JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A local shelter is working to keep pets and their people together in Jefferson County.

Comparing now to 2019, owner surrenders are up 60% at Foothills Animal Shelter. A program called Better Together is working to save more pets from being given up by helping families going through difficult life events.

“This program is focused on really providing resources for families who have pets, who want to keep their pets, but are experiencing a circumstance that might cause them challenges and keeping them in their home,” Foothills Animal Shelters’ Joan Thielen said. “This could be housing issues, things like domestic violence, hospitalization. They really just need temporary placement for their pets while they overcome those circumstances.”

Program fosters, boards animals to avert surrenders

With the Better Together Program, families are referred to the shelter through human service agencies and animal control partners. The shelter then works to board family’s pets at Foothills or with a foster family for an average of 10 days. Should circumstances warrant a longer stay, there is a new case worker at the shelter who is focused on working directly with families needing help.

“Since January of this year through August, we’ve seen 40 pets that need temporary placement due to their owners being hospitalized,” Thielen said. “So there’s a significant need for that service. If you can imagine being hospitalized, going through this incredibly difficult situation, then not having your pet back at home. We want to alleviate that. We want you to go home, have your pet, have that comfort.”

In the first five months of the year, 152 families were supported through the following circumstances with the program:

  • 23 housing
  • 40 hospitalized 
  • 6 domestic violence
  • 43 incarceration 
  • 28 owner deceased
  • 7 not documented/unknown 

From January to August of this year, 436 pets were enrolled in Better Together.