Denver Animal Protection earns premier accreditation

Shelter takes any kind of animal except primates

Bruce Goldberg
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 3/4/20

Primates need not apply. But all other animals needing help are welcome at Denver Animal Protection, which operates the Denver Animal Shelter at 1241 W. Bayaud Ave., south of downtown. The shelter …

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Denver Animal Protection earns premier accreditation

Shelter takes any kind of animal except primates

Posted

Primates need not apply.

But all other animals needing help are welcome at Denver Animal Protection, which operates the Denver Animal Shelter at 1241 W. Bayaud Ave., south of downtown.

The shelter takes in about 7,000 animals each year and can hold about 450 at a time.

“We are open admission,” said Dr. Louisa Poon, DAP veterinarian. “We’ll take any animal, except for primates.”

And that has included dogs, cats, fish, turtles, pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs and others.

“We only treat strays and shelter-owned animals,” Poon said. “Our business model is to provide the best care we can with our resources for homeless and strays.”

Some are victims of cruelty or neglect, she said.

Poon said the only treatment they can’t give is setting broken bones. For that, she reaches out to a community partner.

DAP has about 55 employees. Poon’s staff includes Dr. Beverly Chua, a part-timer; three full-time vet techs and one part-time vet tech.

Under the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment, DAP is a governmental entity, but also relies on donations and grants to help it take proper care of animals, perform lifesaving surgeries and find homes for them. In 2019, DAP raised about $300,000 in the community.

“We don’t turn away any animals, and it (treating animals) may exceed our city budget,” Poon said, explaining the importance of donations.

DAP recently was accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association, and is one of three municipal shelter clinics in the nation to earn AAHA accreditation.

One of the other shelters is also in Colorado: the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.

Unlike hospitals for people, not all animal hospitals and shelters have to be accredited.

The nonprofit AAHA determines criteria — some mandatory, others highly recommended — for vet clinics. It evaluates entities on about 900 quality standards that go beyond state regulations.

“You have to make sure you comply with their recommendations in order to get the accreditation,” Poon said.

Criteria cover many areas such as anesthesia setups, how to monitor animals, the proper handling of controlled substances, patient care, pain management, medical diagnosis and many more.

DAP made a number of changes in order to meet the criteria, such as getting new equipment, including a full-body X-ray machine that cost $50,000 — raised by donations and grants — and a dental X-ray machine. It also re-trained staffers, initiated new protocols and took other steps to satisfy the criteria.

“We tried to implement everything recommended,” Poon said. “The AAHA comes out and does an evaluation, on-site, to make sure you’re compliant with their mandatory criteria before you get accredited. It took a little while longer than I wanted, but in the end, we got it done - while maintaining a full load and taking care of our stray animals.”

AAHA is the only organization that accredits vet practices in the United States and Canada. Fewer than 20% are accredited, according to DAP.

DAP earned its accreditation on Dec. 30, 2019. Its next application for renewal is scheduled for December 2021 “and if all goes well, then after that, it’s every three years,” Poon said.

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