Gregory's considers closure as financial trouble worsens
When Colleen O'Shaughnessy bought the boarding kennel off Highway 65 in 2003, she didn't intend to start a nonprofit rescue program for abandoned cats and dogs.
However, the absence of a rescue facility in St. Croix County prompted O'Shaughnessy to found Gregory's Gift of Hope, which she operates alongside Mally's Sunshine Kennels. Gregory's has saved countless animals from being euthanized, but the shelter's consistent lack of funding has put its future in danger.
According to O'Shaughnessy, Gregory's will have to close its doors by Oct. 1 if it doesn't start receiving regular donations.
"If we can't get financial backing from people in the community, then I'm at a point where I can no longer pay out of my pocket, every month, for a countywide problem," O'Shaughnessy said.
Because the nearest animal humane society is in Woodbury, Minn., the need for a shelter in St. Croix County has been consistently growing. While a local group has been trying to raise funds for a shelter for years, O'Shaughnessy said concrete action needs to be taken.
"It's an ongoing problem, and nobody's doing anything to take care of it," she said. "We're the only organization that has a building, and even we aren't large enough to meet the immense need."
Gregory's currently houses 21 dogs and 57 cats, and O'Shaughnessy said those numbers are low. The rescue facility has taken in as many as 42 dogs and 72 cats, but the possibility of closure has forced it to keep numbers down.
Because the purpose of Gregory's is to rescue and re-home lost, injured and abandoned animals, O'Shaughnessy has a hard time with owner surrenders and would rather teach people about responsible pet ownership.
"You don't run your puppy down to the shelter because you don't have time for it," she said. "We will go out and train with people for free to keep those pets in the home. Animals are not a disposable commodity."
If Gregory's is forced to close, O'Shaughnessy said she will do her best to find a home for all 78 of the animals living there. Because it's a no-kill facility, none of the animals will be put down.
"We would hope that some of the other rescues would take them," O'Shaughnessy said. "I can't tell you what exactly would happen, but no one will lose their life. The answer to animal control is not euthanasia."
In addition to the shelter's operation expenses, which total about $14,000 per month, Gregory's faces mounting legal bills due to a lawsuit filed by a former volunteer who was bitten by a dog. O'Shaughnessy said it's the only bite she's ever had at Gregory's.
"If people could make donations to our attorney bills, that would be great," she said. "It's more money we don't have for the animals, so it's a really sad situation."
After being featured on KARE 11 several weeks ago, Gregory's received a surge of support from viewers in Minnesota. However, O'Shaughnessy said there is still a lack of financial backing from local areas.
"If we could just get $5 or $10 a month from people in the county — just to get $5,000 coming in every month — it would make it a lot easier on us," O'Shaughnessy said. "Otherwise, we literally wait for money to fall from the sky."
To donate to Gregory's, go to www.ggohinc.com. The shelter also welcomes gift cards to Hudson Pet Hospital and New Richmond Veterinary Clinic, as well as donations of Purina dog food and clumpy cat litter. Even if it's a few gently used blankets, O'Shaughnessy said everything helps.
"Animals don't care if they have marble floors," she said. "They just want to be taken care of and treated like pets. We've turned so many of these animals around in such a short time. It will be very sad if we do have to let it go."