Pandemic presents challenges with a bright side for Routt County Humane Society |

Pandemic presents challenges with a bright side for Routt County Humane Society

Animal shelters across the nation have witnessed an increased demand for animals during the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the Routt County Humane Society has also seen more interest, Unfortunately, the local shelter, which can have as many as 20 dogs and 40-50 cats, has not been able to bring in animals from other parts of the state during the crises. Because of those restrictions the humane society in Steamboat Springs only has four cats currently.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Alisa Bonelli stepped in as the new fundraising and events coordinator for the Routt County Humane Society, she knew it was going to be a challenge, but she never imagined she’d be trying to tackle the responsibilities of her new job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It makes it a rough start,” Bonelli said. “I started right at the end of February and immediately had a lot of great ideas and then kind of got sidelined.”

This is happening at a time when the local Humane Society has seen an increased demand for animals and more requests for assistance from dog and cat owners who are suddenly struggling to afford purchasing food for their pets or paying for emergency veterinary services.

Because of COVID-19, the Humane Society had to cancel several planned fundraisers and is shifting to a more virtual fundraising strategy, including the Ready.Set.Bark! Run, a Virtual Paint and Sip class and the Sit. Stay. Home! Film Festival.

“We can’t bring in any cats or dogs, so that’s a revenue source we just don’t have right now,” Bonelli said.

As part of the orders put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, animals shelters are no longer allowed to make transfers between facilities. And while the pandemic has been bad news in most places, new Routt County Humane Society Executive Director Elaine Hicks said it has not been so bad for shelter animals looking for homes.

“Nationwide adoptions have been off the chart, and it’s been because of the pandemic,” Hicks said. “People being at home has provided an opportunity to have time to train the animal, get it accustomed to the house and that kind of thing. We’ve seen it here definitely — some of our long-term cats and dogs found homes very quickly when this all started. It’s been kind of a blessing in disguise in a lot of ways for the long-term animals.”

Ways to help
  • The Ready. Set. Bark! Run fundraiser is slated to start on April 17. Participants can register before April 13 for $25 and will pledge how much they will run or walk in a week’s time from April 24 to 30. Participant’s names will be added to the Routt County Humane Society website so that friends and family can make donations to support the runners’ or walkers’ efforts.
  • Upcoming events will include a virtual paint and sip where participants will pay $50 and receive painting supplies and a bottle of wine. They will then take part in an online painting
  • The final fundraising effort will be the Sit. Stay. Home! Film Festival. Details about that event will be announced at a later date.
  • Those wanting to help can also go to the support  button on the Routt County Humane Society website to make a donation, make a tribute or memorial donation, sponsor a kennel or adopt a Routt County Humane Society donation box.
  • The shelter is open from noon to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Those wanting to adopt or drop off pets are asked to call 970-879-7247.

But the pandemic has also resulted in people losing their jobs and the shelter is hoping to provide those who have fallen on particularly hard times with the food and services they need to care for their pets.

“We’ve just basically tried to follow best practices and to keep up on everything that’s going on within not only our community but our surrounding communities and across the country,” Hicks said. “We really kind of expected some more owner surrenders just because of the financial situation, but that hasn’t come to fruition, which is a great thing. We have also planned for folks who may need assistance with food. So we definitely have food available if people are in need of that.”

She said the response to the pandemic has been very positive in a challenging sort of way.

“We are the community animal shelter and want to have the resources available for the community,” Hicks said. “Our hearts go out to everybody in the communities and nationwide that have experienced this. We are just thankful that animals have been a kind of a source of support for people.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User