Skip to main content

Pet shelters in Colorado are overcrowded again

Email share
A brown and white dog at a Colorado animal shelter. The Dumb Friends League’s three shelters across Colorado are experiencing an increase in relinquished pets and stray dogs.

DENVER — When the pandemic forced Coloradans indoors, many families grew some by four legs.

In 2020, pet adoption across the Denver metro area skyrocketed as more people spent time at home, seeking company from a furry companion. And when COVID temporarily shuttered business, shelters and adoption centers transitioned to virtual pet adoptions to meet the high demand. But two years in and some shelters like Dumb Friends League are experiencing extreme overcrowding again.

“We have a shelter full of dogs,” said Kate Parker, the vice president of operations for the Dumb Friends League. According to Parker, the organization is seeing an increase in intakes.

The Dumb Friends League, a nonprofit organization that rescues animals in Colorado, offers pet adoptions, community events and veterinary services, has shelters in Denver, Castle Rock and Alamosa. “All three of them are experiencing an extraordinarily high population of shelter dogs,” Parker told Rocky Mountain PBS.

Colorado Voices

Pet shelters in Colorado are overcrowded again

Across their three locations, Dumb Friends League is seeing a 41% increase in strays (both cats and dogs) while dog surrenders are up 15%, compared to 2019. In March, more than 1,100 animals were brought to the organization. “The League traditionally sees a rise in relinquished dogs during the summer, so an increase in spring is cause for concern,” according to a press release. 

“So we're not taking dogs from out of the state, we're not transferring dogs in like we have in the past. We are dealing all with dogs here from people in our communities who are bringing them into our shelters,” Parker explained.

While the organization can’t pinpoint one reason for the drastic increase in animals coming into the shelters, Parker attributes financial constraints, major life changes, the return to in-person work, and housing insecurities as contributing factors for pet surrenders.

“We're seeing a lot of different themes,” Parker said, “but it seems like they have mostly to do with the disruption that the pandemic and the economic conditions we're in right now have created in people's lives.”

While many Coloradans obtained a pet during the pandemic, Parker explained that the animals recently surrendered aren’t necessarily ones obtained in spring of 2020. 

“We think it's some of that, but also dogs that people had before, but because of what they went through during the pandemic, now the animals don't fit,” she said. Animals that offered comfort and entertainment for folks working from home and quarantining during the onset of the pandemic might require more attention now. “And all that change makes it hard for people to retain their dogs in their homes sometimes.”

Before pet owners get to the point where they have to surrender their animal, Parker wants them to reach out to the Dumb Friends League. With food, veterinary, behavior and training resources, Dumb Friends League staff might be able to help animals stay in their homes, she said.

Now, the Dumb Friends League is hoping to clear out their shelters and get the animals into loving homes. 

“Our community is among the best in the country when it comes to caring for pets,” said Dr. Apryl Steele, the president and CEO of the Dumb Friends League. “When we have needed help, our community has responded, and we’re hoping they will step up now.”

Victoria Carodine is the Digital Content Producer for Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at

Brian Willie is the Content Production Manager with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at

Related Stories

Colorado Voices | More Stories

Spotlight Newsletter

Community stories from across Colorado and updates on your favorite PBS programs, in your inbox every Tuesday.

Sign up here!