Donations hit low point for nearly-full Longmont Humane Society

For more than 50 years, animal lovers have found faithful companions at Longmont Humane Society. But the longstanding shelter for dogs, cats and other critters is currently facing a big challenge in the form of community support.

In 2020, 45% of the shelter’s expenses were covered by donations. That number dropped to 43% in 2021 and sank to 34% in 2022. The shelter also operated at a six-figure deficit last year.

“This year is looking about the same,” said Russell Hinkle, interim CEO of Longmont Humane. “We’re on pace to have a huge deficit similar to last year, if not more. That’s a really tough trend.”

The decline in charitable donations is one of four components Hinkle says are hurting Longmont Humane’s ability to serve its coverage area, which includes Lyons in the west and Carbon Valley in the east. The other three are increased abandonment and surrender rates for animals, increased operating costs, and a decline in adoptions.

These four trends all work together: as fewer pets are adopted, the cost of running the shelter goes up, which is made more difficult by donations being down.

“You can kind of see it’s like a positive feedback loop,” Hinkle said. “It just ends up costing a lot more to keep these animals.”

Hinkle said the drop in adoptions and spike in surrenders partially comes from people moving for jobs, which can be hard to do with a pet. Longmont Humane board chair Darlene Coker added that the post-pandemic wave of workers returning to the office also discourages new pet ownership.

“People might be less inclined to adopt a pet if they feel like they’re not going to be home with it all day,” Coker said.

Hinkle emphasized these trends are happening at shelters across the country, not just in Longmont or Boulder County. He said a lot of the issues stem from inflation, like how the rising cost of dog food leads to challenges for both the shelter and pet owners.

“You’re looking at your budget, and it’s like, ‘Can I even afford to go get that dog I want?’” Hinkle said.

Longmont Humane is operating near capacity. The shelter is still taking in animals, however, using some of its 350 kennels to double-up housing for a few of the smaller occupants.

In addition to caring for roughly 4,000 animals each year, the shelter offers dog training classes, a low-cost pet clinic, temporary boarding and a handful of other services that align with its mission of creating responsible pet owners. Providing high-quality care is key for the nonprofit; dogs take multiple walks a day and healthy, adoptable animals are never euthanized.

“It’s that human-animal bond that we really are focusing on,” Coker said.

In fact, Longmont Humane has a 98% live release rate for animals in its care, which Hinkle said is higher than both the state and national average.

“We have an obligation to the pets in our community to treat them well and to give them a good, respectful life,” he said. “We care about the animals for who they are, not just as an object that comes in to be part of our finances.”

A walk through the shelter’s Boulder County Fairgrounds home exemplifies this. A “community pet pantry” offers free resources like food and toys to owners in need. Adoptable dogs and cats have sheets on their kennels with detailed information about their unique traits and habits; some kennels even display portraits of their occupants drawn by kids and volunteers.

Going forward, Longmont Humane is considering ways to bolster funding outside of direct donations. These options include sponsorships, grants, events and rightsizing impoundment contracts with local municipalities. Staff also hope to onboard more active volunteers, the amount of which fell from 700 before the pandemic to around 450 today.

Even with these challenges, Hinkle and Coker both said they’re optimistic about the humane society’s future. They stressed that while the shelter isn’t looking to close its doors, it still needs an appropriate level of funding to operate well.

“We have to provide these services,” Hinkle said. “I think our impact kind of speaks for itself.”

For more information about Longmont Humane Society, including how to donate, visit or stop by the shelter at 9595 Nelson Road.

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