With thrift store open, animal sanctuary working on opening shelter

Denkai New Mexico has big plans for large warehouse

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Floss Blackburn of the Denkai Animal Sanctuary in Cortez, Colo., is launching a new animal shelter in Farmington called Denkai New Mexico.

FARMINGTON — With its thrift store having opened in Farmington last month, the Denkai New Mexico animal sanctuary is moving forward with plans to open the initial phase of its new animal shelter later this spring.

Floss Blackburn, the founder and executive director of the organization, said work continues on the group's headquarters in the old Halliburton building at 3110 Bloomfield Highway. A thrift store designed to help fund shelter operations opened on March 15, and Blackburn said that project has been well received, with donations of various items rolling in.

Blackburn is focusing her attention on the 11,000-square-foot warehouse building on the property, the front part of which will house a small-scale shelter operation that she hopes to have open by June 1. That portion of the building will house the organization's administrative offices, and kennels and care facilities for the animals.

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Workers have painted the interior walls and installed trim, and are laying new flooring. Blackburn said the organization has been promised a donation of kennels from an animal welfare organization in Colorado that is ceasing operations, but that equipment has not been received yet.

Blackburn originally hoped to have the shelter open by May 1, but she said the delay in receiving the kennels has pushed that date back. She described the remaining work to get the front portion of the warehouse building ready to receive animals as minimal.

"I could literally have that (portion of the building) done in another week or two," she said.

Next will come the construction of exercise areas and shade structures so the animals can spend some time outside each day.

The initial shelter operation will house 20 animals at most, Blackburn said, but she has plans for a much larger and more extensive operation down the line, including a full-scale animal clinic.

Blackburn founded the nonprofit Denkai New Mexico earlier this year after running the Denkai Animal Sanctuary in Cortez, Colorado, for the past 20 years. Blackburn said most of the animals that are taken in at the Cortez facility come from New Mexico. She chose to open a shelter here as part of an effort to battle the problem of pet overpopulation at its root.

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Floss Blackburn of Denkai New Mexico hopes to sharply reduce the number of animals that wind up being euthanized in San Juan County with the opening of a new shelter in Farmington.

The Denkai Animal Sanctuary serves as the parent organization for Denkai New Mexico, and the new organization will rely heavily on the original organization's donors and contacts for funding and support. The parent organization arranges adoptions of its animals to families across the United States and even into Canada, Blackburn said, giving it a wide base of supporters.

Denkai New Mexico has received donations of two vans to provide for the transport of animals from San Juan County to other parts of the country where there is a demand for them, she said. But both vehicles need work, and Blackburn is looking for a mechanic interested in serving in a volunteer capacity.

"It is super important to be able to move those animals into areas where they can be adopted," she said. "Depending on the size of the animals, we can move 20 to 100 at a time into more adoptable areas and no-kill shelters. A lot of those animals come from areas like Farmington and Shiprock."

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When it begins operations and starts adopting out animals, Blackburn said Denkai New Mexico will have the same fee structure as the Cortez organization, which she said is likely to be high by San Juan County standards. Puppy adoptions will cost $450, adult dog adoptions will run $400 and senior dogs will be adopted for $300.

Blackburn said she understands those figures likely won't be well received by many Farmington-area residents. But she said those figures are necessary to keep the operation afloat, and she said it would not be feasible to have lower fees in San Juan County than what Denkai charges just across the border in Colorado or its network of adopters across North America.

She said the organization will work with potential adopters who legitimately cannot afford to pay that kind of money to find a way to reduce the fee by half. But she noted that since neither of the Denkai organizations are government-funded operations, their adoption fees are necessarily higher than those of most municipal shelters.

Blackburn said the new organization's biggest needs are volunteers to staff the store and shelter, and funding to cover the costs of renovating the warehouse, as well as people who are interested in fostering animals. Call 970-217-1457 for details or visit denkaisanctuary.org.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.