Change happens. Animal welfare is progressive. We know that people come and go, the needs of a community change and so – change happens and organizations grow! In 2020, the Cheyenne Animal Shelter will hit a milestone – 50 years of lifesaving. Where did the time go, and how much have we changed?
Like the auspicious beginnings of most animal shelters around the country, it was a group of concerned citizens who first met in August 1970 to formulate plans for creating the Cheyenne Animal Shelter. Ten people attended the first organizational meeting held in what was then the basement of the Baptist Church at 1914 Thomes Ave. Their first major fundraising event, the ORPHAN Sale (an acronym for “Our Rescue for Poor Homeless Animals), was held the following October. The $1,500 that was raised allowed the membership to start their first “pet adoption center,” which was essentially a telephone service bringing together people looking for pets with people who had pets to surrender.
Although the location of the center was kept secret, invariably the public would discover the room, garage or office, and would leave lost or unwanted animals on the doorstep. Office equipment consisted of a portable heater and a telephone that rang constantly during the hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday and was staffed by dedicated volunteers. The telephone number of the Adoption Center was 307-632-6655 – and the Cheyenne Animal Shelter still holds that number 50 years later!
The following month, the shelter purchased new cat cages for the facility, which was now known as the Cheyenne Animal Shelter. New puppy cages and large cages for mother dogs and their litters were added to the inventory in October. In December 1973, the Cheyenne Animal Shelter instituted the policy of having everyone who adopts a dog or cat sign a contract insuring spaying or neutering and leaving a refundable deposit as an aid to enforcement. Then – as today – the major cause of unwanted animals was overpopulation.
The Cheyenne Animal Shelter took over the control, operation and responsibility of the City Dog Pound to provide housing for lost or unwanted animals in July 1973. The first annual contract with the city of Cheyenne was signed at this time, and a professional salaried manager was employed. In July 1980, a three-year-contract was signed with the city of Cheyenne, with the right of financial renegotiation each year. Under the Joint Powers agreement between the city of Cheyenne and Laramie County, a contract was also signed with Laramie County in July 1980. At this time, enforcement and animal control were placed under the City-County Health Department.
Our locations have been on Happy Jack Road, on the east side of the bridge, on Parsley Boulevard, and for the past 15 years, 800 Southwest Drive. In 1990, animal control was officially placed under the purview of the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.
Looking through our archive of animal reports, the shelter generally saw an average of 500 pets per month. That is until our current facility was opened when the numbers rose into the thousands. Most years, our numbers hovered around 5,000 pets per year, but last year, the Cheyenne Animal Shelter cared for more than 6,000 pets. Wow! How things do change!
Still, there are so many positives! Our Big Fix program offers low cost spay/neutering to income-qualified residents for their pets. In-house, our medical team provides alterations to all pets that are adopted from the shelter. Last year, we topped 2,300. That’s a lot of unwanted litters avoided!
In 2005, the Cheyenne Animal Shelter Foundation was created with a $1 million endowment by supporters Marian Rochelle and Anne McCraken. This fund, which is separate from the shelter funds, has now grown to more than $5 million. It is invested to provide long-term sustainability to the shelter, with $41,500 returned monthly to help support shelter operations.
Now, as we reflect on our 50 years of service to this community, there just aren’t enough ways to say thank you to the community, which has helped us in our successes along the way! YOU made our work possible, and YOU helped us save thousands of lives.