County curtails animal services |

County curtails animal services

Nathan Lehnert is the new director of Eagle County's animal services department. The county narrowed the department's focus to animal control and pet licensing.
Randy Wyrick| |

Where to get help

To adopt or surrender animals, contact the Eagle Valley Humane Society at 970-328-7387 in Eagle; Colorado Animal Rescue at 970-947-9173 in Glenwood; or other animal rescue facilities.

Cruelty investigations will be handled by local law enforcement agencies. Call 970-479-2201 to report suspected animal cruelty in the Eagle River Valley. For animal issues Basalt, contact the Basalt Police Department at 970-927-4316.

EAGLE — If you want to surrender or adopt a pet, then you can no longer do it through Eagle County animal services.

The county is narrowing its services to animal control and pet licensing, the county announced Friday afternoon.

Along with pet adoptions, owner surrenders and animal shelter services, low-cost vaccinations are no longer provided by the county’s animal services department, said Aric Otzelberger, deputy county manager.

They’ll still handle animals at large, aggressive animals or animal bites, excessive barking or other animal control issues, Otzelberger said.

Local and state law enforcement will have to handle animal cruelty and livestock investigations, because no one on the county staff is certified to do it, Otzelberger said.

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Humane Society to help

The county will partner approach with the local Humane Society, as well as shelters in neighboring counties and the Front Range, Otzelberger said.

“We were doing things the Humane Society does, and we occasionally found ourselves competing with them. We’d rather partner with them,” said Jill Ryan, county commissioner.

Kudos to Ettinger

The move comes just days after the county’s animal services staff lost three of its seven people, including the fourth director since 2010.

The county laid off two staff members who handled shelter operations, which will no longer be offered.

Ryan said she received a couple “concerning” complaints from local veterinarians and other passionate animal advocates, alleging that the animal services staff was letting animals go to adoption when they should have remained under medical care for a while longer.

The department also occasionally euthanizes animals, Ryan said, which also creates complaints.

On the other hand, under recently departed Animal Services Director Daniel Ettinger, adoptions increased and the time animals spent in the shelter decreased, Otzelberger said.

“I’m appreciative of all the good work Daniel did while he was here,” Otzelberger said.

Animal Services officer Nathan Lehnert is the interim director for the more narrowly focused operation.

“We’re sorry to hear about these changes. We will be meeting with the county to create a plan to benefit the animals,” said Char Gonsenica, executive director of the Eagle Valley Humane Society.

Cost cutting

It’s also part of county departments determining what services they’re required to provide by law, and what they aren’t, Otzelberger said. The county, like most governments, faces increased costs — especially in health care — and stagnant tax revenue.

The county spent $576,000 a year for animal services. These cutbacks will save about 40 percent of that, according to the county’s budget data.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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