GVAWL is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, incorporated in the State of Colorado (1987).

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 volunteers and a working Board of Directors. Volunteers contribute 10,000 hours a year to our community. Our core group of volunteers expands each year, and is now at 50.


2014 Expenses

  • 80.2% Programs
  • 16.5% Operations, General and Shelter Building
  • 3.5% Fundraising


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.

As of November 2018, GVAWL has adopted out over 3,600 companion animals and assisted over 1,600 community members with spay/neuter costs.

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


Annual Adoptions Cumulative Adoptions
Year Dogs Cats Other Total Dogs Cats Other Total
1987-2004 842 1102 1944
2005 60 55 115 902 1157 2059
2006 22 56 78 924 1213 2137
2007 15 26 41 939 1239 2178
2008 17 103 2 122 956 1342 2 2300
2009 25 45 70 981 1387 2370
2010 14 37 51 995 1424 2421
2011 14 26 3 43 1009 1450 5 2464
2012 44 52 3 99 1053 1502 8 2563
2013 41 68 109 1094 1570 2672
2014 123 127 1 251 1217 1697 9 2923
2015 158 149 5 312 1375 1846 14 3235
2016 55 115 2 172 1430 1961 16 3407
2017 35 100 0 135 1465 2061 16 3542
2018 51 111 0 162 1516 2172 16 3704

Taken In and Returned to Owner (RTO)

2013: 18
2014: 44
2015: 219
2016: 161
2017: 165
2018: 98 dogs, 12 cats

Tracking numbers of adoptions is only one way to measure activity in a rescue operation or a shelter. The State of Colorado, under the Pet Animal Care Facility Act (PACFA), requires its licensees to report “live release rate,” in adherence to the 2004 Asilomar Accords; one of the purposes of the Accords is to help standardize tracking nationwide.

Live release rate takes into account the numbers of animals in care at year’s beginning and at year’s end, and therefore gives a “rolling rate.” In order to provide a measurement that is easier to understand and to communicate to the public, GVAWL also tracks adoption numbers.

GVAWL’s Live Release Rate
2017: 99.98%
2016: 99.95%
2015: 97.9%

Spay/Neuter Assistance

When pets are spayed or neutered, everyone is happier and healthier! GVAWL offers assistance to those for whom spaying or neutering a pet is a significant financial hardship. Click here to apply.

Spay/Neuter Certificates Distributed

Year Total Certificates Cumulative
1995-2005 758 758
2006 59 817
2007 60 877
2008 55 932
2009 37 969
2010 36 1005
2011 41 1046
2012 57 1103
2013 66 1169
2014 60 1229

The City of Gunnison contracts with GVAWL for approximately $1,000 a year for spay/neuter assistance. Grantors fund some of the other certificates we issue; the remainder are funded with contributions and fundraising efforts.

Spay/Neuter Clinic Procedures
July 12, 2006: 70
August 3-4, 2008: 106
December 14, 2008: 56
May 17-18, 2009: 54
September 29, 2011: 43
November 5-8, 2013: 21
Total: 350

Clinics are held when we can schedule veterinarians who are experienced in safely performing high-volume procedures.

Total Spay/Neuter Procedures Subsidized by GVAWL: 1,579

Shelter Animals Count | The National Database

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Shelter Animals Count: The National Database

  • by Immanuel Kant

    He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.

  • by Anatole France

    Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.

  • by James Cromwell

    Pets are humanizing. They remind us we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life.

  • by Linda Blair

    It’s difficult to understand why people don’t realize that pets are gifts to mankind.

  • by James Herriot

    I wish people would realize that animals are totally dependent on us, helpless, like children, a trust that is put upon us.

  • by Albert Einstein

    If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.

  • by Abraham Lincoln

    I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.