Mission Statement

Our mission is to promote the welfare of animals by

  • caring for homeless animals and placing them in permanent homes
  • assisting the community with spay/neuter costs
  • preventing neglect of and cruelty to animals by educating the public about their humane treatment and promoting humane behavior.

GVAWL has a full-time Shelter Manager, a working Board of Directors, and an amazing core of more than 50 volunteers who contribute more than 10,000 hours a year.


The Gunnison Animal Lovers (GAL) was founded in 1986. GAL’s founders, after 16 years of meeting the ever-increasing demands of the growing population, turned over the reins of the organization to a group of newer volunteers, charging them with continuing established programs and leading a re-energized effort to build a shelter. In October 2003, the organization became the Gunnison Valley Animal Welfare League (GVAWL) and a mission statement was articulated. Organizational structure was delineated. The Articles and Bylaws were refashioned and enlarged upon, and the Board of Directors was expanded. In 2004, written policies were set in place; revision of these is an iterative and ongoing process.

Since 2006, we have worked with Gunnison County and the City of Gunnison to establish a county-wide animal shelter. With a grant from the MacAllister Family Foundation of $100,000, fundraising efforts began. The family of Miya Must, a GVAWL volunteer at the time of her death in 2008, has donated $85,000. The Animal Assistance Foundation contributed $50,000 to the building and continue to provide invaluable advice and support.

In addition to the shelter effort – planning, fundraising, building, and equipping – GVAWL has continued to carry out its mission, using our system of dedicated foster-care providers supplemented by boarding. Before the Shelter opened in June 2014, our average number of adoptions per year was 100. Now it is 400.

About the Gunnison Valley Animal Shelter and Adoption Center

In 2007, GVAWL hired Gunnison architect Jody Reeser, AIA, to design the building, and J. Crockett Farnell, of Black Dragon Development, a Crested Butte firm, to build it. Engineering was done by Resource Energy Group, a leader in environmental considerations, also of Crested Butte. Local subcontractors were employed.

The shelter sits on two acres of land leased to GVAWL by Gunnison County. The building, Phase 1 of a projected larger facility, is 1,300 sq ft, and features everything necessary for full service. Two large dog exercise/play yards adjoin the building on its east side.

The flooring is concrete under a new, poured product that wraps up the walls for ease of cleaning. The HVAC system changes the air in the entire facility ten times an hour. Each dog kennel has a discreet grated and graveled drain. Solar tubes and windows situated for cross-ventilation maximize energy conservation.

Phase 1, completed in June of 2014, was designed for ease of expanding into Phase 2, planned for another 3,400 sq ft. Infrastructure for this phase is in place. Phase 2 will have more kennel space, a community space for outreach activities, a small veterinary-treatment room, and office space.

Area Background

On the Western Slope of Colorado, Gunnison County, one of the largest rural counties in Colorado at over 3,400 square miles, is composed of and surrounded by rugged terrain, including the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and four ranges of the Rocky Mountains. Almost 80 percent of land is federally-owned. All vehicle routes to and from Gunnison run over very high mountain passes; two of these passes are not open during the winter. On the other two, travel is dangerous in inclement weather. Winter temperatures here, at 8,000 feet elevation, can dip to 40 below zero.

About 10,000 of the county’s population of 14,000 is clustered in small, isolated centers, with the remainder scattered about the unincorporated areas. The City of Gunnison, population 7,000, is situated in the southern part of the county. The nearest larger population centers lie outside the county, 65 miles east or west on Highway 50.

According to 2008 U.S. Census data, Gunnison County per capita income is 19% below the state average.

Our Valley’s economy is based on (1) recreational tourism – hunting, angling, skiing, mountain biking, boating, hiking, and camping; (2) higher education – Western State Colorado University is located in Gunnison; and (3) cattle ranching – many families have ranched in the Gunnison Valley for generations. As is the case in similar areas of Colorado, income levels in our Valley are separated by wide gaps. Furthermore, Gunnison is exceptionally isolated, and the cost of living here is higher than in other rural areas of the state.

GVAWL Statistics

GVAWL’s statistical information can be found at: Animal Shelter and Rescue Individual Statistics | Department of Agriculture (colorado.gov)