Community Health Through Shelter Pets Initiative

“Putting the ‘Human’ in Humane Society”

In 2018, Roice-Hurst Humane Society launched the innovative Community Health Through Shelter Pets Initiative (CHTSP), which focuses on connecting shelter animals to people in our community through animal-assisted activities to strengthen the human-animal bond and improve overall well-being.

We utilize an empathy-based humane education curriculum as the backbone of these interactions to promote empathy, compassion, social/emotional learning, and knowledge about animal welfare.  

This program takes place at the shelter, or off-site, and includes group with both cats and dogs. We currently work with Riverside Education Center, Summit High School, senior care facilities, and special programming within School District 51.

While the program is incredibly beneficial to humans, the shelter pets benefit just as well; they receive much needed socialization and enrichment. By teaching people to be kind to animals, we hope to reduce incidents of animal cruelty and animal surrenders to the shelter in the long term. 

We also offer school tours, scout troops and other club related shelter tours!

The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that positively influences the health and well-being of both. Here are some of the amazing benefits that our bonds with animals bring to our lives: 

  • Decrease in loneliness and isolation. Having a furry companion can increase feelings of connectedness and belonging. For many people, pets can oftentimes be someone’s only source of social support.
  • Increase in the “feel good” chemicals in the brain, such as Oxytocin (aka the love hormone) and endorphins. In one study, these hormones not only increased in the human, but the dog as well.
  • Decrease in blood pressure and stress. Spending time with pets can make one feel relaxed, especially when petting is involved. The purring sound of a cat has also been demonstrated to promote relaxation.
  • Promotes exercise. This is especially true for dog owners who take their canines out for walks. (However, more people are teaching their cats to also walk on leash and harness!) : 

*Call or email Ashley to set up a group or a tour:  970-434-7337 ext: 103 OR


Ashley DiGrado – Community Health Liaison

Ashley has worked for Roice-Hurst Humane Society for a cumulative of six years doing various roles from adoption counselor, receptionist, to administrative assistant. Her most recent position is the role of a community health liaison, and she directly oversees the Community Health Through Shelter Pets Initiative. She earned her Animals and Human Health Health certificate from the University of Denver’s Institute for the Human-Animal Connection to assist her in developing the initiative. Ashley not only has experience in the animal world, but has a background in social work. She earned her Bachelor of Social Work from Colorado Mesa University in 2016, and after graduation was employed at a local community mental health center working with a variety of populations as a case manager. She has always had a desire to combine her love of social work with her second passion, animal welfare, and was beyond thankful for the opportunity to head this new program; she considers this her “dream job” and enjoys connecting people and animals, and promoting the human-animal bond.

Roice Hurst Humane Society, Animal Shelter, Adoption Center - Roice Hurst Humane Society Servicing Grand Junction, Mesa County & Western Colorado
Roice Hurst Humane Society, Animal Shelter, Adoption Center - Roice Hurst Humane Society Servicing Grand Junction, Mesa County & Western Colorado
Roice Hurst Humane Society, Animal Shelter, Adoption Center - Roice Hurst Humane Society Servicing Grand Junction, Mesa County & Western Colorado

“I learned of the empathetic connection between humans and animals and how our energy feeds off each other. The groups helped me be mindful of the ways I’m treating others”. -Division of Youth Services Participant

“I use to not like cats, but now I know more and cats are pretty cool”- Riverside Education Center Student

“The students at Nisley Elementary participated last year in a 6 week program regarding empathy with kittens. This translated into discussion as well as other social skill lessons pertaining to what empathy looks like towards self as well as others. The students learned and were able to practice empathy/compassion as well as emotional regulation while working with the kittens. The students became more cognizant of people and the world around them in how others are impacted emotionally. Thank you we can’t wait for our next sessions to begin” – Nisley Counselor 2019

Community Health Through Shelter Pets Initiative is generously funded by:

Anonymous Donors and a grant from The Latham Foundation for the Promotion of Humane Education

Thank you Stacy Schoolfield, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Animal-Assisted Social Worker (AASW) for your continued support and assistance.