2023 Rising Stars: Kelly Likes

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Kelley Likes (Photo by Bryan Oller)

My whole life is dogs — and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Kelley Likes in her office at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, where a pile of just-born puppies lie gently whimpering nearby.

Every two to three hours, Likes will bottle feed and clean the puppies, who were separated from their mother and in need of care. In addition to her job as vice president of philanthropy at HSPPR, where Likes raises money to ensure the organization has top-notch facilities to care for animals, she and her husband also foster more than a dozen days- to weeks-old puppies at a time.

The foster care is on top of owning eight dogs of their own, including a pit bull puppy they fostered last year who turned out to have a rare autoimmune disorder that requires ongoing treatment and medication, Likes says. She didn’t want to risk the dog not getting the expensive care she needs, “so we said, ‘We’ll take that on.’”

“It’s dogs 24/7,” Likes says. “Sometimes it’s dogs in the middle of the night. But we feel lucky to have them.”

Likes truly embodies HSPPR’s animal welfare mission, writes Vickie Smith, an HSPPR board member and volunteer, in a nomination letter.

“Whatever she asks of a volunteer or employee, she is prepared to do exactly the same thing,” Smith writes.

Likes, 34, became the youngest vice president in the organization’s history when she was promoted in 2020, and has led HSPPR to historic fundraising levels, adds Director of Development Jessica James. The organization had its highest giving month ever in December at $3.4 million, topping off a record year of $7.6 million raised during 2022, James says.

“We’ll take that on.”

And in February, HSPPR capped off a two-year, $7 million fundraising project to completely renovate and expand its veterinary clinic, which has increased the capacity and quality of its reduced-cost community vet services, Likes says. The clinic has gone from 5,300 square feet to 8,000, allowing for a 35 percent increase in procedures, according to an HSPPR press release, and Likes adds that the next fundraising goal is to put money towards hiring more vets.

The new space and more clinicians are badly needed. Not only because the clinic was inadequate for the volume of surgeries HSPPR vets and technicians were performing — including 30 to 40 spay and neuter procedures each day — but because of a nationwide veterinary shortage exacerbated by the COVID pandemic and surge in animal adoptions during that time.

“We’ve got a ramp-up plan in the works to be able to provide more public services, because we know about 60 percent of the community is not getting veterinary care, just because they can’t get access to it,” Likes says. “It’s harder to get into the vet.

“Our hope is to increase the overall health of the community animals,” she says. “We’ve seen some animals come in here and they’ve never had veterinary care.”

It’s all made possible by generous donors that Likes and her team work hard to connect with. A last-minute donation of $950,000 and one of $450,000 for the clinic renovation project left in the will of a late, longtime donor helped it reach the finish line, she says.

Likes herself goes the extra mile to spread stories about puppies and dogs in the care of HSPPR — literally. In October, she and her husband drove 30 hours from Colorado Springs to upstate New York with two puppies, Sven and Vivianne, to play in Puppy Bowl XIX. It was “a highlight of my career” to see the dogs on national television, she says, but it also provided a flurry of advertising nationally and locally for HSPPR.

“It helps us potentially get some more fosters and bring awareness that we’ve got 3,000 animals that go through that program every year,” Likes says. “It doesn’t get done without foster volunteers.”

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