The Humane Society of Moab Valley helps find homes for stray cats and dogs in the Moab area, like these kittens. The organization is celebrating its twentieth anniversary in 2020. [Courtesy photos]

The Humane Society of Moab Valley was started in 1999 with “no money, no office, no phone, and no foster homes,” staff say. Twenty years later, the organization and the animals in its care are thriving.

“This year we celebrate our 20th anniversary,” said Leigh Ryan, HSMV executive director.

“Many people and businesses in the Moab Valley contributed to the success of HSMV as volunteers, board members, foster parents, and donors for two decades,” Ryan said, commenting that the road from a loose organization fostering community animals to a groundbreaking partnership with the City of Moab animal shelter was gratifying to look back on.

Between 1997 and 2000, 70% of homeless dogs and cats in the area were euthanized due to a lack of animal housing or adoption services, Ryan reported. The HSMV was created by a group of locals to look into how to create a safe shelter for animals, educate the public on the humane treatment of animals and to provide the community with a low-cost spay/neuter program.

At the time, the City of Moab’s animal control officer was Randy Zimmerman, who worked with HSMV volunteers to place stray cats and dogs with foster families.

Zimmerman shared the challenges of animal control in the community, including a lack of a dedicated space for an animal shelter. In 2003, Moab City kept homeless dogs in a small building located behind the present location of the City offices. There was no window in

the building so Randy cut a hole in the door so the dogs would have light.

There was clearly a need for a dedicated shelter building for Moab’s animals. While the idea was discussed as early as 2000, fundraising didn’t begin in earnest until 2004 after HSMV volunteers and city administrators had discussed all the options.

“The shelter wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Randy Zimmerman,” says Janette Woodruff, shelter manager. “Randy was instrumental in making residents aware of animal control issues and the many dogs and cats that had to be euthanized because there was no place to keep them. It was heartbreaking to look at a beautiful, friendly animal or a litter of puppies and know that they would be euthanized in three days unless they were adopted or placed in foster care.”

After looking at many locations, the City and County agreed to build the shelter on City property

next to the Recycle Center, where the shelter is today.

Funding for the shelter was completed in 2007. Grand County contributed $10,000, Moab City provided $350,000 (which included a $160,000 grant from the state Community Impact Board), and HSMV provided $80,000 in funds raised from passionate volunteers and animal lovers in the community.

The grand opening celebration for the animal shelter took place on November 17, 2007.

“A big hurdle was overcome when the City began talking about creating a shelter,” said Diane Allen, one of the founders of HSMV.

“HSMV educated people about animal care and encouraged pet owners to think about the responsibility associated with having a pet,” said Zimmerman, who retired in 2016.

While the City of Moab’s Animal Shelter and the local Humane Society are separate entities, the groups have an ongoing partnership and work together to help keep local animals safe and find homes for stray dogs and cats. The shelter has been “no-kill” since 2003, becoming just the second community in Utah to commit to avoiding animal euthanization.

“Most nonprofit animal welfare organizations and government shelters don’t work together,” said Ryan, commenting that the partnership was a win for both as it increased efficiency and saved costs for both the Humane Society and the city.

“As a community, we are all responsible for our animals,” said Ryan. “They have no voice, so they depend on us. Continued support and ongoing effort are necessary to help us to continue our mission of saving lives and keeping Moab community pets safe and healthy today and forever.”

For more information on the Humane Society of Moab Valley’s twentieth-anniversary events and to see dogs and cats available for adoption, go to

Org was instrumental in founding no-kill animal shelter