LOVELAND, Colo. — About 80 large dogs were removed from a Lyons property after the tenant, accused of operating an unlicensed pet animal facility called Just 4 Jacks Ranch & Sanctuary, was served an eviction notice.
Judy Calhoun, CEO of NOCO Humane — which is a combination of the former Larimer Humane Society and Humane Society of Weld County — said when people open animal sanctuaries or rescues, it’s usually out of the goodness of their heart and to ensure the animals are well cared for. But when they start this work, they must make sure they have the appropriate licenses and zoning.
About 80 dogs removed from unlicensed animal facility in Lyons
That was the issue at the core of the legal battle involving Just 4 Jacks that resulted in the recent removal of about 80 dogs from the property.
Under the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s (CDA) Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act (PACFA) rules, any person who is sheltering more than 15 dogs or cats must have a pet animal care facility license, which CDA said Just 4 Jacks founder Drew Renkewitz did not obtain. He had operated the facility for about 3.5 years, he said.
Renkewitz applied for the proper license in March 2023, but failed pre-license inspecctions by PACFA on April 4, June 20, Aug. 1 and Oct. 16, 2023, according to court documents.
On Oct. 30, 2023, PACFA denied the license application. It issued a notice of denial and cease and desist order enjoining Renkewitz from sheltering 82 dogs — mostly husky mixes — without the proper license, according to the CDA and court documents.
On Jan. 4, the Commissioner of Agriculture filed suit in Larimer County District Court for Renkewitz’s refusal to comply with the order.
The Larimer County District Court issued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that ordered him to move the dogs out of state or to relinquish them to NoCo Humane by Jan. 30. This was upgraded to a permanent injunction on Jan. 30 and the court ordered the PACFA program to take possession of the dogs and transfer ownership if they were not removed from the property by midnight, according to CDA.
The following day, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office’s executed a writ of restitution, evicting Renkewitz from the Lyons property.
Staff from the CDA’s PACFA program, the sheriff’s office and NOCO Humane helped to remove more than 80 dogs that day. The group had been preparing for about a month to transfer the animals in case Renkewitz was evicted and didn’t remove the dogs from the property by the Jan. 30 midnight deadline.
Of the 82 dogs found, one was euthanized by Renkewitz on Jan. 30, according to CDA. No other details were immediately available on that case. Three dogs could not be captured, but NOCO Humane is working to secure them. The remaining 78 dogs were moved to 11 animal welfare organizations around the state.
- Animal Friends Alliance
- Cheyenne Animal Shelter
- Dumb Friends League
- Foothills Animal Shelter
- Humane Society of Boulder Valley
- Humane Society of the Pike Peak Region
- National Mill Dog Rescue
- NOCO Humane’s Larimer Campus in Loveland
- Riverdale Animal Shelter
Two wolves were also found on the property and were brought to a wolf sanctuary, according to NOCO Humane.
“While this was a challenging situation, the dogs have been taken in by animal welfare experts and will be examined and treated by veterinarians and hopefully they will be ready for adoption in the near future,” said Nick Fisher, PACFA program section chief.
Meanwhile, Renkewitz said he will try to fight to get the dogs back, calling them his family. He said they all came from shelters and rescues, as well as abuse situations.
“I have dogs that need medications. I have dogs that are older. I have dogs that are bonded,” he said on Thursday. “I offered while they were there for me to sit down — making sure everybody’s gonna go together. They didn’t care. I want to give them all the dogs’ names. They didn’t care. I wanted to give them all the dogs medications. They didn’t care.”
Renkewitz said the dogs ran free on his property and were not locked up, which the state wanted him to do.
“They’ve been living in a sanctuary for three years — three and a half years,” he said. “They know what freedom is. They don’t know what jail is.”
Calhoun with NOCO Humane, which was not involved in the state or court’s decision to remove the dogs, said all of the dogs appeared healthy and well-socialized with other dogs and people. She said they know some of the dogs have medical issues, so they working to make sure they are examined quickly.
“Hopefully, this means that they won’t need to spend too much time in an unfamiliar shelter environment, especially since these dogs are accustomed to living outdoors,” she said.
Each dog will undergo a medical and behavioral evaluation. Calhoun said she believes the dogs will make “excellent adoption candidates.”
“We recognize that this is a challenging and devastating situation for all involved,” she said. “But we are also grateful that we have the capacity to provide these wonderful animals with a home in the face of homelessness.”
She saw some of the dogs on Thursday morning and said they seemed calm and relaxed.
Anybody interested in adopting these dogs should visit NOCOHumane.org. Its list of adoptable animals is updated every fifteen minutes. Calhoun is reminding possible adopters that huskies are an active breed and need plenty of daily exercise.