Telluride Humane Society

Staff at the Animal Hospital of Telluride with five puppies available, July 26, for adoption through the newly founded Telluride Humane Society. (Courtesy photo)

Recently, a local dog arrived at the Animal Hospital of Telluride with malignant tumors in her mammary glands. The 5-year-old wasn’t spayed, which had increased her risk of developing the tumors in the first place, and she was found to be pregnant. She subsequently gave birth to five puppies that now need homes.

The case, local advocate Ellen Williamson said, “highlighted a multitude of priorities yet to be fully realized locally,” including the need for more local spay/neuter campaigns and an adoption program. These priorities in turn inspired a group of area residents led by Williamson and local veterinarian Dr. Steven Smolen to establish the Telluride Humane Society.

The nascent organization, which gained its nonprofit status in May, was prompted by the consistently high number of animal welfare cases that required additional local resources, according to Williamson.

“I have known Dr. Smolen for several years now,” she said. “From the very beginning, he would have case after case of any or all of the following: medical emergencies where the owners could not afford the care needed for the pet, lost pets, abandoned pets, rescued animals from Native American reservations in Arizona … injured wildlife, profound cases of animal neglect and very sad cases of owners surrendering their pets.”

These instances, Williamson explained, took place daily, burdening Smolen and his staff at the Animal Hospital of Telluride with treating the animals, as well as having to reach out to other regional animal welfare organizations for financial and other assistance.

Said Williamson, “The Telluride community has a deep love for pets and wildlife, but the resources here are limited. Our goal is to complement the rescue efforts already in place on the Western Slope. The animal rescue groups in our region do a good job serving the area, and we look forward to working closely with them, but we realized we could add resources that might burden other organizations, especially in relation to emergency care. That was the impetus for starting Telluride Humane Society.”

Williamson added that she and Smolen then talked about creating a humane society specifically dedicated to handling the immediate needs of Telluride-area cases.

“I chose to name it the Telluride Humane Society so that it is fully of the community, for the community, including all governments, with no ownership and real transparency in all that this organization will do,” Williamson explained. “It’s such a good thing because it is here, in our community, in our town, in our county.”

Williamson said that local governments have been supportive with Telluride Mayor Sean Murphy and Mountain Village Mayor Laila Benitez both joining the nonprofit’s board of directors.

Benitez said that although the Town of Mountain Village hasn’t yet considered what form any support might take, “on a personal level, I am very happy to see the launch of the Telluride Humane Society. It is important that our community has the resources necessary, close to home, to help us deal with challenges such as lost and injured animals, spay and neutering, etc. My rescue pup is such a meaningful and joyful part of my life and I’m proud to be a part of an organization dedicated to helping other animals and their families.”

Williamson, Alba Blanco and Kevin White also sit on the board, and there is an advisory committee composed of Smolen, animal welfare advocate Maureen Pelisson and lawyer Tom Kennedy. For now, the Animal Hospital of Telluride is serving as the location for the animal shelter and its related services.

“We will build and create a new location for pet services that will include a shelter, an adoption facility, a boarding and grooming facility, and an area for training and education, and pet socialization,” Williamson said.

In the meantime, organizers are keen for the community to know that the humane society is more than a shelter and rescue service.

“This is a passionate effort and statement through the action of love for animals,” Williamson said. “The humane society will be many things and it will lead and inspire and be innovative and be a positive catalyst in this area for great things. My vision is that instead of people needing to leave Telluride for specialized pet care and welfare that, like ‘Field of Dreams,’ we build it here and they will come. I know we can do this.”

Telluride Humane Society is also, she remarked, entirely appropriate for Telluride. “We saw opportunities to complement existing rescue efforts and decided to act on them. In a town that has more dogs and more dog lovers than so many other places, it just seemed like a natural effort in a community’s progression. It’s going to be fun and it’s going to do a lot of good.”

And what about the mother dog and her five puppies?

Williamson said that while the mother dog is expected to make a full recovery, she will need further treatment after her pups are weaned.

As for the puppies, Dr. Smolen saw the 4-week-olds for a routine exam last week.

“All were in great health,” she said. “We will adopt out at 8 weeks old, so about July 26, and thereafter they will be ready for their forever homes.”

Williamson explained that adoptions come with a fee that covers vaccinations, a microchip and eventual spaying/neutering, adding that the puppies “are so cute and cuddly and sweet, they are absolutely precious.”

For more information about the Telluride Humane Society — and the puppies — visit