Contrary to recent rumors, Citizens for Animal Welfare and Shelter is not closing. Also known as CAWS, the organization is looking for a group or organization to take over operations at the animal shelter in Delta.
At its July 20 monthly meeting the board of directors discussed reducing its overhead by divesting itself of the CAWS Adoption Center in Delta and transition to a volunteer-based organization. This, they believe, will allow CAWS to better serve its mission of offering spay and neuter and vaccination programs, and fostering and adoption of homeless, abused or unwanted dogs and cats.
CAWS relies largely on grants, donations, adoption fees and the Barkin' Bargains resale store in Paonia for its funding. Barkin' Bargains, which is run entirely by volunteers, covers the cost of services related to its mission, but the shelter's operational costs are affecting the organization's ability to provide those services.
Payroll and vet bills make up the majority of the shelter's costs, said treasurer Robbi Cox. Income from adoption fees and donations offset vet bills, but payroll, the biggest expense, is resulting in monthly losses of between $3,000-$4,000. In the first six months of 2017 CAWS reported a net loss for the shelter of $22,800, with a payroll of $26,500. "Right now all the money goes to the shelter," which leaves nothing for those other programs, said Cox.
As of July 20 CAWS was sheltering eight dogs, and has another dog, nine kittens and a soon-to-be-fixed young mother in foster care. The board has adopted a directive of "no new intakes" for the shelter, with the exception of emergencies and adoptions that aren't working out.
CAWS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that began in 1998 as the Animal Shelter of Delta County. The City of Delta, which owns the 12-kennel shelter located at 640 W. Fourth Street, has leased the facility to CAWS rent-free since 2012, said Delta community development director Glen Black. "It's a great partnership."
Under their agreement, the city pays utilities and property-related expenses in exchange for using the facility for the city's animal control program, said Black. The release fees for impounded animals goes to CAWS, and when an impounded animal is not claimed, CAWS works to adopt the animal out.
The city is willing to work with CAWS on a transition, said Black. If CAWS is unable to find a suitable successor, the city would revert to running the facility as a city pound.
Closing the shelter is a "last resort," said board member Lynn Wetherell. The board spent the last 30 days contacting other animal rescue and nonprofit organizations, and reached out to the city to see if they are interested in taking over operations.
In considering the fate of the shelter, the board looked at two possible options at last week's meeting, including continuing to operate the shelter "... with some changes in operational structure that could lower costs," wrote board president Angela Cerci last Friday on Facebook. "The second was a proposal from a newly formed organization, based in Delta, who are in the process of obtaining not-for-profit status."
The board unanimously supports the latter proposal and is in the process of discussing how best to support the organization and the City of Delta in making that transition, said Cox.