Sunshine Adoption Center-A Letter from the Executive Director
Ark-Valley Humane Society is in a very difficult financial position. The shelter is very successful by all measures of animal care (Live Release Rate over 97%, Return to Owner rate over 70%, status and dramatically reduced Length of Stay) but in spite of that, the shelter has operated at a significant deficit for the past four years. We have continued support from the taxpayers of Chaffee County (the mill levy) and our dedicated donors and volunteers but we have had to tap into our operating reserve to fund ongoing services and this is a trend that cannot continue.
For the past year and a half we have had many discussions about the Sunshine Adoption Center in Poncha Springs. Originally opened in 2011, Sunshine served as both an impound facility for stray dogs, cat shelter and adoption center. The grounds and building were donated to Ark-Valley Humane Society years earlier. Many people worked hard to see the vision of the Sunshine facility come to fruition. Immediately following the opening, Sunshine addressed a significant need in the community by affording increased sheltering for stray, lost and abandoned cats.
In the years following the opening of Sunshine, the need for the cat kennels gradually diminished in spite of increased dog and cat intakes in the county as a whole. This is primarily due to the increased efficiency of the Ark-Valley Humane Society staff and administration in getting animals adopted quickly and greatly reducing an animal’s length of stay with us. This, of course, is a good thing–animals are no longer languishing in kennels for weeks or months, but it has resulted in a sharp reduction in the need for the kennels at Sunshine.
Cat intakes historically decrease in winter, so in an effort to reduce expenses, Sunshine was closed in late 2015 except for impounds by law enforcement. We fully expected to reopen in the spring of 2016, when cat intakes increased, but, again as a result of the much reduced length of stay of the animals, all cat intakes could easily be taken care of at the Buena Vista shelter and we had no need to staff Sunshine.
Since then, the situation remains unchanged. Animal intakes are up, length of stay is down and Ark-Valley Humane Society is caring for more animals with fewer kennels. This is obviously good, but it has left Ark-Valley Humane Society with the painful decision of what to do with Sunshine. It is now purely expense with no offsetting income. We pay for utilities, water, and security on a building that is used only for dog impound (about fifty dogs per year).
It is clear to the Board and administration of Ark-Valley Humane Society that we cannot afford to maintain and staff two full service adoption facilities in Chaffee County and it is also clear that moving the entire operation to the southern part of the county would be cost prohibitive.
The Buena Vista shelter was built with prison labor, on donated land, with enough space (3 acres) for the shelter itself, dog yards, the crematory and a storage garage. With all this said, we have made the very difficult decision to sell Sunshine and establish a much smaller space that will serve as an impound location. Hopefully the sale of Sunshine will produce enough money for us to proceed with the replacement/renovation of the existing shelter in Buena Vista, which together with stabilizing expenses and increasing revenue is a priority.
We understand the frustration, anger and sadness that many people are feeling or will feel about this decision. We have lost several wonderful volunteers since Sunshine has closed and we know that many are unable or unwilling to make the drive to volunteer at the BV shelter. We hope that most will understand that we simply don’t have another good choice that will help Ark-Valley Humane Society remain financially sound.
Ark-Valley Humane Society has been in existence for over 25 years. We want it to still be here for another 25 years and longer to continue our mission – by serving the community and helping the animals.
Jonathan McDonell, Executive Director & John Ellis, Chair, Board of Directors
February 28, 2024
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