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Big-push begins on capital campaign for new no-kill shelter in Roberts

A concept drawing of the 10,000-square-foot Humane Society Adoption and Education Center, which is planned for a 6.5-acre-site that’s been acquired near Interstate 94 in Roberts. (Submitted image)1 / 2
St. Croix Animal Friends president Diana Neubarth (left) and board member Vicki Donatell are pictured with their official Case Statement for the planned no-kill shelter and a copy of the group’s fall newsletter, which includes a column on Neubarth’s adopted dog Red. (Photo by Chuck Nowlen)2 / 2

After nine years of fundraising, planning and program development — capped by the debt-free acquisition of a 6.5-acre site in Roberts — the table is finally set for a no-kill St. Croix County animal adoption and education center.

Now all the group that wants to build the shelter needs is some big-time donors to boost the critically needed facility into reality.

“So many potential donors have told us, ‘Let me know when you get that lead gift, and I’ll sign on,’” said Diana Neubarth, president of St. Croix Animal Friends. “Everything’s in place, and we’re ready to go. We just need some investors who will really step up.”

As the group’s final-push, two-year capital campaign for the shelter ramps up, board member Vicki Donatell added:

“We get calls all the time, and there are tons of reasons why people need a central, local place to go if they have to surrender their pets — or for many other important services and programs. But right now in St. Croix County, where can people go?”

Since River Falls’ Pierce/St. Croix animal shelter closed in 2003, the answer is, “Nowhere.”

That’s a big problem all over St. Croix County, Neubarth and Donatell note — beyond the fact that more than half of the animals surrendered to distant facilities are routinely euthanized, not to mention the others that die sick and hungry after being abandoned by their owners.

Significant extra expenses and time costs for police departments, animal-control officials and local governments are just one example of the fallout from the lack of a St. Croix County facility.

Countywide benefits

Other benefits of the new shelter, according to the case statement, include the following:

• It will give St. Croix County’s estimated 10,000-plus households with either a dog or a cat a “go to” place for education, pet training and “when the time comes, one more addition to the family.”

• It will make a serious dent in the number of accident- and disease-prone abandoned animals that pose a risk to public safety, farm animals, wildlife and family pets. “Distance matters,” the case statement says. “People are abandoning animals, rather than make the drive” to a distant facility.

• The shelter’s proactive on-site and centrally organized remote education and training programs will lead to better pet care at home, less chance that an animal will be surrendered or abandoned due to behavior issues and fewer unwanted litters of kittens and puppies.

• It will strengthen the county’s ability to provide donated food and other services to low-income pet owners, who sometimes find it impossible to provide for their animals, leading to neglect and more abandonments.

• The new facility will be an organizational, outreach and coordination hub for the dozens of St. Croix County volunteer and nonprofit groups that serve the interests of companion animals, each with their own unique focus and opportunities.

“All other counties of comparable size in the state have recognized the need for an appropriately resourced facility where — at minimum — animals receive temporary shelter and the opportunity for adoptive homes,” the case statement added.

Daily tragedies

Then, of course, there are all the animals that are needlessly put down at distant shelters that don’t have a no-kill policy. Neubarth knows all about that — her beloved Husky “Red” was within minutes of becoming one of them.

“We’ve been blessed hundreds of times over by the giving of that wonderful dog,” she says. “I keep thinking: How many dogs like this are out there that can’t give because they’ve been euthanized?”

Adds Donatell: “Cats too.” The add-on comment has become an inside joke for both of them when they talk about the shelter publicly. Neubarth is a dog person; Donatell is a cat person, and she always makes sure that felines are included in the discussion.

The shelter’s core programs are already in place, thanks to a long list of St. Croix Animal Friends fundraising, volunteer, community, organizational and membership events and initiatives that have been put together over the last nine years. Look for new announcements soon.

Those programs are mature and functional now, but until the shelter is built, coordinating them will be more scattered than it should be for the most efficient and effective outcomes, Neubarth and Donatell note.

“We may not have a physical building yet, but we operate as if we did,” says Neubarth. “All of those programs will slide right in once the shelter is built.”

Meanwhile, the 6.5-acre Roberts site for the shelter is waiting to spring to life — paid for in full with part of the $600,000 that St. Croix Animal Friends has raised since 2006. The property even came with the necessary zoning.

About $2.9 million is still need for building construction, the boarding facility and to develop the site.

“This just has to happen,” Neubarth says of the shelter. “It just has to.”

Chuck Nowlen

Chuck Nowlen joined the Star-Observer team as a business, township and general-assignment reporter in April, 2014 after a three-decade career in newspapers and magazines, and as a newsroom-management/business-planning consultant.

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