Helping Hands: Lending a helping paw in Summit County
Ryan Summerlin February 20, 2013
When Kyle Tucker’s Wheaton terrier got her leg caught in a coyote trap last September, her injuries were extensive. Veterinarian Denisa Court at Farmer’s Korner worked quickly, managing to save one hind leg while being forced to amputate the other.Though she was relieved to have her pet out of danger, Tucker was less than excited to receive the bill. The terrier, called Costly Tucker, was living up to her name. That’s where LAPS stepped in.The League for Animals & People of the Summit is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to serving pets and pet owners within Summit County. LAPS has many services, including the one that helped Tucker – a low-income medical assistance fund for companion animals.”It was excruciating to see her in that kind of pain. She’s a very happy, kind dog. To see her have that to deal with was difficult,” Tucker said. “It’s nice when you have organizations like LAPS and you feel like other people get this, they understand what we’re going through.”
LAPS got its start in 1990 thanks to Nancy Ring, who at that time was the director of the animal shelter. Its original goal was to offset the spay/neuter costs of the shelter animals, reducing the need to euthanize healthy animals. LAPS annually donates around $6,000 to the Summit County Animal Shelter for this purpose. Shelter director Leslie Hall, who has been been with the shelter since 1988, said that LAPS has had a hand in the decrease of the euthanasia rate, plummeting from 13 percent to 2 percent. Animals are only euthanized now if they have untreatable health or behavioral problems, Hall said.”The donation money LAPS gives us is a big help, because it enables us to extend our budget for other expenses,” she said, including medical treatment for the animals. “I think we’re well below the average euthanasia rate of most shelters.”Spaying and neutering remains a primary focus of the LAPS organization. In addition to providing funds to the animal shelter, it has expanded its reach and now offers vouchers to any Summit County pet owner for a spay/neuter at local vet clinics. While the amount varies year to year, depending on funds, it’s currently at a high of $75 off. “In general, Summit County tends to have a very pet-loving community and a very educated community, so they tend to be very responsible about spaying and neutering their animals,” said LAPS boardmember Suzie Ver Schure. “I think people understand that they don’t want to add to the pet overpopulation.”
LAPS is funded by grants, donations from local businesses and individuals, memberships and fundraising events. Staffed completely by volunteers, 100 percent of its budget goes toward its various projects, including the spay/neuter vouchers, the medical assistance fund and the Chappy and Cheyenne funds.The Cheyenne Fund is dedicated to pets with life-shortening illnesses, such as cancer, whose owners face astronomical veterinarian bills. The Chappy Fund, named after a dog that had been mutilated with a machete, goes to help abused animals. When the public heard Chappy’s story, his owner was inundated with donations, which eventually exceeded his needs, prompting him to donate the rest to start the fund.Four major fundraisers benefit LAPS every year – the DogTerra event in March, Let’s Go Boating at the Dillon Marina in June, the K94K in Frisco and pet photos with Santa and the Grinch, also in Frisco. This year will see a new event called Howlaween, which will take place in Silverthorne in October and benefit three other local animal nonprofits as well – Swan Center Outreach, Animal Rescue of the Rockies and Far View Horse Rescue.
Sally Beerup has been the LAPS board president for 12 years and involved as a volunteer before that. An animal lover, she volunteers with other animal-based organizations as well as LAPS and loves it. She’s particularly passionate about using LAPS to create more dog parks in Summit County. She envisions an open space with dog-friendly amenities, such as a water source, shade and designated fenced off areas for smaller and older dogs.”So many people don’t have backyards to be able to let their animals out, so to have a place to go … to let them run loose like they should be able to do, that would be wonderful,” she said. The rest of the board members share Beerup’s enthusiasm for the LAPS cause. “I adore any four-legged animal of any kind and that’s pretty much what motivates me,” Ver Schure said. “Everybody on the board and certainly all the volunteers, everybody obviously believes in the cause.”While helping the animals is a primary focus, LAPS also seeks to assist the people attached to them. “It’s an animal charity, but at the same time it’s very much a people charity, because we are helping the families or the owners of these pets, and it can be so meaningful to them,” said boardmember Susan O’BrienTucker, whose dog was helped by the LAPS fund, agrees.”We’re very fortunate in Summit County to have them,” she said. “They have a great focus on pets and pet owners.”