Merry Christmas, Pupdog

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And here’s a story a little too close to home. I’ve been to several of the meetings held to find a way to save the Humane Society. I’ve been to two village board meetings and watched them discuss and vote on the issue.

Let me tell you, there are a lot of cold-hearted motherfuckers out here. Especially in Spring Valley.

And guess where many of the dogs are going? That’s right, to the Golden Valley Humane Society, which just got hit with 156 (newly updated number) puppy mill babies. At least those puppy mill dogs will be picked up quickly since they’re the trendy kind: Rat Terriers, MinPins and Labs.

Animal shelter to close
Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Humane Society of Pierce St. Croix will close its animal shelter, located just southeast of River Falls on Hwy. 65. Executive Director Theresa Jonas said that barring a miracle, the decision is irreversible. The shelter opened in 1991. Lately it has been losing money while taking in many more animals. Local public officials in the two counties will soon be stuck having to handle animal-related problems.

By Phil Pfuehler, Editor
rfjeditor@rivertowns.net

After nurturing and finding homes for neglected dogs and cats for nearly 15 years, the local Humane Society’s animal shelter will close early next month. It will stop accepting strays after Saturday, Dec. 31.

Theresa Jonas, Humane Society executive director and president of its six-member board, said the vote to close last Thursday night was painful but unanimous.

“This is an extremely hard and sad time,” said Jonas, a retired River Falls school teacher who taught third grade for years at Greenwood Elementary School and lives in Ellsworth. “Much like children, animals are dependent on adult human beings.

“Animals can’t take care of themselves. Living in our community, it’s our responsibility to provide care for them.” [Jonas herself owns 11 dogs. –Sari]

Jonas said the animal shelter was never a money maker, but starting last year it began running a deficit. By year’s end it had lost more than $40,000.

She said the deficit continued in 2005 before a spate of donations in the past few months reversed that trend.

“We still owe for past bills, but we haven’t gone any further into the hole,” Jonas said. “Earlier this year we had to borrow money to make payroll.”

Shelter finances were stretched last year by an explosive growth of animal pickups by shelter employees and those brought in by people.

Jonas said the shelter took in almost 600 more animals in 2004 than in 2003. This year’s pace is slightly ahead of last year’s. [You don’t want to know how many were euthanized in 2005.]

“We’re not simply a little operation anymore,” Jonas said. ?At $300,000-plus, it’s not cheap to operate the shelter. We’ve been surviving on the generosity of people who have donated to us. But donations and grants just aren’t enough.

“Basically, for the past 14 years we’ve been subsidizing the two-county area financially and legally for the handling of stray animals.”

Jonas said this year’s spree of global disasters – such as Hurricane Katrina – diverted local donations and affected the shelter’s fundraising.

Jonas said the animal shelter’s closure will mean laying off one-part time and five full-time employees. Other workers give of their time.

Jonas said the shelter has been increasingly thrifty. Some staff members were laid off and none are paid benefits. Recently the shelter closed for Tuesdays and scaled back its animal-control work.

Jonas said the final nail in the shelter’s coffin came from what she called an indifferent response for financial aid from the 39 municipalities in Pierce and St. Croix counties.

Out of the 39 contacted, Jonas said 28 had no official response. Six said no to the financial aid request; four gave a qualified yes with conditions; only one gave an unqualified yes.

Jonas said if all the municipalities agreed to help, the cost to each would be $3.87 per person a year.

Jonas said her pleas for assistance to the counties also went nowhere.

She claimed to have received no response from St. Croix County, while Pierce County said the animal issue was a municipal one.

Jonas said her understanding of state law is that some kind of government body – be it village, town, city or county – has a legal obligation under public health protection to manage stray, diseased and dangerous animals.

“I really hope the towns get organized and form something to deal with these animals,” she said. “We’ve been the ones who’ve handled them if they’re loose and have bitten or attacked somebody.”

Not long ago Jonas said an animal shelter employee captured a feral cat that bit two ShopKo workers in River Falls who were unloading goods. [Oooh, too bad we didn’t pass that bill making it legal to hunt feral cats in Wisconsin.]

“The cat had evidently been in this truck that had a shipment,” she said. “The two employees tried to grab it and were bitten.”

The wild cat was caught, euthanized and tested negative for rabies. Because of the finding, the ShopKo employees didn’t require prolonged rabies medical treatment. If biting animals aren’t caught, that treatment is needed for people as a precaution.

After Jan. 1, Jonas said Pierce and St. Croix county residents will have to call their elected local officials when animal problems occur.

Jonas said the Humane Society will soon dissolve its nonprofit corporation status that was set up to operate the shelter.

An all-out animal adoption campaign will kick off after the first of the year. Jonas said it will be made as brief as possible.

She said most animals to be adopted as pets are dogs and cats. She said there are a few rabbits and Dale, the mouse, regarded as the “shelter’s mascot.”

While the shelter remains open, the number of adoptable animals varies from day to day. “We just picked up eight adorable puppies that were found dumped one morning in a ditch near the Red Barn (east of River Falls in the Martell area),” she said.

Jonas has been with the Humane Society for more than 20 years.

She said: “I don’t regret the work we’ve done all these years, not only for the many animals who have been given good homes but for all the people, especially seniors, who have found loving companions.”

The phone number for the Humane Society shelter is 426-5535.

Correction

A report in last week’s Journal about a River Falls Town Board meeting said the Humane Society of Pierce St. Croix was asking towns to pay 17 cents per resident per year to support the shelter. Actually, the Humane Society was asking municipalities to sign contracts agreeing to pay either $6.47 or $3.87 per resident each year, depending on the number of cities, towns and villages that agreed to support the shelter.

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