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Endangered species? Local Humane Society faces an uncertain future

For Pets’ Sake Humane Society is celebrating a couple of milestones this summer.

The all-volunteer not-for-profit organization, which operates in Montezuma and Dolores counties, is marking its 40th anniversary.

And its Feral Cat Program reached a milestone – trapping and spaying or neutering its 6,000th cat.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that For Pets’ Sake (FPS) may, like old soldiers, have to fade away.

Why? Because the soldiers who run FPS are aging and weary. New blood isn’t coming in, expenses are running high, and the future is murky.

It’s difficult to imagine what the effects will be if the organization does disappear. FPS – whose organizers are even now working on plans for their annual yard-sale fundraiser in the fall – is a mainstay of the community. Among the many services it offers are:

  • Helping pay for spaying and neutering pets;
  • Providing foster care for cats and dogs, and helping find them homes;
  • Offering assistance with emergency veterinary expenses;
  • Sponsoring low-cost vaccination clinics;
  • Operating the Feral Cat Project, which traps and neuters cats in wild colonies.

After four decades, FPS is taken for granted as something that will always be here.
“One guy told me, ‘I’ve always had the For Pets’ Sake number in my phone because I know I can always call you for help’,” said board President Lynn Dyer. “I had to tell him, ‘Well, maybe not for much longer’.”

Three board members – Dyer, Liz Markum, and Marian Rohman – sat down with KSJD recently to speak about their concerns. Those are basically twofold: a need for volunteer help and a need for funds.

Personnel shortage

FPS desperately needs people to help in a number of different ways. The group is 100 percent volunteer. It has no paid staff, no office, no administrative overhead.

New board members are needed, as well as people to develop and implement – not just suggest – new fundraising campaigns. Rohman is urgently seeking help with the Feral Cat Project, which involves trapping and/or feeding cat colonies. Foster homes – where animals, often puppies or kittens, can be housed and socialized before being put up for adoption – are in dire shortage.

Last December, FPS was one of numerous organizations that had a booth at the Community Involvement Expo at the Montezuma County Annex. They had a sign-up list for anyone interested in helping out.

“We got one new dog foster home,” Dyer said. “Other than that, not a single person offered to volunteer. But we got a lot of new clients. ‘My dog is sick, my cat needs neutered.’ A lot of that.”

Rohman said the board is looking at reducing some of the programs it offers. The cat foster program is probably going away, she said, because there are so few people willing to provide foster homes.

“We have over 20 litters of kittens, and only two foster homes,” Dyer said, agreeing.

Most foster kittens come from feral colonies, Rohman said. If they can be temporarily placed in a foster home where they can become used to people, they can then be transported out and adopted.

“If you foster just one litter of kittens a year, that’s five little lives you have saved,” she said.

But if the kittens grow up wild, they won’t be adoptable. And if they can’t be caught and neutered, they’ll simply produce more feral cats.

Unfortunately, Rohman said, the Feral Cat Program also may have to be phased out.

“We have more cats than we have grants to pay for neutering them,” she said. “We get grants for a hundred and we may be doing 400. It’s a very successful program, but expensive.”

Dyer said if the Feral Cat Program goes away, it won’t take long for the numbers of feral cats to go back up. Only about 20 percent of feral kittens survive, she said, “so 80 percent die, and that keeps numbers down somewhat, but I’m not happy about 80 percent dying.”

Becoming an official foster home under state law requires filling out some paperwork and having a brief home inspection to verify that people are genuinely going to keep the fosters safe and cared-for.

FPS also gets calls all the time seeking foster homes for dogs. Again, those are very few.

Markum said people don’t want to take in foster dogs because they usually aren’t trained, so they require a great deal of attention and management.

Dyer said FPS submitted a grant request to a local foundation to pay for someone who would train foster dogs, but they were told to wait until the next grant cycle.

“We may have to resubmit,” Dyer said. “It’s expensive to bring trainers in to work with these animals.”

Boots on the ground

Another place where FPS needs help is its board. All but one of the nine board members are in their 60s or older. One is 86. One is planning to move away soon, creating a vacancy.

Age is making it difficult to continue the huge annual yard sale that is FPS’s biggest fundraiser, because the organizers are finding it physically difficult.

The yard sale is the biggest such sale in the area. In addition to bringing in major revenue for FPS, it helps people get rid of belongings they no longer want (without putting them in the landfill) and provides a plethora of items – clothes, furniture, art works, sporting goods – to local residents at discount prices.

“The yard sale does really well,” Dyer said. “But it’s a lot of work. And it doesn’t take long for the money to be gone.”

Rohman, who managed the sale alone for 15 years and now has two co-managers, said it’s become more and more difficult to get volunteers to help with it.

This year’s sale is scheduled for Sept. 25-28 at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. But unless new volunteers sign up, organizers may not be able to pick up donated items at people’s homes or accept early donations, she said.

The volunteers who have always driven around to pick up donations can’t heft furniture into trucks the way they once did.

“We have to send trucks out in pairs, with more people, because the volunteers are old, so more people are needed to pick things up,” Rohman said.

Dyer agreed. “We don’t have the people we need to do the pick-ups because they have to have the strength, as well as a truck.”

The board members said they greatly appreciate the support of people who donate goods for the sale and who come and buy things. But the yard sale also needs boots on the ground – people to set out donated items, take money during the sale, and clean everything up after the sale is over.

“We’re really short on people in FPS,” Rohman said. “We have no people for foster homes. The board is worn out.”


Finances are a different area of concern. Grants support some of the FPS programs; donations support others; and some receive money from both sources.

Markum, who is the board treasurer, said the organization’s revenue in 2023 was up about 10 percent from the previous year. However, expenses are also up.

“The last couple of years have been very hard,” Markum said.

The Colorado Pet Overpopulation Fund gives grants to help with spaying and neutering costs. Last year it provided $6,000 to FPS, Markum said.

Dyer said FPS has received more from CPOF in the past but was not able to use it all, because of a shortage of veterinarians, which is a problem both locally and nationally. “We could have a lot more money if we could do more spay-neuters,” she said. “Our grants used to be twice what they are now.”

The Animal Assistance Foundation provides grant funds for veterinary medical expenses and gave $10,000 last year. But veterinary care is increasingly expensive. FPS helps pay veterinary expenses for local pet owners who are desperately in need; FPS also pays for care for fosters that have been taken in, all of which adds up.

“Vets call us sometimes because someone needs help,” Dyer said. “I get calls from people at 5 a.m. It’s going to have an impact on a lot of things if we don’t have that money. Vets will have to turn people away.”

In addition, the cost of pet food has risen considerably in recent years, so more money needs to be raised to provide food for fosters, feral cats, and pets (if they are spayed or neutered) whose owners are undergoing hard times.

“We have used up half of our endowment fund trying to stay alive,” Rohman said.

The group is cutting back on things such as its project to provide free dog houses where they are needed. “We’ll probably never buy another dog house,” Rohman said. “If they get donated, fine, we’ll get them to someone.”

To raise money, FPS has the annual yard sale, plus frequent bake sales, an annual Pennies for Pets drive (when people can donate their spare change at the Cortez Farmers’ Market), and an annual membership drive. It also has GoFundMe accounts for animals needing emergency care.

Pennies for Pets will take place Saturday, July 6. The membership drive is in June – existing members will be mailed renewal packets, and anyone wanting to become a new member or to donate can visit or call 970-565-PETS (7387).

Rohman said the board will re-evaluate the organization’s future after September. “We’ll see how the yard sale goes,” she said.

The board members emphasized that the yard sale will definitely take place this year, and any money they raise will be spent to help pets.

But without help, FPS may not have a long-term future.

“All the money in the world would help, but without the people to deal with it, we still can’t manage,” Rohman said.

“We’ve been around for so long, everybody assumes we always will be and they don’t have to do anything,” Dyer said. “No matter what we say, they say, ‘You’ll figure it out, you always do.’ It’s fine until they need help and we aren’t there.”

“For some people we have been there for their whole lives – even their parents’ lives before them,” Rohman said.

“We don’t want to close, but we can’t keep going the way we have been.”

Note: The reporter has volunteered with the FPS yard sale numerous years.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal, and was the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.