Aug 30, 2023 - News

How Denver is lowering its animal shelter population amid influx in strays and surrenders

Denver Animal Shelter's new social worker, Josie Pigeon. Photo: Courtesy of Denver Animal Shelter

Denver Animal Shelter has offered an adoption special nearly every month this year to help ease population pressures at its facility.

Driving the news: Now the shelter is rolling out a new resource to help people keep their pets, improve the quality of life for animals in the community, and lower their risk of euthanasia.

  • Staff recently hired the department's first social worker, Josie Pigeon, in an effort to take a "proactive approach" to animals being surrendered by focusing on the needs of their owners.

Details: She will target underserved communities and navigate them to services such as housing resources or legal support, as well as provide free resources for their pets, like transportation to vet appointments.

  • The position is funded through the city.

What they're saying: "A lot of people are willing to go out of their way to help their pets, when they're not willing to go out of their own way to help themselves — and that's where I'm coming in," says Pigeon, who started the job at the end of July.

  • "The idea is if they're already here seeking services specifically for their pets, let's see what we can do for them so that they maybe won't need our help in the future, so that they could have a better, healthier, stable life," she added.

Of note: Pigeon holds a master's certificate in human-animal-environment interactions in social work, a program at the University of Denver dubbed the first of its kind in the country that examines how human issues affect animal issues.

Zoom out: Denver's shelter isn't the first in the state to take a similar people-first approach. Foothills Animal Shelter and the Dumb Friends League have also hired social workers.

What's next: The shelter's goal is to hire more social workers in the future.

Go deeper: Euthanizations at Denver Animal Shelter hit five-year high

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