Colorado has one of the nation's lowest rates for euthanizing dogs and cats in shelters. According to Best Friends
, an organization committed to promoting no-kill efforts across the country, 63 of Colorado’s 71 animal shelters are no-kill, resulting in an average of 1,191 dogs and cats euthanized in Colorado
every year between 2019 and 2021.
Two states adjacent to Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma, are on the Best Friends “medium priority” list; New Mexico’s annual average shelter kill count is 6,795
, and Oklahoma’s is 9,094
. But Texas is the top priority for anti-kill advocates, and for good reason: The average annual shelter kill count in Texas is 61,245 dogs and cats
Red Fern Animal Rescue
is a Denver-based animal rescue that focuses specifically on bringing dogs from South Texas so that they avoid that fate. Do-Over Dogs
, another local rescue, takes dogs from shelters in La Junta and Rocky Ford and on Colorado reservations, as well as facilities in Texas and New Mexico, and transfers them to safe places in this state.
Shelby Davis, the founder and director of Soul Dog Rescue
, works mostly on tribal lands in the Four Corners area; Soul Dog Rescue hosts spay and neuter clinics twice a month in the region. “Last weekend we were in Ship Rock, New Mexico, near Farmington, and we spayed and neutered 159 animals in two days,” she recalls.
“But the staggering thing is that we brought back 102 unwanted animals, including about sixty-some kittens. That’s just from one clinic, and that’s just owner surrenders,” Davis adds.
She says that cost of living — primarily housing, but also the cost of food — is the reason most frequently cited by owners who are surrendering their pets.
“It’s definitely on the uptick, and we’re hearing reasons we never heard before in the past," Davis notes. "One woman had to surrender her dog because she lost her house and was moving into a hotel.”
While the pandemic may have aggravated the situation, it didn't start it. In the region where Davis operates, inflation-related owner surrenders have “increased by maybe 5 percent," she says. "Ninety-five percent of the hell we’ve been dealing with for the past ten years."