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  • Davyd Smith

Colorado has more adopters than pets losing their lives in the shelter system

PACFA (Pet Animal Care Facilities Act) reported a record number of pets entering Colorado through transfer from others states. The number entering the Colorado shelter system from outside of the state is mindboggling. Three years ago a report stated “PACFA officials say 17,000 dogs and cats were transported into Colorado in 2013 to be adopted. That number skyrocketed to 35,000 dogs and cats in 2018.” in 2020, it was over 50,000. When we talk about the Colorado shelter system, we include over 300 shelters, rescues, and sanctuaries licensed by PACFA.




As a state, Colorado has 40,000-50,000 more adopters annually than we need for pets entering our shelter system. In spite of this, we are not saving every healthy or treatable homeless pet which is simply unacceptable.


Before you think this post is about stopping transfer, it's not. First, we should help our neighbors when we have that ability, and we do. Second, if we stop-transfer we will just strengthen or expand puppy mills and retail stores. We need to transfer from out of state, we just need to save every healthy or treatable pet locally as well.




We often hear regressive shelters say, “there are just too many” or “if people would just (insert public shaming here)”. Those excuses are not the reasons healthy and treatable animals continue to be destroyed and these numbers prove it. It is up to all of us to call it out when we hear those tired, overused phrases.


While we were importing 50,000 dogs and cats into our state from other states in 2020 , over 8,000 lost their lives in the system that imported these massive numbers. This is called displacement killing. No one would argue the reality that some homeless pets are truly untreatable; there are some whose suffering cannot be addressed through medical or behavior modification. This is a very small number of animals. Ask any animal advocate in Colorado and they will tell you the story of the last treatable dog or cat they remember who was killed in a shelter.


Most healthy or treatable homeless pets that die in Colorado are killed in regressive shelters that are tax-funded – residents are paying for this whether they realize it or not. Coloradans do not want their tax dollars to go to killing. They want that money to go to helping animals in need and finding them loving homes. And Coloradans are literally putting their money where their mouth is. Coloradans adopt tens of thousands more pets than need homes in our system. Colorado animal welfare brings in an estimated $100 million per year. That's over $700 for every cat and dog that entered our shelter system in 2020.


The death of healthy and treatable pets happens because of two major areas lacking in our system:

  • Shelters should not be able to reject any PACFA licensed organization that wants to pull a homeless pet the shelter system planned to kill anyway; and

  • Rescues should look inside Colorado shelters to pull pets before looking outside of the state.

If these two things happened, Colorado would be a genuine No Kill State tomorrow. That’s not an unreasonable dream. This is a simple data-driven fact. There are more adopters in the state than we need if you don’t count transfers from out of state. So, this point bears repeating in bold type:


Colorado annually has 40,000-50,000 more adopters than we need.

Ours is a problem that can be solved easily. We could pass the Rescue Act which is a commonsense approach to saving every homeless pet in our Colorado community.

The link to the whole act is below, but here is the language that sets forth the base provisions which are easy to understand:


The Rescue Act (partial representation)

SEC. 3

(a) no animal shelter may kill an animal if, prior to the killing of that animal, a <PACFA licensed> organization indicates it will take custody of the animal.

(b) in addition to any required spay or neuter deposit, the pound or shelter, at its discretion, may assess a fee, not to exceed the standard adoption fee, for animals released.

(c) this section does not apply to:

(1) an animal which has bitten a person and is suspected to carry and exhibiting signs of rabies, as determined by a licensed veterinarian.

(2) a dog determined to be dangerous under Section 18-9-204.5 of the Colorado Revised Statute.

(3) an animal experiencing irremediable suffering.


You can see the whole act here: https://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/uploads/4/8/6/2/48624081/rescue2017.pdf


The time has come to change how we function in Colorado to save our homeless pets first, to stop the unnecessary and outdated practice of killing them. When Colorado is saving every healthy and treatable pet, we should of course help our neighbors. And help them become a state like us. And then they could become a state like us. One that transports pets from other states until we change the US. We can be the leaders, but only if the Rescue Act can be passed in our legislature. And we need the large well-funded organizations to take the position with us.