The Fur Ball is the special fundraising gala of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, and this year’s April 27 “Bark to the Future” raised $431,000 for the shelter’s work.

Fur Ball donors and sponsors as well as interested animal lovers received a special invitation for an up-close look at how that money is used for homeless animals and missing pets. That look came as President and CEO Jan McHugh-Smith greeted guests at two informal lunches, May 28 and July 31, and led a tour of the shelter, introducing the more than 30 programs for animals.

McHugh-Smith described being an animal lover for more than 35 years, starting out her career cleaning kennels and being an animal control officer. Now she heads the shelter that takes in 19,500 animals each year and another 5,000 in Pueblo where HSPPR has reopened that facility.

A new mobile Wellness Waggin will visit underserved places in the community, called veterinary deserts, including southeast Colorado Springs where there is no close clinic, McHugh-Smith said. It will travel to Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center among other locations. Twice weekly the Wellness Waggin drives to Pueblo, which has a dearth of clinics, she said.

This year’s Fur Ball donations helped build a new doggie playground and obstacle course where shelter dogs socialize as part of doggie play groups and can run, play and burn off energy in a safe location. Dogs who need it are taught socialization by behavior manager Fernando Diaz.

Some dangerous animals remain at the shelter through all the court hearings they’re involved in. Euthanasia is rare, explained McHugh-Smith, and happens “if an animal is suffering or when the public is in danger and that animal can’t be put up for adoption.”

The largest population at HSPPR is cats, 5,000 of them each year, leading to special adoption promotions and weekends. Through expansion there is now a sunny cat adoption area with climbing levels and personal kitty spaces as well as a soundproof Cat Lodge where those cats aren’t spooked by dogs barking. Feral cats are part of a city trap, neuter and return program.

“This is amazing,” said one of the tour group members. “So impressive.”

Upcoming: Pawtoberfest Beer Fest and Dog Walk, Sept. 14, Bear Creek Park, pawtoberfest.org

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