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Farmington Animal Shelter needs foster homes as kennel population grows

Volunteer discusses joy of the job
Stacie Voss, animal welfare director at the Farmington Animal Shelter, on Thursday holds a puppy from a litter that will soon need a foster home. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

FARMINGTON – With the Farmington Animal Shelter nearly at full capacity, animals that are too young or require special attention need foster care until they can move to a permanent home.

The Farmington Animal Shelter building was built in 2013, and while the shelter is run by the city, a task force outfitted the shelter and sold sponsorships for the rooms in the shelter. Each room of animals is labeled with a sponsor’s name or company. So many sponsors came forward that even some kennels bear their names.

“We have animals who aren’t ready for adoption yet; there’s a lot that come in too young, or we have animals that need medical treatment or more socialization or something like that,” said shelter director Stacie Voss. “The shelter is not a very good place for those animals; they are more vulnerable and need some TLC and need to be in a home, so that’s where our foster homes come in.”

Foster care responsibilities include giving that attention – feeding, potty training, checkups and vaccinations – and just caring for the animal. However, the foster parent does not pay for anything, such as food or veterinarian treatments.

Sarah Buell, a volunteer and a foster mom at the Farmington Animal Shelter, takes a dog outside. Buell has fostered hundreds of animals at her home over the years. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Voss said the shelter has seen an influx of animals recently.

“Our COVID bubble burst,” Voss said. “During the lockdowns, people weren’t bringing animals in. They were home and keeping their animals and adopting really well, too, and that seems to have gone away.”

Voss emphasized that adopted animals are not being returned. The influx is made up of “new animals.”

The shelter spays and neuters all the animals. They are given vaccines and are healthy before they leave with adoptive parents.

Fifty to 60 cats and 60 to 65 dogs are up for adoption. Animal control staff members in the Farmington area bring in strays and have access to the facility 24 hours a day. If shelter employees are absent, animal control staff members set the animal up with food and water in a kennel.

“Just getting those fragile, fragile babies out and into a loving home environment where they become better pets,” Voss said. “Living in a metal cage for weeks on end is not a good life for them, so being in that foster home, getting healthy, getting socialized, fed good food ... they just make better pets when they come out of foster care.”

Voss said euthanasia is done only when medically necessary and rarely because of a limited amount of space or number of fosters.

Sarah Buell has fostered animals for the Farmington Animal Shelter for the past three years. Before she saw the need and became a foster parent, Buell started as a volunteer dog walker after hearing that one of her friends started walking for the shelter.

“The first time I put a dog back that didn’t want to go back in the kennel, I cried, and I promised ‘I’ll come back tomorrow. I’ll come back tomorrow,’” Buell said. “And so until he was adopted, I did.”

Buell said it just stuck after that. She goes to the shelter almost every day and walks the dogs or plays with them. Now that she fosters some of those most in need, Buell said she will not foster more than two puppies or three kittens at a time because her family already has four dogs and two cats.

“It’s just that, ‘I promise I will give you whatever I can, until you find your furever home,’” Buell said.

Kittens at the Farmington Animal Shelter on Thursday will soon need a foster home. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The most rewarding part about fostering, Buell said, was seeing the animals make it to their loving “furever” homes and knowing that kennel space then opens up for other animals.

“The puppies and kittens who may not get the socialization they need really young, that you (as a foster) are able to give to them,” Buell said. “You’re able to give them love, let them know that people care, and that they can be touched, and it’s a good thing cause they don’t always come in knowing that.”

The shelter needs people to provide foster care. For more information, visit https://fmtn.org/767/Fostering.