Animal Rescue of the Week: Episode 44 – Animal Rescue of the Rockies

Animal Rescue of the Rockies is a nonprofit organization located in Colorado. Since its opening in 2003, they have helped find loving homes for over 10,000 animals. Their mission is to provide rescue, behavioral and adoption services for homeless pets as well as work towards a nationwide goal of ensuring a happy, healthy home for every pet. ARR also works closely with other rescue groups in Colorado to help with transporting, fostering and adoptions whenever they can.


Welcome to the ARPA Animal Rescue of the Week podcast featuring outstanding organizations around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.

Animal Rescue of the Rockies is a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 by a group of friends wanting to make a difference in their community. They wanted to provide an alternative to shelter environments for homeless pets. They have definitely served their vision well, since ARR’s beginning, they have found loving homes for over 10,000 dogs and cats.

Hi, Karen. Welcome to the show. Hi, I am so happy to be here, Kimberly. Yeah, I’m happy to have you. I’m excited to learn more about your organization. So, you are the President of the Animal Rescue of the Rockies in Colorado, is that right? That’s right. I’m actually the Founder and the Executive Director. So yeah, I’ve been doing this for 16 years now. Oh, wow, that’s awesome. So I’m pretty sure you’ve got all the experience and you know pretty much everything from start to finish. So anyway, let’s jump right in because I’m curious to learn more about your organization.

Can you share with me a little bit about it? We started back in 2003. There was a group of friends and I, and we decided that we wanted to provide an alternative to the community shelter. So we decided to start a foster program to help pets to avoid the shelter environment. And we started out small. We just kept, you know, working and growing and learning. And we went out to Best friends Animal Sanctuary, and we took their “How To Start an Animal Sanctuary” workshop. That was the best thing that we ever did. Any, any small rescue group just getting started, I highly recommend doing that because it saved so many mistakes and saved you years of learning by trial and error, because they share everything that, you know, you need to know. And we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, and it really helped us to avoid a lot of mistakes as we were getting started. And one of the most important things was to not get in over our heads and not try to take on too much for the resources that we had.

So we grew slowly, and took our time, and after a few years of fostering in the Summit County, and mountain areas, we set up a Cat Casita, which is in Fairplay, Colorado, and that’s still open today. It’s at the High Paw Pet Supply Store downstairs, and the cats have a cage free adoption center where they can, you know, be as playful as they want to be, and sleep, or whatever. So we do quite a few adoptions out of there, every year. Then our dogs are all in foster homes. We don’t have an actual facility for dogs. But we do have another cage free cat room facility now that we opened in Denver at the Just Cats Store, and that’s a 1051 Leetsdale Drive. And we have the same set up there. We have cats and kittens available for adoption. So other than that our pets are in foster homes or at PetSmart stores, we do have cats and kittens available at several PetSmart stores. And we’ve grown to encompass the whole Denver Metro Area, northward to Fort Collins and really throughout Colorado. And occasionally we’ll adopt out of state too. That’s very interesting to me that you have that set up the way that you do. It’s pretty neat, actually.

Well, we do have cats in foster homes, too, but we do have these two adoption centers that we set up, and, you know, cats are a little easier. They don’t need quite much space. They don’t have to be walked everyday. So it’s worked out really well, and it gives people a place where they can actually come meet cats in person. But we do adopt a lot of cats out and our dogs through our website. People see their pictures and fall in love, and then we set up meetings for them. So it’s just nice to give people options. Yeah, definitely. And it seems like you guys are really doing that really well.

So, you know, I’m kind of curious as to what your community is like in your area? Up in the mountain communities, like in Breckenridge, it’s very animal friendly. People treat their pets like family and the whole community will pull together, if a pet gets lost. It’s so wonderful to see. And it’s really a different culture for animals up there. Once you get into the cities, unfortunately, you have a little of both. You have people who love their pets just like family members, and you have those that kind of treat them like disposable items, you know. And in Denver, we don’t really have so much of a problem of dogs getting dumped as we do cats. There’s a lot of cats that get dumped, and we’ve been working a lot with community cats and neighborhoods, you know, stray cats that most of them were former pets that somebody just abandoned. And if they’re friendly, we can take them in and rehome them. If they’re not, we at least get them spayed or neutered and then put them back into the community. If they have kittens, we’ll rescue the kittens and socialize them in a foster home, and then once they’re ready for adoption, we adopt them out. But the mama cat gets spayed and put back into the community.

But generally Colorado is known for being an animal friendly state, more so than a lot of places in the country. So we’re really lucky overall. Yeah, I was gonna say, ‘cause the biggest thing that I’ve learned with doing these podcasts is the animal welfare from state to state, how big of a difference they are just between state because some communities, overpopulation is a ginormous issue. Where I’ve learned in Colorado, it’s not as big of an issue as it would be somewhere else. That’s true. And it’s interesting because I was born and raised in Houston and we like to help Texas pets, and we do quite a bit because we’re aware of the challenges that Texas faces. And we transport a lot of dogs and cats in from Houston and from some of the other places in Texas, you know, smaller communities that need help. So we’re very interested in helping with that problem there.

And it is true that we’re lucky in Colorado because we have the Colorado Department of Agriculture has a division called PACFA the that stands for the Pet Animal Care Facilities Act, and they license all of the shelters, rescues, breeders, head adopters, et cetera, transporters in Colorado, and we have to abide by their regulations and a lot of states don’t have that. And so they have a minimum care of standards for pets that most rescues and shelters are far above that. But at least they have the minimum standard care, and they also require any pets that are adopted out of shelters or rescues to be spayed or neutered prior to adoption. So that helps with the pet overpopulation problem, too. I’m intrigued by that, because literally, I mean, obviously, your state has proven that that’s working without the overpopulation being an issue.

So while we’re on the subject of that, I know you said you transport animals to and from other shelters in Texas. But do you guys transport with other states to, kind of, get animals in for potential adopters? We do. We worked with several shelters in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas. We’ve worked with shelters in Utah occasionally. Like I said, quite a few in Texas, Arkansas. We worked with some groups in Arkansas, and the transporters also have to be PACFA licensed, which means that the pets during transport, they have to be in carriers that are safe and that aren’t stacked on top of each other, where you know anything can drop down onto the pets and the bottom carriers. They have to stop every six hours for potty breaks, etcetera. So even the transporters bringing the pets in the Colorado have to abide by these regulations for the pets safety. So, yeah, we work with quite a few shelters in other states. That’s awesome. And we mentioned it brings animals in for potential adopters and that benefits you guys.

So how many animals would you say you guys keep in your care between the fosters and the adoption centers that you have for those cats? At any one time, we have around 100 and that includes dogs and cats. Last year, we adopted out over 1500 dogs and cats, and we’re on track to do even more than that this year. That’s a big number. So well done, to you guys. Well, we’re trying to save as many lives as possible. We’re trying to be part of the national push to make 2025 the gold year for no-kill nation, where no more pets are euthanize. So the only way to go about it is through spay and neuter and stopping the puppy mills and educating the public. Yeah, I like that you mentioned that.

Do you guys do any type of programs to, kind of, not even just education programs, but do you guys offer any programs to your community? The only thing we do is through social media posts on social media. We don’t actually hold any type of formal classes, et cetera. And the reason for that we used to back when we first started, we were smaller. But we also learned that we have to narrow our focus, to focus on our main goal and mission, which is saving lives. And if we get too scattered with humane education or doing things we just don’t have the resources to save the lives that we want to save and do that, too. So we have to rely on other groups and use their resources to help publicize it. That’s interesting to me because usually you hear about organizations, you know, they always do type of programs. But I really like that you mentioned that you guys focus more on saving the lives and saving the animals, and honestly, that’s really great. And you’re doing your job and that is just as good as putting on programs, right? Right, right.

If we were a bigger, larger organization like Best Friends or something, you know, and had more resources we’ll be able to do that. But because we’re a small rescue group, we have to focus on what we’re good at. But we do spread the word around definitely with education both to our fosters and adopters and also, you know, on social media and on our website. Essentially, to put an answer to that, I mean, there’s really no right or wrong answer. You guys, they’re still doing great and you guys are making it a point to put it out there. So that’s a really great even, like you said, you’re a small rescue, but you’ve got that vision and you guys have that mindset to inform your community, even by social media, so that’s great to hear. Yeah.

So what would you consider is your biggest challenges as an organization? I would say finding volunteers and fosters because everyone’s busy. Most people work, a lot of them have families and kids. Fostering is very rewarding, and people who try it, love it. But there are times for instance, with the holidays coming up, where people are traveling and that’s always a challenge. So we’re facing that currently, right now. One of the challenges that we face in Colorado is the Denver Pit bull ban, you know, the breed specific legislation has really hurt us because we love Pit bulls. We love to adopt them out, and we think they’re wonderful. And the fact that we can’t adopt them out in the city of Denver limits the number of homes that are available for them. And there are a lot of rescue groups working with the Denver shelter to get Pit bulls out of that shelter and get them into homes outside the Denver city limits. But it’s just it’s gone on for so many years that it’s– it’s really frustrating. And all of the rescue groups in Colorado, you know, we’re very aware of this situation, and none of us like it, but it’s there.

Another challenge is just educating the public, as you mentioned, of the importance of spaying and neutering to prevent pet overpopulation. And, you know, I’d say backyard breeders are one of our biggest challenges. You know, people who want their dog or cat to have kittens or puppies because their dog is so cute. Or maybe they have a papered official dog that they bought, and they want to keep the line going. But it really doesn’t help the overall situation. There are so many pets, I think the estimate is 2,200 pets die in shelters every single day in the U.S. And so, as long as people keep letting their own pets have kittens and puppies, they’re contributing to the problem. There’s still a lot of people that aren’t really aware of it, or if they are, I don’t know if they don’t care. They just think, “well, you know, I’m gonna do this anyway.” So that’s a frustration that we face always.

And puppy mills are another thing. I think most people are starting to clue in to puppy mills and the pets that you buy at pet stores often come from puppy mills, and a lot of times they have a lot of health issues and behavior issues, and luckily that’s getting publicized more, in the news, and on the media. So I think more people are aware that. One of the things that stood out to me about your website was that you guys have on their all of your stats from 2018 and I find that awesome because like I said, everybody loves to see numbers. People are drawn to it and so that was one of the things that I enjoyed seeing on your website.

And I kind of wanna change topics here a little bit to point out, I love on your website that you guys share happy tails. I love hearing that, that really touches my heart. I love reading through it to see all the happy endings. But I also loved the Rainbow Bridge Tributes that you had on there because I haven’t seen that before. So I thought it was really great cause I clicked on it a little bit. I’m like, “what is this all about?” I absolutely loved both of those topics from the Happy Tails and then I also love that you guys give recognition to the animals that have passed on. They were in your care and everything like that. So that was just something I wanted to point out to you. Well, thank you. That makes me feel good, I’m glad. It’s something we do want to share because it’s that personal touch. You know, pets do mean a lot, and the Happy Tails are great stories that we want to share with everyone and so are the Rainbow Bridge Tributes, because when a pet passes, it’s important to help people work through their grief and share their memories of that special pet. And I think that’s really important because working with pets is an emotional business. They really are like family members. And as we all know, the loss of a pet can be even harder than losing a family member, for some people. And we do grieve when we lose pets. And so if we’re able to offer up an outlet on our website through our Rainbow Bridge Tribute, we’re happy to do that. And we encourage people to do that and the same with the Happy Tails. That’s a time to celebrate when a pet finds a forever home after losing a former home, being in a shelter, and now they’ve got a loving home again. It’s just fantastic. That’s what it’s all about. Absolutely. I love it stood out to me. I love those emotional pulls, you know, I’m a huge animal person, and I do, I view them like they’re my family. My pets are like one of my kids. And so I enjoyed seeing that. And I love having that on there because you are right, it adds that personal touch to everything. And I think that’s great for an organization to have. Well, great. Yeah, of course.

And I also saw on there quite a bit of helpful links for people of your community. And do you know right off hand some of those links that you could share with me? Well, we have links to help people, for instance, find housing if they have a pet and they’re having a hard time finding a place to live. We have links to different apartment complexes that are pet-friendly or different websites that list pet friendly housing. We have behavior resource information. You know, when people are having problems with training a dog, or a cat. We have resources that they can look up. We also have links that discuss the Denver breed ban, and answer questions so that people could know where they can have a Pit bull, and where they can’t. And we try to include as much information as we can for pet adopters to help them get settled with their new pet. And we want everybody to have a happy experience and we’re here to help in whatever way we can. Yeah, I found that helpful. I mean, I’m not in that area, but I think that any of our listeners who are in your area, they can click on your website and if they need any type of information, I think it’s great that your organization offers them that without having to go and find it, because I feel like there’s a lot of resources out there for pet owners that a lot of people don’t know about. Right, and there’s so much information out there, and a lot of people just don’t know where to turn. So we’re trying to make it easy. Yes.

So I’m curious as to what your vision is for your organization, future-wise, I kind of want to know what your future like for your organization? Well, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. It works, and that’s our passion, is just pulling the homeless dogs and cats from shelters. The at risk pets that are in danger of euthanasia and putting in an adoptive homes. That’s really what we see for our future, too. And we’d like to grow and just continue saving more lives as long as we have to, of course, that we would love to have the day come when we don’t have to do that anymore. But right now, it’s just so rewarding when we get emails while these shelters and there are pictures and descriptions of all of these pets that have been surrendered or they’re found as strays, and they are going to be euthanized because usually lack space. Shelters are full, they have a limited capacity. And so if rescue groups like ours don’t pull them in time, the pets are gonna lose their lives. And so it’s urgent. So we as soon as we get these lists, our Dog Division Director, chooses those dogs that she thinks we can find foster homes for. We send out a “dog’s in need list” to all of our volunteers and fosters, we post them on Facebook, and then we try to find fosters, you know, as soon as possible so that they can make it on the next transport to clear the kennels out in the shelter so that they can bring more pets in. And then these pets don’t have to die. So it’s a constant cycle. Yeah. And it keeps us busy every day, and you just never know, you know, what the day’s gonna bring. But that really is our goal for the future, is to keep saving more lives until we don’t have to anymore. Honestly, that’s what it’s all about, you know, you guys are making a difference little by little.

So you had mentioned that you guys bring animals that are at risk for being euthanized. Is that specifically what you guys focus on when looking for an animal to be brought to you guys? Or do you guys take in any type of special cases? How do you guys go about choosing them? That is the hard part, ‘cause there’s so many and we wish that we could help them all but we do have to choose. So, yes, we choose the ones that are in danger of being euthanized soon. A lot of them will have a time limit. Like, for instance, it’ll say Ruby is on the euthanasia list for tomorrow unless she gets on this transport, and those are the really urgent cases. Sometimes they have a few days, or maybe until the next week and so you know, we have a few days to find fosters for them, but we do focus on those urgent pets, and then we also do bring in quite a few of the special needs pets. We brought in many pets, cats and dogs with broken bones, cancer tumors, severe injuries, illnesses, heartworm and sometimes we know about it ahead of time. Other times it shows up after they’ve already gotten settled in a foster home and when they go to the vet or the foster notices something’s off. So we treat all of our pets for whatever they need prior to adoption, and we treat them just like we would our own pet. If they need it, they get it.

Our main expense is veterinary expenses, just because of that, you know, in a surgery could be thousands of dollars. We just had a little dog with a broken pelvis, for instance, and the pelvis had been broken for a long time, and it took a surgery and then about six months for him to recover but now he’s been adopted. So it’s great. And we’ve had pets that we’ve had to amputate a leg because they came in with a badly healed break. Probably they’ve gotten hit by a car and the leg never got fixed and so it healed improperly. And so to avoid the risk of having arthritis and pain later in life, a lot of times the vets will recommend just amputating the leg. So, you know, that’s just kind of a few examples.

We’ve had pets have one or two eyes removed because of injuries or illnesses I know things that sound awful but once it’s done, the pet can actually live a healthy, happy life free of pain. We want to make sure that every adoption is successful in every pet lives a healthy, happy life within our power and resources will do all that we can because numbers are important, like you say. But every single pet is important because every single pet is an individual life with a soul and feelings and I have to do is look into their eyes and you know it and we treat each one as an individual and that’s the reward too. Yes, and I wish more people would see it that way.

So, Karen, you are the Founder of this organization, and you’ve obviously had a lot of experience. Could you share with me any type of memorable story about either–got you in the position that you’re in now or intrigued you to save animals? Do you have anything like that that you can share with us today? I do. I actually was inspired to start Animal Rescue of the Rockies because of a little dog that I adopted from the Summit County Animal Shelter. She was my first dog. I had always had cats. Her name was Buffy, and she was a little Scotty Terrier/Cocker Spaniel mix. She was all black. She was adorable. Aww. And she was just the happiest little dog. And when she was five years old, she had a rupture disk in her back that left her paralyzed in her hind quarters and surgery couldn’t correct it. So she ended up spending the next 9 1/2 years in one of those little doggie carts. And she was just the best little ambassador. She–everywhere I would walk in Breckenridge, I couldn’t get 10 feet down the street on Main Street in Breckenridge without somebody stopping me and then ask “what happened to her?” And so it would open up a whole conversation, but it really showed me how a pet can bring people together, and I could see how much she inspired other people. And people would drive by and just get these big smiles on their faces just from seeing her running along in her cart.

She taught me determination, never give up, that you can overcome anything and she inspired me to help other pets. I just loved her so much that I just wanted to help other pets. So I really thank her for being my inspiration. Aww and I find that so great that you said that people would drive by and they just have the biggest smiles on their face because if you could see me right now, I have the biggest smile, and I didn’t even see her. But this part of the podcast and you know the memorable stories has to be my ultimate favorite part because it’s great to hear the happy endings. But also, you know, because those stories they start sad and obviously that pet has been through something. But then, to hear such a happy outcome, it really warms my heart and it makes it all worthwhile. So thank you so much for sharing that.

Sure, I have another one, if you’d like to hear. Yes! There’s a dog named Sugar that we brought in from Houston, and she is a female, red/white Pit bull and she had cancer, she had a venereal tumor. It’s curable in dogs, but it was really awful and really causing her some a lot of discomfort. And so we discovered it after she got up here to Colorado. So we took her to CSU and they were able to treat her and cure her of that. But in the meantime, they discovered that she had a heart defect that required surgery. Wow. So she, uh, ended up having heart surgery and after she finished her cancer treatment and she had just been through so much. This is such a wonderful story because after she had gone through all of this, the foster woman who had fostered her in Houston contacted us, and she had been following her on our emails and Facebook to see what her progress was and she said, you know, my husband and I, I’ve just decided that we want to give Sugar a forever home. So they drove all the way up here from Houston on a Friday night after work, picked Sugar up on Saturday, and drove all the way back to Houston. And she lives now in a home with a swimming pool in the backyard that she just adores. She loves to swim, and I get to see videos of her all the time. Swimming in the pool and she’s got a big doggie pack that she lives with and she’s just the happiest girl. And it was just so crazy that she came from Houston, went through all of this in Colorado and ended up back in Houston. Aww, but that’s so great. And I love that you get videos of her and you get to see her and isn’t funny how just that cycle goes around? Yeah. And she ended up back in Houston, but in a better home. That’s amazing.

It really was and we do always encourage adopters, you know, to send us photos and pictures because we love to see those that makes it all worthwhile. Yeah, and you figure you guys spend so much time with these animals as it is. You know, obviously you don’t just forget about them. Getting an update is just amazing in general. It is. It is, and we’ve had several cats too, that have really touched our hearts who have come in in such bad shape, you know, just really badly injured for being on the streets or broken legs or dragging a leg and to see them get fixed up and then go on to be pampered and spoiled in their new homes. And it’s just the best feeling. It is and if I volunteer at the shelter, my husband always says I need a ranch because I would bring them all home with me. I mean, clearly, I have five pets, as it is. Right! Isn’t that the truth? I know.

Yes, I mean, I stay super busy, but me and my husband, we kind of grew up differently when it comes to animals and I was always around animals, whereas he was not and so it’s important for us to instill in our children the importance of loving and caring for an animal and teaching them that they do have feelings, and they do have emotions. And we got my kids a hamster, and I have a two year old and a four year old and they know how to change her cage and they know how to handle her and, you know, same with our cats and our dogs. So I find it very important. I agree with you, but I think that that is the key to the future for animals in this country, is the children. This next generation is going to end the generation after that is gonna make all the difference because, as you know, animal welfare has evolved, and it’s improved when you look back at the sixties and seventies, when millions and millions of pets were being euthanized every year and we are working in the right direction, but it is going to take time. And so teaching children the importance of animal care and the value of animals in the home is going to make all the difference for the future. That is one thing that I firmly agree with. I feel like the children are our future, and if we can instill all of this great information on how to care for pets, and the right ways and wrong ways, that this could ultimately change the future for animals, in general. So I’m with you 100%! Definitely.

So how can one go about getting in touch with your organization? Whether it is to volunteer or foster or just adopt an animal? You can contact us either via email, which is, or go to our website, which is And those were the two best ways to contact us directly. We are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under Animal Rescue of the Rockies, but it’s easiest and quickest to contact us via email at Okay great! Thank you for sharing that. I think it’s beneficial for our listeners to hear that, because if there’s anybody in your area, I want to make sure that they know how to get in contact with you guys.

Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us today before we wrap things up? I would just like to encourage everyone to love their pets and realize how valuable they are, spend time with them, play with them, give them what they need, and they’ll give you back more tenfold and also to help spread the word to people. If you hear somebody talking about breeding their pet, you know, speak up and say, “Hey, you know that’s not a good idea and here’s why.” Because we can’t do it all as rescues and shelters. We need everybody out there to be advocates for animals. So if you are an animal lover, please keep your ears and eyes open.

If you see an animal that needs help, contact a rescue or a shelter. Don’t just ignore it and educate yourself on ways you can help. You know, maybe you trap, neuter, return or going to the school and giving a talk to the kids at school. There’s so many ways to help, so I would just encourage everyone to do something. If everybody just does one thing, the world would be a better place and that’s what we’re trying to do. Make the world a better place for both people and pets. And that’s a great add in. Thank you so much for touching point on that and encouraging people. We’re just as guilty if we stand by and see something happen and not do something about it. All right, Karen. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. And I’ve learned so much about your organization, and I hope that this helps our listeners. And, you know, other organizations can maybe pick up on some of the stuff that you guys are doing. So thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, Kimberly. I enjoyed it.

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