Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series about Safe Place for Pets, an organization that assists with finding forever homes for pets of terminally ill owners and partnering with the terminally ill to keep their pets at home. The organization serves terminally ill residents of El Paso and Teller counties.

A local nonprofit organization is gaining a reputation for finding loving forever homes for pets of terminally ill patients.

Safe Place for Pets, 1520 N. Hancock Ave., assists residents of El Paso and Teller counties who are terminally ill with finding caring forever homes for their cats, dog and sometimes other kinds of pets.

The facility is a godsend for patients and families who find it difficult to cope with what will happen to a beloved pet once they’re unable to care for them. Oftentimes family members are unable to take on the care of the pet because of possible hardships and because of the animal mourning the loss of their owner and home.

Such a situation can be painfully overwhelming for everyone involved and this is where Safe Place for Pets makes a difference, said Board Member Karen Spencer.

“Because Safe Place exists for this purpose, we are able to go the extra mile to see that a good match is made between a prospective adopter and pet,” Spencer said.

According to Spencer, a hospice nurse founded Safe Place 23 years ago after encountering a distressed patient who feared her pet would be euthanized following her death. Sympathetic of the patient’s concern, the nurse reached out to the community and found many citizens interested in finding a home for the creature. Safe Place for Pets was born.

Despite its reputation, Safe Place often is regarded as Colorado Springs’ best-kept secret.

“As we have seen so often, this is a real concern for many people and families who want peace of mind that a pet will be cared for and loved as they had been all their lives,” Spencer said.

Spencer, who has two adopted cats herself, learned about Safe Place for Pets through an online announcement inviting community members to serve as fosters. The company’s mission inspired Spencer to volunteer in April 2019. She soon joined the board of directors.

“There has never been any shortage of meaningful encounters with people who are surrendering a pet, those looking to adopt and the army of volunteers who give so much time to help families going through a tough time and ensure the pets are as well cared for as if they were their own,” Spencer said.

Because of its mission, Safe Place for Pets is limited to assisting the pets of terminally ill individuals, Spencer said. “We have fewer animals in our care than most of the other wonderful shelters in Colorado Springs and across the state. We are able to devote more time to the people and animals and therefore provide a higher level of personal care,” Spencer said.

Safe Place for Pets enjoys relationships with many caring veterinarian partners who donate and discount their services. Through these partnerships, each pet receives a thorough examination and clean bill of health before being adopted into a new home. Diabetes, thyroid and other health issues are addressed at this time.

“Pets come to us needing significant oral care. Our vet partners give us deep discounts for the extractions that ease a pet’s pain and improve their health and happiness in the long run. But the thing Safe Place does that I find most meaningful is that we have a longer runway for the adoption process we call the pre-adopt stage,” Spencer said.

The pre-adopt stage is when the organization spends time with the prospective adopter in their home to ensure if the cat or dog is entering into a safe environment. During this time the adopter and pet can live together for a week or month to ensure a suitable living arrangement. Otherwise, the pet is returned to Safe Place for Pets.

“Bottom line, when we give someone who is at the end of their life our word that we are going to take great care of their pet and find it a wonderful loving home, we aim to do exactly that,” Spencer said.

Learn more about Safe Place for Pets, sign up to volunteer and view current adoptable cats and dogs at safeplacepets.org.

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