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.


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


  • Give where you live on givingtuesday! Your support today means
    3 months ago Give where you live on  #givingtuesday ! Your support today means the world to the dogs and cats we care for every single day. With your help, these animals will find loving homes and receive a second chance at life! Click the link in our bio to give through  #coloradogives  ❤️❤️
  • Woohoo!! Our T Shirt fundraiser has been extended! If you
    3 months ago Woohoo!! Our T Shirt fundraiser has been extended! If you missed your chance, click the link in our bio to pre order yours today! These would make great Christmas presents for a wonderful cause! ❤️ [not to mention the funky design + incredibly soft t-shirt!]
  • 24 hours left in our tshirt fundraiser!! These shirts are
    3 months ago 24 hours left in our t-shirt fundraiser!! These shirts are super soft, come in a women’s and unisex fit and designed by local artist, Patti Vincent! All proceeds help us as we build a better future for our animals through the new addition! Click the link in our bio to purchase your shirts today!
  • Have you seen a cuter bumblebee or should we say
    4 months ago Have you seen a cuter bumblebee (or should we say Bumble Bull or Pit Bee )?? Ganon loves Halloween and would love it even more if he was celebrating with a family! Come by and meet this sweet boy today! ❤️
  • Were getting set up now! Be sure to come by
    4 months ago We’re getting set up now! Be sure to come by  @salidasteamplant  from 5-8pm TONIGHT for Cause for the Paws!!!  #salidacolorado   #salidaevents   #c4tp2018 
  • Cause for the Paws is THIS Friday 1012 from 58pm
    4 months ago Cause for the Paws is THIS Friday 10/12 from 5-8pm at  @salidasteamplant  Don’t miss your chance for a fun evening for a great cause! We’ve got live music, food & drinks, fundraising prize games, raffle prizes & good company! Tickets are $20 at the door. Are you coming?  #c4tp2018   #salidacolorado   #salidaevents 
  • Are you coming meow? Our 4th Annual Fundraising Event Cause
    5 months ago Are you coming meow? Our 4th Annual Fundraising Event, Cause for the Paws, is THIS Friday 10/12 from 5-8pm at the Salida SteamPlant. Don’t miss an evening of food & drinks, live music, raffle prizes & fundraising prize games! Click the link in our bio to learn more!  #salidaevents   #salidacolorado   #c4tp2018 
  • Want to help sweet puppy faces like this one while
    5 months ago Want to help sweet puppy faces like this one while having a good time? Join us THIS Friday Oct 12th from 5-8pm at  @salidasteamplant  for our 4th Annual fundraising event, Cause for the Paws! This year, in addition to the food, drinks, live music, raffle prizes & great company, we’re adding fundraising games! There are lots of AMAZING prizes to win- including $500 cash Bring some cash & a smile & join us for a fun evening for a great cause that you won’t want to miss! Click the link in our bio for more info  #c4tp2018   #salidaevents   #salidacolorado   #fundraisingevents 

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