Denver animal shelter opens new space, continues renovation project

The shelter space increased by 40%


After more than 40 years of using the same animal kennels, the Denver Dumb Friends League was well overdue for an upgrade to its shelters.

The newly named Leslie A. Malone Center features new kennels, better drainage and soundproofing. The kennels are also set up in a way that means dogs will no longer have to go from one end of the shelter to get to adoption rooms or checkup areas. This helps cut down on the animal’s stress, said Jasmine McCormick, an adoption associate for the Denver Dumb Friends League.

“It’s all the little things that are really amazing,” McCormick said. “In the adoptions lobby it’s been better on the animals for sure. They seem happier to me in those kennels.”

The renovation project was launched two years ago as part of a $40 million capital campaign that has several phases, including the shelter space. The organization, which runs as a nonprofit, is also doing construction on veterinary spaces for surgery, as well as a new space for animal behavior, said Joan Thielen, communications specialist with the Denver Dumb Friends League.

The center is named after Leslie Malone of the Malone Family Foundation. The foundation agreed to donate $20 million in matching funds during the campaign. The organization also helped fund the Denver Dumb Friends League equine center near Castle Rock, which opened in 2012. Thielen said the nonprofit has raised all the needed funds for the campaign and that construction is expected to be completed on all phases in 2020.

In August, the shelter nonprofit hosted a grand opening for the renovated shelter space, located at 2080 S. Quebec St. Construction added an additional 25,000 square feet to what the nonprofit previously had. This was a 40% increase in kennel space for both cats and dogs, Thielen said.

This was an important factor in the renovations, said Thielen. As the largest animal welfare shelter in the region, the Denver Dumb Friends League accepts animals from nearby states. Shelters in places like Texas and Oklahoma will often send their animals to Denver because they do not have the space and they do not want to euthanize them. Because Denver is such a dog-friendly city, those animals also have a better chance of being adopted here, Thielen said.

She added that the shelter gets between 30 and 50 a dogs a week from those out-of-state areas.

“Our transfer program is so amazing,” McCormick said. “People feel so good about it.”

Layout of the shelter

The dog shelter portion of the Denver Dumb Friends League was built in 1973. At the time, it was considered state-of-the-art, Thielen said.

“Animal welfare has changed,” Thielen said. “(We’re) just bringing the shelter up to date to help the pets that we serve, but also our community here in Denver and what their needs are.”

McCormick said that the shelter area is set up into four different pod spaces. Each of those pods has 10 kennels for dogs and two adoption rooms. The nonprofit can take people to the adoption rooms directly in the pod with the animal they are looking at adopting.

In addition to helping with animal stress, it can also help with contagions if that animal is sick since it doesn’t have to go throughout the building.

The kennels have large glass windows with a unique frosted design on them. The design allows animals to move from one space in the kennel where they can see across to other animals, or to a frosted area where they can hide if they are nervous or tired.

“That makes them less nervous and helps with the stress,” McCormick said.

The kennels have connecting doors that can be moved up if there are animals who are bonded with each other that prefer to share spaces. Heated floors and speakers are also new additions to the kennel.

The speakers are often used by the behavior team at the Denver Dumb Friends League, which uses musical therapy to help calm animals. This can be particularly helpful for animals that do not trust humans and have become aggressive.

Jim Thoeming, a volunteer with the shelter, said you can quickly tell which animals were mistreated or had a bad life prior to coming to the Denver Dumb Friends League. With some, it’s apparent by their physical condition, in their fur or animals with injuries. Other animals are so skittish around people that they won’t even accept the treats or bits of hot dog that Thoeming carries in his pocket.

But if you give the animal a chance, he said, many of them respond to the care and attention they get.

Animal health and welfare

The Denver Dumb Friends League is working on pet admissions and lost and found, which is the third phase of the construction project. It will have a similar layout to the adoptions area Thielen said.

Moving forward, the shelter is also doing construction on a new surgical area. Right now, the Denver Dumb Friends League has one space for animal surgeries, which can get very crowded. The new space will have a room specifically for spay and neuter procedures, a dental procedure room and one for orthopedic surgeries or whatever else is needed for the animal’s care. The facility will also have recovery rooms that are specific to cats and dogs, Thielen said.

Finally, the nonprofit’s animal behavior team will have their own space in the new facility, which they did not have previously, Thielen said.

Behavior is becoming something that more shelters are working on with animals. Behavior analysis can help families pick an animal that will fit in with their dynamic.

Thielen added that the nonprofit runs a behavioral help line that’s available to anyone. If people are having behavior issues with their pets they can call the phone number and a specialist will help them through what’s happening. Thielen said the goal is to help avoid the family deciding to relinquish the pet.

Some of the programs the Denver Dumb Friends League offers, such as Kitty Comfort and Canine Courage, help dogs and cats that may be dealing with stress or overstimulation.

“There’s a lot of animals that come in that are just not ready to go up for adoption to the public yet,” McCormick said. “If the animal is just a little too shy we don’t want to push them.”


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