SAN LUIS — The Peeks are advocates for unwanted, abandoned, and abused animals in the San Luis Valley. Aileen and Frank Peek have been rescuing, mainly dogs, and cats, for 27 years.
In 1995, the Peeks and two other people started Valley Humane League in Alamosa. Some members of the league had a different vision of the league, and it is now part of Denver Dumb Friends League.
In 2000, the Peeks, the late Ruth Heide, who was a board member of the league, along with several volunteers, formed the San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society (SLVAWS). They operated an animal rescue and the first cat shelter in San Luis Valley in Alamosa.
Aileen Peek had been doing animal welfare education classes with her chow, Mr. Biggles. In five years, they found homes for 1,200 cats.
The Peeks bought a 35-acre property outside of San Luis. It was the site of the former Newmont mine and already had existing structures.
With the help of several grants, they now have a state-of-the-art shelter that is comfortable for the animals. It is called the Lori Shubert Animal Shelter in honor of longtime friend, donor, and supporter of the San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society. There is a colorful mural on the side painted by Bianca Maestas.
The Animal Assistance Foundation, under the leadership of David Gies, has been instrumental in the last seven years, providing funds for special Mason kennels, with fiberglass floors instead of concrete for more comfort, and heated, insulated dog runs for the frigid winters. Through an El Pomar Foundation grant, concrete pads were installed for better sanitation.
With the help of an On Shore Foundation grant, there are now a total of 13 dog parks. The dogs can be outside every day, running and breathing the fresh mountain air.
Aileen Peek clarifies, “the shelter is licensed with the State of Colorado as a dog rescue and shelter facility."
She works closely with the sheriff's department to assist with dog issues, like when there are dogs on a property after the owner dies.
It is not a public shelter, but animals are available for adoption. Aileen goes through an extensive adoption process to ensure the animals have a forever home and are a good fit for the dog and owner.
Aileen also believes animals that were raised together should stay together so siblings, mothers and sons can be adopted together.
Because the shelter is in a poverty-stricken area, none of this would be possible without the tireless dedication of compassionate volunteers, who help with administration, adoption, and daily care of the animals.
The San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society has a long history with Colorado Springs. Besides having the shelter, the Peeks have been going to Colorado Springs every Saturday to host an adoption event at PetsMart and PetCo. Several volunteers from Colorado Springs come to San Luis most weekends to help with the shelter.
Brian Barse comes with his family. Mary and Tim Partin have been coming to San Luis for seven years.
Mary said, “We started volunteering when our son who was in the seventh grade at the time needed a volunteer project.”
Jack Gordon is the only employee and is responsible for the daily care of the animals.
Ron Duemsing lives nearby and is always ready to help.
The Peek's son, Jan, helped at the shelter for 10 years, helping to build infrastructure like kennels and dog runs. He now lives in Colorado Springs.
It is a no-kill shelter. Besides adoptions, the shelter offers a low-cost spay and neuter clinic. Their phone number is 719-587-WOOF (9663) for any questions involving a pet's health, proper pet care, or questions about volunteering. They also have a website, www.slvaws.org. They deal with primarily domestic animals but will try to help with questions about wild animals. To date, the San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society has helped rescue over 12,000 animals.