Friends of Aspen Animal Shelter saves one life at a time |

Friends of Aspen Animal Shelter saves one life at a time

Carolyn SackariasonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Two years ago today, the Aspen Animal Shelter opened its doors. Since then, the nonprofit organization that oversees the shelter has saved thousands of animals from death row.March 23 marks the two-year anniversary of the no-kill shelter, which is officially titled the Cheryl and Sam Wyly Aspen/Pitkin County Animal Shelter. The nonprofit that raised nearly $4 million to build the facility, once called the Aspen/Pitkin Shelter Capital Campaign, was recently renamed the Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter (FAAS).The name change was to reflect its transition from a capital campaign organization to one that through its leadership will support the efforts of like-minded, community-based programs, educate the community on the care of animals and sustain the excellence of the Cheryl and Sam Wyly Aspen/Pitkin County Animal Shelter, according to its mission statement.The nonprofit was established in 2000 and raised money during the capital campaign in an effort to get the doors open six years later. The shelter has more than 6,000 square feet of animal shelter and boarding kennels on the first floor; a 1,321-square-foot mezzanine area on the second floor, along with 1,632 square feet of employee housing.The nonprofits focus has shifted and now is dedicated to rescuing dogs and cats from being euthanized, and provides for their medical care while living in the shelter. FAAS also works with area vets to offer free spay and neutering for peoples pets.We are so much hands on, said Bland Nesbit, a FAAS board member and a daily visitor to the shelter. Before we were just paying for a building … now we are able to do more than we could before.The nonprofit continues to raise money for its ongoing programs. This summer, FAAS is planning a big fundraising event that includes the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, who will perform at the District Theater.Proceeds from that event will help offset the costs of FAAS spay and neuter program, which for the first quarter of 2008, is being offered through the Carbondale Animal Hospital. Free certificates are offered there, which are paid for by FAAS.From April until June, the program moves to the outlying areas, including Parachute, Craig, Marble and everything in between. The Aspen Animal Hospital will participate in the program, offering 200 certificates.The third quarter, between July and September, the spay and neuter program targets Grand Junction. At the end of the year, the Aspen Animal Hospital will offer at least 150 certificates.But FAAS goes well beyond helping to reduce the pet population. The nonprofit rescues and puts up for adoption an average of 500 dogs and cats a year, including many from Merced, Calif., a poor community located in the central part of the state.Nesbit and board member Anne Gurchick will drive at their expense and pick up animals all over Colorado, and have met people in Utah to receive the dogs from California.Anne is a total road warrior if there is a possibility [of a rescue], Nesbit said.The shelter has an average of 25 dogs and 15 cats on a daily basis.If we are low on dogs, Seth lets us rescue them from death row, Nesbit said, who is the owner of three dogs she adopted from the shelter.Nesbit was referring to Seth Sachson, the president of FAAS and owner of Aspen Animal Boarding Kennel and Animal Shelter. Sachson runs his private boarding kennel out of the shelter.The two entities are saving the lives of hundreds of animals a year, Sachson said. At the end of the day, we are coming together to help animals because its all about the animals.FAAS is self-sustaining and operates with no administration costs. And it allows Sachson to run his business separately while at the same time support the nonprofits mission.The nonprofit is a fairy godmother to my kennel, Sachson said, adding the set-up is whats known as a virtuous circle in the nonprofit world. We function in a pure fashion. Animals with homes pay for dogs without homes.FAAS in 2006 brought in $178,605 in revenue and had $201,261 in expenses, operating at a $22,656 deficit. At the beginning of the year, FAAS had $530,595 in net assets and finished 2006 with $507,939, according to its tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service.Sachson leases the building, which is owned by the city of Aspen and Pitkin County. The city contributed $700,000 and Pitkin County pitched in $200,000 in cash during the capital campaign. The county also gave an acre of land by the bus barn near the Aspen Airport Business Center where the shelter is located and the nonprofit lives.Theres also a pet boutique, Wags to Riches, which is owned by board members and the proceeds of which go to the nonprofit. Two other businesses, a grooming service and weekly dog training, also are housed at the shelter.The nonprofit also has established a medical assistance fund to assist animal owners who cant afford vet bills. Supported services range from medical emergencies to elective surgery, with emergencies handled by Valley Emergency Pet Care, the valleys only emergency veterinary clinic.csack@aspentimes.comOrganization: Friends of the Aspen Animal ShelterMission: Promotes and provides for the welfare, care and health of animals.2006 expenses: $201,261President: Seth SachsonSalary: NoneSource: Internal Revenue Service