- Courtesy Teller County Regional Animal Shelter
When asked to define what makes the Teller County Regional Animal Shelter so special, Executive Director Lisa Robertson answers without hesitation: "We're small but mighty."
Indeed, TCRAS does have a tall order to fill, being the only shelter for cats and dogs (and a few other assorted species) in the Teller County area. Despite their limited space — they can house about 20 cats and 20 dogs at a time — TCRAS has saved 521 cats and dogs in 2017, with the average stay for an animal lasting just 22 days.
The difficulty of their mission is compounded by the fact that TCRAS is a limited-admissions shelter (what used to be referred to as "no-kill"). Limited admission means that the rescue goes to great lengths to help the animals that come into their care, spending hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to get them healthy and ready to re-home. Even with discounted or in-kind services from Teller County, Colorado Springs and Denver vets, these costs still add up quickly.
This year has been particularly difficult for the shelter, with severe cases of animal neglect, illness and injury. They've seen two pets requiring amputations, multiple animals recovering from a hoarding situation, newborn animals requiring neonatal care, cases of puppies with parvo and abandoned kittens.
"Veterinary care is our greatest expense," says Robertson. "And we're happy to spend that money to give these animals the quality of life they deserve."
Although they are located in Divide, 32 percent of their adoptions come from Colorado Springs. Robertson credits this out-of-town adoption rate to the shelter's limited-admissions status and to the deep relationships the volunteers form with the animals. Because of the shelter's small size, volunteers can really get to know the dogs and cats in their care. That means prospective pet parents get a full picture of the personality of a given adoptee and how they might fit into the family.
"We spend a lot of time with the pets in our care," says Robertson. "Our staff is so dedicated to getting to know these animals. That personal touch sets us apart and helps ensure new adoptions are successful."
TCRAS operates with three full-time staffers, eight part-time staff members and more than 200 volunteers, 77 of whom are what Robertson terms as "very active." They're all an important part of the shelter's ability to do great work. Volunteers have driven across the country to pick up pets (including animals displaced by Hurricane Harvey in Houston), shown up daily to walk the dogs and opened their homes as pet fosters. TCRAS also has volunteer trainers who work to help pets with behavior issues and host dog training classes.
"This is a passion for our volunteers," says Robertson. "They rise to every challenge. Every day, we are blessed and grateful to have the team we do."
Robertson is hoping to recruit more volunteers from the Colorado Springs area to join TCRAS' mission. Because a third of all the shelter's adoptions come from the city, she sees building a presence in Colorado Springs as the natural next step. Having a team of volunteers on-site to help out at adoption fairs and promote the organization would be greatly beneficial — and ease the burden on the Teller County volunteers.
"If we could broaden our scope to reach more people in the Springs and let them know who we are and what we do," says Robertson, "we could adopt out more dogs and cats and free up that kennel space for the next animal who needs it."
Visit tcrascolorado.org for more.