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Teens contribute to animal shelter campaign

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A fund-raising campaign to build a new Pitkin County animal shelter will receive an unexpected boost this week from a nonprofit group run by three local teenagers.

Four years ago, Annabelle Berklund, Ariane “Chicky” Bartlett and Corina Person, who were at the time Aspen Middle School sixth-graders, set up The Muddy Paws Group, an organization dedicated to raising money for the Aspen Animal Shelter. The shelter is trying to secure funds for a new facility through the Aspen Shelter Capital Campaign; construction is set to begin next spring.

“We heard that the shelter was trying to make enough money to move,” Bartlett said. “So we figured we’d give them all the money Muddy Paws had raised since we started. We’ve got a check made out to them for $624, which we will give them this week.”

The Muddy Paws group was founded when the girls, now sophomores at Aspen High, volunteered at the shelter for a class project. They immediately took to the facility, returning often to volunteer, even sometimes to do their homework together in the cat shelter.

They also began the fund-raising effort, which included bake sales (selling “Chicky Chips”), going door to door and setting up donation points at their school.

“They just seemed to love the shelter,” said shelter director Seth Sachson. “It was inspirational to see their dedication.”

Pitkin County’s animal shelter is a no-kill facility, meaning that impounded dogs and cats are given asylum until they are adopted. Sachson, along with an assistant and a host of volunteers, do all they can to ensure the animals are cared for, including a mandatory “two walks a day” policy for the dogs.

Still, the facility has reached capacity. As a result, Pitkin County and the city of Aspen donated just over an acre of land near the North 40 housing development as a site for a new shelter. So far, the shelter campaign has raised around $1 million, $700,000 shy of its goal.

“One of the shelter’s policies is to never turn away a stray animal,” campaign secretary Bland Nesbitt said. “But with all the new employee housing that ban pets, a lot more people are having to give up their animals. This new shelter will greatly improve the quality of life for the animals.

“There’s just so much more space.”

The new facility will offer a large room for cats ” the “cat condominiums” ” which feature a live fountain and small tree to keep the felines active and stimulated. The dogs will also have a larger facility, including four large exercise yards.

Along with providing shelter for strays, the facility will also expand its boarding kennels, adding a “doggy daycare” for owners who don’t want their dogs left alone through the work day.

If the fund-raising campaign can secure the remaining funds needed for construction, the new shelter could open as early as next fall. You can bet the girls of Muddy Paws won’t miss the event.

“We’re trying to organize friends to come out for the opening,” Bartlett says. “This is what we raised money for after all.”

[Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com]


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