Local officials and community members discuss the future of Grand County’s animal shelter

The lease for the shelter expires in December 2025 and will not be renewed

The lease for the Grand County Animal Shelter in Granby is expiring in December 2025, with no option for renewal. Grand County Pet Pals, a nonprofit organization that supports the shelter, Grand County commissioners and the sheriff's office are discussing the shelter's future. Pet Pals has provided a nurturing environment for animals since 1993.
Grand County Animal Shelter/Courtesy Photo

Community member Nancy Gold moved to Grand County about 30 years ago, partly because of the nonprofit organization Pet Pals, which supports the local animal shelter.

During the May 2 Grand County commissioners meeting, she stated that she was mortified to learn that there may not be an animal shelter in Grand County. The shelter’s future is unknown because the lease for their building expires December 2025. 

“We’re a big county, we’re growing. It’s becoming less personal. And the idea that this county might not fund an animal shelter would be one of the reasons I would consider leaving,” Gold said. “That’s how strong I feel about it … I don’t think that Grand County wants to be known as the county that won’t have an animal shelter.”

At the shelter in Granby, several dogs and cats are waiting patiently for their forever homes. Without a shelter these animals would have to be housed outside the county. The shelter provides a nurturing place for adoptable animals, as well as many other services.

During the May 2 meeting, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin, Pet Pals board members and volunteers discussed the facility’s future with commissioners. This was a follow up to their March 14 meeting, when Pet Pals asked the county for assistance in finding land for a new shelter.

Pet Pals supports the shelter through adoption services, spay/neuter services and more. The sheriff’s office, through its animal control section, manages and funds the shelter. The shelter currently operates on sanitation district land, but the sanitation district needs that space as they expand, which is why the lease for the shelter will not be renewed after when it expires Dec. 31, 2025.

“That has kicked started a lot of different conversations as far as shelter operations moving forward – building a shelter, who runs that shelter,” Sheriff Schroetlin said of the 2025 lease expiration.

Currently, no new land has been found to build on yet. If land doesn’t materialize, there may no longer be a shelter in the county. For the past 25 years, the sheriff’s office has managed to maintain operations, even in the midst of financial considerations. This was in part because the lease with the sanitation district is very affordable.

“In previous years, where all of us across the county have been forced to cut budgets in different places to be fiscally responsible, we’ve managed to not cut any operational costs of the shelter,” Schroetlin said. “The shelter is important to me. We tried to maintain that the best we can. So this is not a desire. It’s just unfortunately, where we’re at in today’s world.”

Now, the shelter contends with costs of finding new land, plus construction of a new building.

Exploring all options

Schroetlin presented some different options for the shelter.  These included scenarios with a shelter in Grand County and without a shelter.

Option one – The sheriff’s office continues to fund and operate the shelter at a new location.

Option two – Pet Pals operates the shelter with their own manager at a new location.

Option three – Outsourced shelter management at a new location with a local entity that the county pays to hold animals. This could be a business, the towns or another nonprofit.

Option four – A cooperative agreement with outside entities, such as Clear Creek County shelter, to hold animals. This is known as a Memorandum of Understanding.

Schroetlin added that there have been ongoing discussions with the towns to see if they would all be willing to help fund the shelter, along with funding from the county itself.  

“Many, many moons ago … there were some discussions that the county would pick up animal control and animal shelter operations,” Schroetlin told the commissioners. “Unfortunately, we’re kind of at a point where maybe those discussions need to be had again.”

Schroetlin stressed that there should also be a stop gap in place about where to hold animals once the lease expires, if a permanent solution hasn’t been found.

As Pet Pals began discussing the options with the sheriff and commissioners, Pet Pals board member Diana Farabaugh explained that Pet Pals did not have the employees or the funds for option two – running a shelter themselves.

“It’s not the mission of why we started Pet Pals in the county,” Farabaugh said. “It’s not something that we, under our nonprofit status, are allowed to do or something that we are financially capable of doing.”

Options one, three and four remained open for discussion. Pet Pals representatives agreed at the meeting that option one – the sheriff’s office as status quo, was the best option.

Pet Pals board member Mary Ann Kerstiens discussed her concerns with option four – creating an memorandum of understanding with a neighboring county to house animals. She is worried there may not be room for Grand County animals somewhere else.

“The shelter industry as a whole is struggling with shelters being full,” Kerstiens said. “There’s going to be times when we would be denied because they have their own issues.”

Commissioner Rich Cimino responded that each shelter would have to speak on their own capacity. Currently, the sheriff’s office has corresponded with undersheriff John Stein of the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office, who has confirmed they do have capacity for Grand County’s animals.

The sheriff’s office also might create a memorandum for legal reasons – they must provide a holding place for animals for a minimum of five days before they become available for adoption or can be euthanatized. This can be achieved through a memorandum with a neighboring county; meaning as long as animals are held somewhere for at least five days, inside the county or out, the sheriff has complied with state statute.

Pet Pals volunteer Jennifer Gelbhaus also voiced concerns with option four. She stated that Grand County’s population is growing, with pet populations growing along with it. Residents may be less likely to put their animals up for adoption, or spay/neuter/vaccinate them if no services are available in the county.

Gelbhaus then brought up the costs associated with taking animals to another county to be held. Drivers would take animals long distances, potentially increasing mileage and overtime costs.

Residents express concern 

During the meeting’s public comment period, several volunteers and residents explained the shelter’s importance.

A community member who has volunteered with Pet Pals for nearly 25 years felt that the partnership with the sheriff’s office has been working smoothly this entire time. The partnership has allowed Pet Pals to care for animals for months, sometimes even a year. Through patience, Pet Pals eventually finds loving homes for all animals, the volunteer stated.

She added that she feels options three and four leave the door open to euthanasia of animals, since the state minimum requirement for shelters to hold animals is only five days. (Clear Creek’s minimum is ten days, but their shelter is no-kill.)

Pet Pals allows animals of incarcerated individuals to stay for long periods at the shelter, as well as senior animals and animals with medical needs, which aren’t readily adopted. Goats, alpacas, rabbits, gerbils and reptiles have also found a temporary home there.

A parent added that children also benefit from volunteer opportunities with the animals, especially if they don’t have pets at home. Volunteering might even inspire their future career in animal care.

Another community member expressed how the shelter keeps dogs off the streets, where they can potentially form packs to attack livestock or wildlife.

Lastly, the shelter animals provide therapeutic and educational benefits.

Responsibilities of the sheriff’s office and Pet Pals

During the meeting, Schroetlin gave a break down of the sheriff’s contributions. This year, the office budgeted $300,000 for shelter operations and their animal control section. This includes wages for three full-time positions and an annual operational budget of $80,000.

Regardless of whether or not the sheriff’s office will operate the shelter, it will still retain animal control.

“We respond to a lot of animal calls,” Schroetlin stated. “So even if we move the shelter to a third party, the sheriff’s office will be still providing … operational animal control staff that would patrol the county for loose dogs, dogs at large, dog bites, things like that.”

Schroetlin added that they hadn’t been able to fill one of the animal control officer positions for a couple years, until Vince Manguso joined the team on May 23. Because of the previous unfilled position, Schroetlin explained that Pet Pals has stepped up.

“We rely a lot on volunteers,” he said. “The shelter has some great volunteers and they’re out there walking those dogs, cleaning kennels and things like that. We can’t forget about that part of the puzzle, that they’re supplementing a lot of our resources.”

In addition to their hands-on efforts, Pet Pals also helps fund the shelter. In 2022, Pet Pals contributed $65,000, which went towards spay/neuter services, food, medication and more.

Pet Pals has also offered to fundraise for $1.5 million to go to the new shelter’s construction, including creating a new entity so they can raise money.  However, Pet Pals representatives are hesitant to launch a fundraising effort unless there is a solid plan for keeping the shelter locally.

“We’ve seen some shelters that have opened and closed because the operating model didn’t support it,” said Farabaugh. “I don’t want to go out and fundraise to individuals with the promise that we’re doing this for an animal shelter and then have that building shut down within a period of time afterwards.”

Sonny is currently waiting for his forever home at the shelter.
Grand County Animal Shelter/Courtesy Photo

Next Steps

Although many community members have expressed fears that Grand County will lose this essential service, the county commissioners, sheriff’s office and Pet Pals are committed to finding a solution.

“As a steward of taxpayer money, it is vital that we carefully analyze all of the options which remains a work in progress,” Sheriff Schroetlin shared with Sky-Hi News. “I recognize firsthand the benefits that a local animal shelter brings to a community and it is my hope that we can partner with Grand County Pet Pals and our other local governments to come to a successful resolution.”

The main hurdle is finding a suitable parcel of land, ideally 3-7 acres. The land would have to be zoned business. Some possibilities, such as the Granby airport, have already been ruled out because of regulations on land usage.

There is a possibility that an individual or business could provide land for the shelter. Grand County loves animals – from dogs and cats, to horses and goats. If the whole community pulls together, a solution could be on the horizon.

The county commissioners will meet with the sheriff’s office in the coming weeks. Residents can stay informed of the shelter’s future or become part of the discussion by attending commissioner’s meetings. Meetings are held in-person and virtually on the first four Tuesdays of the month. Visit Co.Grand.Co.Us to read upcoming meeting agendas.

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