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


  • Yesit is possible to be THIS cute! These two cuties
    6 hours ago Yes-it is possible to be THIS cute! These two cuties are available for adoption!
  • Looking for a wiggle buttlap dogsquishy faced love bug? Weve
    1 day ago Looking for a wiggle butt/lap dog/squishy faced love bug? We’ve got just the guy King is a precious seven year old male dog who has allllllll the ❤️ in the to give a special family. Come meet King today!
  • If youre thinking of inviting an animal into your family
    2 weeks ago If you're thinking of inviting an animal into your family, please skip the pet stores. Instead, consider adopting a furry friend from Ark-Valley Humane Society. There are so many shelter animals waiting to find their forever homes, and one of them just might be your next BFF!
  • Zephyr is a beautiful two month old female kitten who
    2 weeks ago Zephyr is a beautiful two month old female kitten who is ready to play! This girl will bring so much fun and joy to your life! ❤️
  • The 2019 AVHS calendars are HERE! And Honey approves For
    3 weeks ago The 2019 AVHS calendars are HERE! And Honey approves For just $15 one of these calendars can be yours! All proceeds benefit AVHS and each month you’ll get to see beautiful pictures of cats and dogs!
  • How cute is this new family of four? York and
    4 weeks ago How cute is this new family of four? York and Heath just went to a wonderful home together!
  • Those nose freckles Sweet Stella is still looking for a
    4 weeks ago Those nose freckles Sweet Stella is still looking for a home! She’s a wonderful girl, and would make a family so happy with her bright personality. Come say we open at noon!

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