Dec 9, 2013 11:41 PM by Maddie Garrett

New Lease on Life for Pueblo Animal Shelter

Just like the animals up for adoption, you could say the Pueblo Animal Shelter is also getting a new lease on life. The Pueblo City Council moved forward Monday night with a deal to keep the Pueblo Animal Shelter and Animal Services open and functioning.

The shelter was under threat of closing, after the Council pulled its funding for 2014, over hopes that voters would approve a half-cent sales tax to fund the shelter and five other non-profits.

"We were heartbroken when it didn't move forward," said Julie Justman, Associate Director of the Pueblo Animal Shelter.

The voters said no to the tax initiative, leaving the Pueblo City Council with the dilemma of finding the money in its budget to fund the shelter. A contract between the City, Pueblo County and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, which operates the shelter, was approved by the Council Monday night. It now moves to a public hearing on December 23.

"I believe we were all very disappointed that the initiative did not pass but once the voters spoke, and we respect the will of the voters, we had to go back and look at what the priorities of the city are," said Councilmember Ami Nawrocki, District 1.

Justman said the Humane Society has been in talks with the City and County over the past month, after the tax initiative failed. She said they finally reached a deal, and it looks like the Humane Society will continue it's work at the shelter. She admits, there was a time when they were worried about the future of the shelter.

"Certainly we were concerned as to where our program would end up in 2014... But we also felt fairly confident that we would be able to come to some sort of agreement that we could continue our work here," said Justman.

Nawrocki said they were never going to let the shelter close.

"I believe it's the priority of the council that we fund public safety first, and we consider animal law enforcement part of that public safety sector," Nawrocki explained.

The Council found the money, all $1.3 million of it. That's up about $347,000 than what the Council gave the shelter a year ago. Nawrocki said it took some shuffling around with the budget, including not filling or funding currently vacant positions.

"There were some adjustments in the budget just generally speaking, a little department consolidation," said Nawrocki. "We did cuts to the non-profits, to the other non-profits."

It's not only the animals getting a second chance, but the shelter itself as well.

"We're just excited that this is one more step in the process so that we can continue working here," said Justman.

Even though the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region is getting more money to operate the Pueblo Animal Shelter, Justman said they are still projecting a deficit of about $300,000 for next year. Still, they did get the increase they asked for in this 2014 contract.

After the public hearing on December 23, the contract is expected to go into effect at the beginning of the year.



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