Jan 292012
Authors: Kate Winkle

If it were up to Sandra Risler, Animal House, Fort Collins’ local no-kill animal shelter, wouldn’t exist, and all dogs would have loving homes.

But it was after noticing that the city’s local animal shelter was on the outskirts of town while pet stores sat in prime shopping locations, that Risler, the co-founder and executive director of Animal House decided to team up with Ali Eccleston in March 2007.

“If those in a shelter had the opportunity of exposure that animals do in a store, they would find their loving homes,” said Risler. “We’re putting a storefront on the dreary, sad shelter environment.”

Since the shelter’s inception, more than 2,000 pets have been adopted, according to Risler, with a record of 487 adoptions in the shelter’s first year. Last year 458 dogs were adopted — many with the help of the shelter’s website, which connected Coloradans as well as people outside the state with new pets.

“Our mission is to work with other animal shelters and rescues to support where they have a lack of resources and to educate the public about the effects of overpopulation and the plight of the homeless shelter pet,” Risler said.

And while Animal House offers a rehabilitation and adoption center paired with a grooming salon, its central location also allows CSU students a chance to volunteer.

“It’s a pretty wide variety of volunteers — students come because they need community service hours for classes or miss their dogs from home. We get a lot of pre-vet kiddos and lots of other students, too,” said Kim Clarkson, Animal House Volunteer Coordinator.

Volunteers can walk dogs, foster dogs or help with fundraising and events. Potential volunteers attend an informational orientation, and set up their first training after applying online. There is a $30 fee for training, which includes the price of a background check and a t-shirt.

“My freshman year I was really homesick,” said Gillian Rankin, a senior biology and zoology double major who works in the shelter. “Playing with dogs is a good way to alleviate homesickness, so I volunteered there. Then I was told they were hiring, and I’ve been working there for a year-and-a-half.”

“Animal House gives dogs second chances, which is one of the best goals any rescue group can have,” Rankin added.

In addition to volunteering, the community can also support Animal House through social media. The shelter’s website and Facebook page allow employees and owners to communicate its needs and share its projects.

“Any help is needed,” Rankin said. “As little as walking dogs to donating. It’s a cumulative thing, and you can tell if one person is doing a little bit to help.”

Animal House is currently in the inception phases of owning its own facility, which will require land and about $1.25 million in funds to build the new shelter.

“We know that each dog has its own person waiting for it; it’s only a matter of time. It takes a while, but they all go home eventually,” Risler said.

Collegian writer Kate Winkle can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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