Our Story

A brief history about how we got started

Our Mission

Ensuring the welfare of companion animals through compassion and care.

Our Vision:

A safe and humane world for all companion animals.

Our Key Values:

  • Compassion for the animals and people we serve.
  • Leadership that inspires hope and kindness through education and example.
  • Kindness towards people and pets that find themselves in difficult situations.
  • Transparency regarding the work we do.

Our Mandates:

  • Maintaining a compassionate animal shelter for all homeless, lost and unwanted pets without regard for time orspace.
  • Reducing the number of unwanted pets through spay/neuter programs.
  • Connecting homeless pets and adoptive homes.
  • Offering support services for the prevention of cruelty to animals.
  • Presenting public education for responsible pet ownership.

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


  • BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came out to Cause
    10 hours ago BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came out to Cause for the Paws last night to support Ark-Valley Humane Society!! With over 170 guests, it was our biggest Cause for the Paws yet! Thank you to our sponsors & the  #salidasteamplant  for hosting! Thanks to Kalamatapit for the delicious food and Two Weeks in Fiji for the great music! Stay tuned for our announcement on the open house for our new addition
  • Were here setting up for Cause for the Paws! Hope
    1 day ago We’re here setting up for Cause for the Paws! Hope to see you tonight at 5pm at the  #salidasteamplant  !
  • Will we see you at causeforthepaws tomorrow at the salidasteamplant
    2 days ago Will we see you at  #causeforthepaws  tomorrow at the  #salidasteamplant  ?! Come out and enjoy live music by Two weeks in Fiji, delicious food by Kalamatapit, drinks, dancing, games and more all while supporting the lifesaving work of Ark-Valley Humane Society! Pick up your tickets today at the reduced price of $15! (Stop by AVHS, Salida Steamplant, BV or Salida Chamber of Commerce, or Free the Monkey!) or get them at the door for $20! Hope to see you there!
  • Bubba is ready for Halloween! Hes got his costume
    3 days ago Bubba is ready for Halloween! He’s got his costume & beautiful smile, now all that’s missing is the perfect family to spend it with!  #adoptdontshop   #adoptme   #shelterdog   #shelterdogsofinstagram   #avhs   #adoptionsaveslives 
  • Sweet Pumpkin is still patiently waiting for her perfect family!
    3 days ago Sweet Pumpkin is still patiently waiting for her perfect family! This sweet dog gets along with other dogs and LOVES to play! She needs a family that will help teach her good doggy manners, and she’ll repay you with a million kisses! Come meet her today!  #adoptdontshop   #pumpkin   #dogsofinstagram   #shelterdogsofinstagram   #shelterdogs   #avhs   #rescuedogsofinstagram 
  • Cause for the Paws is THIS FRIDAY!! Hope to see
    4 days ago Cause for the Paws is THIS FRIDAY!! Hope to see you at our biggest fundraiser of the year! Come out and play one of our great fundraising games, enjoy live music, delicious food and great company!  #causeforthepaws   #events   #avhs 
  • Anyone looking for an absolute Casanova? Sylvester is your guy!
    1 week ago Anyone looking for an absolute Casanova? Sylvester is your guy! How could you say no to those beautiful green eyes? (Swipe to see )  #catsofinstagram   #adoptdontshop   #adoptionsaveslives   #avhs   #sheltercat 
  • Will you be at our 5th annual Cause for the
    2 weeks ago Will you be at our 5th annual Cause for the Paws?! We’ll have live music, delicious food catered by Kalamata Pit, awesome fundraising games and more! Pick up your tickets at Free the Monkey (BV or Salida), BV or Salida Chamber of Commerce, the Salida SteamPlant, or AVHS!

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