In 2007, Forbes magazine crowned Colorado Springs America’s most pet-friendly city, highlighting over 10,000 acres of public park space and the accessibility of veterinary care. The award also noted the availability of pet-friendly retailers, restaurants, and bars. In 2016, Entrepreneur magazine followed up by rating Colorado Springs as the nations’ second most outdoor-friendly city for pets.

In addition to providing high quality of life for pets with homes, Colorado Springs is home to multiple rescue organizations for those without, and Springs residents are committed to giving animals a second chance. Fifty percent of Coloradoans adopted their furry friends through a shelter or rescue organization. Yet these efforts aren’t enough: approximately 3.9 million companion dogs enter animal shelters nationwide every year and over 1 million of those are euthanized. Since most pet stores get those appealing cuties from puppy mills, opting for a rescue adoption ensures you aren’t supporting this cruel industry. In 2007, Colorado Springs-based National Mill Dog Rescue (MillDogRescue.org) embarked on a mission to end commercial breeding and remains determined to educate the nation about the cruelty and harm inflicted by the industry. NMDR’s website tracks their victories (currently 11,729 dogs saved across the United States), offering proof of the difference they’ve made in just a decade.

Local vets founded Colorado Animal Rescue (ColoradoAnimalRescue.org), working out of their homes for years before opening a shelter facility. Today, they host events weekly (including Yappy Hour and Yoga with Cats) to help place deserving animals into loving homes. CARE advocates for population control and responsible pet ownership.

Best Fur Friends (BestFurFriendsRescue.org) saves dogs from kill shelters in Texas and places them into new, loving homes. Their dogs are pulled from shelters by a rescue team and then go directly to a vet for a wellness check-up (including all vaccinations, spay/neuter, heartworm test, and any necessary treatment) before going to foster homes. The fosters prepare the dogs for adoption, working on house training, basic commands, and socialization. Best Fur Friends transports small dogs to Colorado by plane (Pilots ‘N Paws) and larger dogs through van relays (Kindred Hearts). When the dogs arrive in Colorado, they either go to a foster home until they are adopted or directly into their forever home, if the adoption process has been completed.

Safe Place for Pets (SafePlacePets.org) has been helping the pets of the terminally ill find new loving families for 21 years. These animals are confused and grieving, and this organization’s mission is to nurture them and find a new home and family. Dogs are often particularly distressed by losing the companionship of other family pets and transiting from the consistency and routine of its previous life. Through their work, Safe Place for Pets helps match animals with a caring family.

Animal Rescue of the Rockies (AnimalRescueOfTheRockies.org) focuses on saving pets already in shelters. ARR doesn’t operate as a shelter, but instead finds foster homes for shelter pets. If you’re not ready to adopt forever but would like a companion and the opportunity to save a life, becoming a pet foster parent may be the perfect balance. ARR offers training resources and support to fosters to help prepare every pet for a healthy transition to its new home.

PawsCo (PawsCo.org) has three divisions to holistically tackle overpopulation: Spay/Neuter, Pet Food Drive, and Adoptions work to provide spay and neuter services (in addition to developing community-run programs), food in conjunction with Food Bank of the Rockies, and foster care for all breeds, respectively. Volunteers run PawsCo and they appreciate support of any kind, whether it’s food, time, money, or adoption.

Finally, if you want to save a shelter dog, but have your heart set on adopting a specific breed, the right organization is out there. No matter the breed, there’s a rescue organization eager to help you make a perfect match. Check out AllBreedRescueNetwork.com for contact information.

Colorado residents who aid animal-related organizations are driven by a desire to make a difference. Supporting these and other organizations in the state offers a chance to save animal lives while improving the quality of human lives. Research has found Coloradoans overwhelmingly agree that rescue organizations “make our communities a better place to live.” Forty percent of Coloradoans recently surveyed reported donating to rescues and advocated them as a first choice for finding pets.