In 1991, founding members established Ark-Valley Humane Society (AVHS) as a nonprofit organization to humanely care for stray and unwanted pets in northern Chaffee County. By 1995, the AVHS shelter had opened its doors in Buena Vista. Soon, hundreds of dogs and cats each year were cared for by staff and volunteers until loving homes were found for them.

Over the years, AVHS has steadily increased its capacity to serve the people of Chaffee County and animals in need. In 2003, AVHS built an isolation area for incoming animals. Doing so helped to prevent the spread of disease among animals, while expanding kennel capacity overall. As a result, an increase in financial support was needed. In 2006, a mill levy campaign, driven by community members, saved the shelter from closing its doors, and coupled with donations and grants, helped to secure its financial future. In the years that followed AVHS launched a Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) program for feral cats, and began accepting unclaimed strays from Mountain Shadows Animal Hospital from the neighboring city of Salida.

Yet there were still needs unmet. The shelter was commonly turning away animals at its doors for lack of space. A temporary trailer was purchased in 2009 to provide much needed office space and additional kennels. In 2010, a capital campaign was launched to build a second facility in Poncha Springs to better serve the Salida area and the rest of southern Chaffee County. In 2011, the Sunshine Shelter was completed and opened its doors. AVHS’s overall intake increased by 34% over the previous year. In doing so, AVHS was able to continue its promise to provide top-notch animal sheltering, while no longer having to turn away in-county animals for lack of space. Today, AVHS serves all of Chaffee County with stray intake, animal relinquishment, reclaim, and adoption services at its facility in Buena Vista. To combat pet overpopulation, AVHS provides humane education. Importantly, it spays or neuters all dogs and cats prior to adoption and provides community assistance programs to help with the cost of spaying and neutering at-risk animals.

Our policies are working to change the face of animal sheltering to be both more animal-friendly and people-friendly. An open-adoption policy puts trust in adopters and facilitates adoptions. This policy ensures that all needy Chaffee County pets are accommodated by AVHS. We ensure that no animal is euthanized for reasons of time or space, with 95% or more of shelter animals saved each year.


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Our Newsletter


  • Scuse me? Did you say tomorrow is Friday?!Moody is readyhellip
    4 days ago “Scuse me? Did you say tomorrow is Friday?!”-Moody is ready for the weekend but not as ready as he is to find his family! Are you looking for a sweet kitten? Meet this handsome boy today!  #adoptdontshop   #rescuecat   #kittensofinstagram   #kittens   #arkvalleyhumanesociety 
  • Happy felinefriday from the very handsome Jeff! Jeff is 10hellip
    1 week ago Happy  #felinefriday  from the very handsome Jeff! Jeff is 10 years old, healthy as a horse, and gets along great with other kitties! He’s an all-around great guy! Come meet Jeff today!  #adoptdontshop   #catsofinstagram   #rescuecat   #arkvalleyhumanesociety 
  • Soooo something happened over the weekend! Devin had six adorablehellip
    2 weeks ago Soooo, something happened over the weekend! Devin had six adorable puppies and has so far been a wonderful mom to each of them.  #adoptdontshop   #puppiesofinstagram   #rescuedog 
  • We want to give a GIANT shout out  THANKhellip
    3 weeks ago We want to give a GIANT shout out & THANK YOU to all of the businesses who donated to our raffle & silent auction at last week’s Cause for the Paws event!!! Your generous donations helped make our annual fundraiser a success! THANK YOU!!!!  #thankyoucommunity   #supportyourcommunity   #AVHS   #C4TP2017   #fundraiserevent   #salidaevents 
  • Thank you to everyone who came out to Cause forhellip
    4 weeks ago Thank you to everyone who came out to Cause for the Paws on Friday! We had a great turn out & really appreciate all of the community support. THANK YOU!!!! The music (the Riff), the food (Kalamatapit), the company (YOU) - it all came together nicely. We hope you enjoyed it too! What was your favorite part? credit:  @catherineeichelphotography   #C4TP2017   #thankyou   #supportyourcommunity   #salidaevents   #fundraiserevent   #AVHS   #welovetheavhscommunity   #adoptdontshop 
  • You guys the big day has finally arrived!!! Cause forhellip
    1 month ago You guys, the big day has finally arrived!!! Cause for the Paws is happening TODAY from 5-8pm at the Salida SteamPlant! We're going to be covering the event in Instagram Stories, so watch there if you can't attend. Or - click the link in our bio to find out all the details you need to COME! Hope to see you & your animal-loving friends there! ❤️  #C4TP2017   #AVHS   #fundraiserevent   #salidaevents   #supportyourcommunity 
  • Cause for the Paws is TOMORROW!!!! We hope to seehellip
    1 month ago Cause for the Paws is TOMORROW!!!! We hope to see you there. Click the link in our bio for all the info you need about our 3rd Annual Fundraising Event!  #C4TP2017   #AVHS   #supportyourcommunity   #fundraiserevent   #salidaevents 
  • These sweet fur babies want to know if youre cominghellip
    1 month ago These sweet fur babies want to know if you're coming to Cause for the Paws on Friday. You're coming to our largest, most amazing event of the year aren't you?  #C4TP2017  is Friday Oct. 20th from 5-8pm at the Salida SteamPlant. We've got live music, catered food, drinks, a silent auction, raffle prizes, & ...you're gonna have to come to find out. You can still get advanced tickets for $15 ($20 at door). Click the link in our bio to find out where to buy tix & everything else you need to know about the event! We (& the fur…

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