A battle over an unlicensed dog sanctuary has reached a breaking point, but the owner vows to keep up the fight

A photo of the Just 4 Jacks Ranch and Sanctuary in Lyons, posted on the organization’s Instagram on Jan. 26, 2023.

An unlicensed facility in northern Colorado that considered itself an animal sanctuary closed this week following a year-long battle with Colorado’s animal regulators.

The Just 4 Jacks Ranch and Sanctuary in Lyons used to house Huskies, Malamutes, and other large, mixed-breed dogs. But Wednesday, the sanctuary was evicted, leaving one very angry founder and 78 large-breed dogs without a home.

Although the dissolution of Just 4 Jacks was on the grounds of overdue rent, there have been ongoing issues related to the sanctuary for over a year.

The conflict began when NOCO Humane was “made aware of issues regarding some dogs at large and, I believe, barking,” said Judy Calhoun, CEO of the animal welfare service for Weld and Larimer counties. These kinds of reports aren’t unusual, she added. 

However, the situation didn’t end with a couple of calls from angry neighbors.

According to court documents, NOCO Humane filed a complaint in December 2022, alleging that Just 4 Jack’s owner, Drew Renkewitz, was sheltering over 15 dogs without a valid PACFA license, a Colorado requirement for any person or business that adopts, trains, or does similar work with pets. In January 2023, inspectors with PACFA confirmed he had 56 dogs. The agency also confirmed that he was operating without a license.

NOCO Humane also pointed out that there was a potential issue with zoning laws, as Renkewitz lived in a residential area.

At that time, NOCO asked Renkewitz to rehome the dogs, but he did not abide, according to 9News.

In March of 2023, Renkewitz applied for a PACFA license. Between April and October, regulators conducted four inspections for a license. The sanctuary failed all four, though court documents do not reveal why.

PACFA inspectors denied Renkewitz a license and issued a cease-and-desist order for Just 4 Jacks at the end of October. Then in December, authorities with PACFA executed an administrative search warrant and found 82 dogs on the property, violating the order.

Throughout 2023, NOCO’s Animal Protection and Control issued 256 charges in a total of 25 cases, Calhoun said.

According to Calhoun, the issue with operating an unlicensed facility is, “through our legislators and through the rulemaking process, we've said we care about how animals in these facilities are cared for and we want to set minimum standards.” Therefore, she argued, “It's important that those of us working in these industries and caring for animals in our facilities are meeting those minimum standards.”

Renkewitz’s 78 dogs were moved to local organizations or NOCO’s facilities Wednesday.

Calhoun said that the dogs will settle in before they are assessed for health and behavioral concerns.

“They will continue to get high-quality food, water and their kennels will be cleaned every day,” she said. “They'll be let out of their kennels if they seem to want to get out. And they will be getting daily enrichment.”

Then, after they’ve had at least three days to acclimate, the dogs will undergo medical and behavioral assessments, which may lead to in-house care before they are listed for adoption.

Although Renkewitz has lost his home and his dogs, he hasn’t given up the fight. 

Following his eviction, Renkewitz accused the agency of lying in an Instagram video posted on Thursday. 

“It’s a lie,” the video claims. “They didn’t say that I submitted the paperwork to get a hearing. They don’t even mention that. They stole my dogs. They came up there and did what they did, not telling everybody the truth.”

Renkewitz added that the dogs were not abused. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.