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When an Animal Shelter Closes

It seems ironic (or at the very least a sad coincidence) that today on National Adopt a Mutt Day there would be such sad news to report on the adoptable mutts in my very own community.

I had been hearing rumors for days now that the shelter I have volunteered at for the past 8 years was in trouble and would be closing, but I had been hoping and praying it would not true. It was not to be, today the Minnesota Valley Humane Society (MVHS) announced it would be closing it’s doors on December 31, 2010.

To say this is a sad event is an understatement. This one small humane society has been operating on its own since 1981. Despite many people’s mistaken belief, MVHS has never been affiliated with the larger Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley, Woodbury, St. Paul, etc. It did not receive money from the the Humane Society of the United States (by the way, MOST Humane Societies DON’T receive money from HSUS). It operated on a tight budget, with a small staff, and had to raise all of it’s money on its own – and it had a high adoption rate (perhaps that’s because it didn’t put a timeline on an animal’s life like other humane societies do or maybe it’s because of the awesome staff and volunteers who promoted the animals and tried to help animals find homes).

It is the only animal shelter servicing the South Metro area and soon it will be gone.

So what is the impact when a shelter closes?

Other shelters and rescue groups end up taking up the slack. Most small shelters and rescue groups operate on a shoestring budget already, so when a shelter closes they not only take on additional animals they had not planned for, they also take on the extra costs associated with it. It can make or break a shelter or rescue group, financially.

Staff and Volunteers feel set adrift. Many volunteers work at animal shelters because they deeply care for the animals, but in many cases, there is also a sense of commaraderie that develops between the staff and volunteers. Friendships are formed. There is a feeling that you are all united in a common cause – saving animals

The animals that remain suffer undue additional stress. Animals that have not been adopted out feel the additional stress from the staff and volunteers, who are stressed out themselves, but their daily routine and lives change too. Suddenly, they are shipped off to some other location, maybe to a place where conditions are worse than where they came from (or more stressful) or they may have a limit on the number of days they can remain before they are euthanized.

The community suffers. Shelters provide a lot of services that the community often does not often recognize – educational programs, veterinary services, dog training, personal support after adoption, spaying and neutering, pet supplies for your newly adopted pet and informational resources. MVHS even offered people a list of apartments and townhomes that allowed pets.

What can you do?

Give money to your local animal shelters and rescue groups. Now. Call your local animal shelter and ask them if they are affiliated with a larger organization or if they operate on their own small budget, and then give. Contact a rescue organization and ask what you can do to help. Most of them need money, but many of them also need foster homes for the animals they already have.

Adopt. Normally I would be encouraging people to not to adopt during the holiday season, but this year I am asking people to adopt the remaining dogs, cats, birds, etc. that remain at MVHS. If you have the space, the time and want to make a difference, please adopt. And, if you are not local and living in MN, please adopt from your own shelter or rescue organizations. So many of the dogs, cats and other animals that end up at a shelter are not there because they were bad or did something to deserve it. In fact, some of the most common reasons animals are surrendered are because: someone lost a job, someone died, a family situation has changed (e.g., divorce) or the family had to move to a smaller location, like an apartment that doesn’t take pets. People that want a purebreed dog or cat often don’t realize that a lot of purebreed dogs and cats end up in shelters every single day (I should know I have two of my own – a Lab and a Sheltie). Many rescues and shelters have purebred dogs and cats, and often rescues are geared towards a particular breed. If that’s what you are looking for, please check with a shelter or rescue group first. Please.

Volunteer. I have had so many people tell me that they could never volunteer at a shelter because it would break their heart. I’m not going to lie, some days your heart does break, but most of the time you feel good knowing you have given a dog or cat a little extra attention and love that day. Every single interaction of love and kindness matters to them. It is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. And did I mention the friendships you develop? Trust me. It is SO worth it.

It’s never easy when an animal shelter closes, but sometimes it can bring change. I hope you will be a part of that change.

Please Note: If you are coming here to read this because HumaneWatch.org sent you here, please note that this shelter DID NOT close because of anything HSUS did or did not do and I completely disavow their misrepresentation of this fact in order to push their agenda to smear HSUS or any other group that supports caring for animals in a humane way.

  1. December 3, 2010 at 4:53 AM

    Our community also has a small (18 kennels for dogs) shelter. It is true that most people do not realize that these ‘humane societies’ are not affiliated with HSUS and receive no funding other than what they raise themselves.

    Here’s hoping that the facility opens again one day soon.

    • Mel
      December 3, 2010 at 5:17 AM

      Thanks Debbie. I wish more people understood that HSUS is not the parent organization of animal shelters all over the country. Maybe if people did, there would be more people giving locally.
      I am so sad to think that the place I hoped to go back to soon (my home away from home) will not be there next year. It makes me mad, sad and frustrated. I need to go hug my dogs.

  2. December 3, 2010 at 5:37 AM

    Such sad, sad news. I am so sorry for those animals and the people who care for them. You especially, Mel.

    Thanks for getting the word out about HS funding – and the lack thereof. Sadly, this appears to boil down to a marketing problem. Perhaps a strategic re-branding would have distanced the shelter from incorrect public perception re: funding. Can the community rally to start fresh with a new name and rejuvenate this facility? A strong grassroots awareness campaign could make all the difference. I’ve seen it happen.

    I’m watching one of our local rescues struggle for different reasons. The trouble here stems from strife between people within the organization which has curbed their working together toward fundraising goals. When people can’t get over themselves for the sake of the animals in need, that makes me incredibly angry too.

    • Mel
      December 3, 2010 at 5:45 AM

      Thanks Kim. I am mostly sad for the staff, volunteers and the animals. It breaks my heart to see a “good” shelter go away when they do so much good.
      I think marketing could have been an issue, but so was communication. A lot of people didn’t realize things were so dire. It also makes me mad when ego gets in the way of saving an animal’s life. I know it happens at a lot of places, but this shelter was so dedicated to giving every animal a chance. That’s what makes it so sad.

      I know a lot of people, including me, are motivated to try and save it. I hope it works.

  3. Kristin
    December 3, 2010 at 6:31 AM

    Mel, thank you writing this. Everything you wrote is true. The shelters are already bursting at the seams, and now they’ll be asked to take in the animals that MVHS had formerly cared for. I just want to say what an honor it was to volunteer with you, Sue, Heidi, Buffy, Sherri, Ruth, Linda, Roxanne, and the other dedicated Sunday walkers. What a great group of women.
    I feel deeply sorry for the staff and other volunteers, and of course for the animals currently there and for all future animals that will now be euthanized or dumped in the country. I must say, I blame the Board of Directors and the Executive Director. There were MANY missteps over the last five years of so-called capital campaigning. The campaign was poorly run. I honestly think they didn’t know what they were doing, and Lynae stuck her head in the sand this year. What a debacle.

    • Mel
      December 3, 2010 at 7:22 AM

      Thanks you Kristin. I have thoroughly enjoyed walking dogs with you, and everyone else you mentioned, for these past 8 years. I was hoping to be back again soon, but now it looks like that won’t happen (unless a miracle comes along). I hope all of us can still have our get togethers in the future.

      I too, am deeply sorry for all the staff and volunteers. I think everyone is deeply disappointed that this is where it has ended up. What a waste of good and talented people. I am also really worried for the animals. I hope they can all find good homes before MVHS closes. I certainly don’t want them to end up at a shelter who numbers their days. I fear what the impact will be to the community once MVHS is gone. There is simply no organization to fill the void. Where will people go now if they need help?

      I don’t know what has happened this past year in regards to the campaign and the day-to-day running of the shelter, but I do know there are a lot of people starting to offer help on Facebook. My fear is that the leadership will not take them up on it or have presence of mind to DO something. They’ve already wasted so many opportunities. Will they do so again?

      I am disappointed in the board and Exec Director as well. Why was there no urgent call for help before this? Creating urgency motivates people. They obviously didn’t use that to their advantage.

  4. Kristin
    December 3, 2010 at 6:32 AM

    P.S. And Beth B., too!

  5. December 3, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    It is so sad to see a shelter close and as others have mentioned before it is so important that people give locally and realize that HSUS does not support all shelters. All of us volunteers at small rescues know that there is always great need for donations and even more for foster homes and more volunteers. Great questions on your post and great answers thank you.

    • Mel
      December 4, 2010 at 5:12 AM

      Thank you Elisa. You are so right. So many people don’t know that HSUS does not give to smaller and local shelters. I hope that if my shelter cannot be saved, then maybe someone else’s can be. More fosters would be great too!!!

  6. Kristine
    December 3, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    This is terrible. Thank you for the reminder to pay more attention and help to support the shelters in my community. They do vital work that affects all of us, even those without animals. When a shelter closes, it is a community-wide issue. I wish more people would realise that.

    I am so sorry this shelter just couldn’t make it any longer. Let’s hope it is not the start of a trend.

    • Mel
      December 4, 2010 at 5:10 AM

      Thank you Kristine. I agree. It is a community-wide issue. It breaks my heart to think that this great facility with it’s awesome staff and volunteers will be gone soon. This was my home away from home. I purposely moved to where I live now so I could be closer to it and the friends I made there. I hope that people will realize it could be their shelter next and give back so other animals will be saved.

  7. December 4, 2010 at 10:18 AM

    Until recently, I did not know that the HSUS is NOT affiliated with animal shelters that have the word “humane” in them. The same goes for Canada, where I live. I don’t like any of the ads that are run by these large orgs, they mislead the viewer into thinking that their dontations go directly to the animals, which is not the case. I now only donate to local registered animal charities where I know that my donation will go to good use.

    I’m very sorry to hear about this shelter closing 😦 I hope that all the animals there will find other places to go.

  8. December 6, 2010 at 7:19 AM

    I am so sorry to hear this, Mel. It’s so sad when the animals end up suffering – I will be hoping the best for them.

  9. December 7, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    Oh Mel, I am so sorry this has happened. What an awful empty feeling to be left with, especially when no one seems to have made a last ditch effort through news and other media to state the fact that they would close without a source of funding and how much would be needed to get back to an operational mode.

    We had a group here announce some months ago they would be closing this year if they didn’t get $500K and even then it would only take them to the first quarter of next year. Well, tell me who is going to prop up that kind of operational budget? I think the execs wait too long to plea yet people get cynical, thinking group is being overly dramatic just to raise funds, nearly accusing of scamming…it can be a tough call, but I think you’re better off, and so are the animals, if you plan transfers in what looks like your last year of service. The more animals you can get to good shelters, the better off you’ll be – animals too. Nothing worse than heart attack transfers to places that don’t have the same guidelines as you do.

    Is there any Christmas Adoptathon Special all day every day until closing happening for those ready to be adopted? Your TV and radio stations should be all over this – what a great Christmas story that would make – get many dogs adopted to good families. Anyone doing the PR?

    • Mel
      December 8, 2010 at 10:03 AM

      It is a double-edged blade isn’t it Mary. Either way, no one wins. 😦
      They are providing discounts on all animals adopted between now and when it closes on December 31, 2010. Fortunately, several people have stepped up and adopted animals over the past few days. In fact, they had a record 41 adoptions on Saturday! That’s good news for all the animals. 🙂

  10. Liggy
    December 8, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    Dang, sad news for sure. I just got off the phone with our vet asking for the Swift Co. Humane Societies Address. My hubby’s company sends out a form for all employees to fill out for any charity or organization and the Corp. office send them $100. I choose the animals this yr. We don’t have a County Humane society here but there are several ” foster” homes. The Vet told me the donations don’t normally go toward food for the animals tho as they get donations from other places for that. The monetary donations go into a fund for spay / neuter / shots.

    • Mel
      December 9, 2010 at 6:16 AM

      Thanks Liggy. Not only for your comment, but also for your wonderful decision to help out other animals in need. I just saw a posting from a rescue that said they wanted to save a dog scheduled to be euthanized, but they were out of money and had no more fosters to take it in. Your contribution goes a long way to help keep the animals healthy and prevent more pets living on the streets or having to be euthanized. Many rescue groups love the cash to over vet bills, food, etc. so what you are doing is admirable!

      BTW – Thanks for doing the legwork on that one. It’s nice to see information shared that can be of some value.

  11. Milly
    December 8, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    Is it possible to apply for Grants to help this shelter? Not sure of the protocal regarding this.

  12. December 8, 2010 at 9:21 PM

    Is there any chance the shelter would stay open if enough money was raised? What would it take to do that?

    • Mel
      December 9, 2010 at 6:54 AM

      Good questions, with complicated answers. If the shelter were to raise enough money it likely could be saved. However, many of us volunteers (and some staff) believe that before that could happen both the Executive Director and the Board of Directors would need to be replaced. There may be no malfeasance here, but the fact that they wouldn’t allow volunteers or staff to know how the shelter was doing or what the status of the Capital Campaign (to raise money for the new shelter) was, until it was too late, leads many of us to believe that they could not remain if the shelter were to somehow get enough money to re-open and move to a new building. The old building was sold by the Exec Dir and Board before anyone knew about it and before they even had a new building. We cannot stay where we are because the land and building have already been sold.
      If by some miracle a donor were to come forward and help us, I believe they should make it conditional on the Executive Director and Board being removed. They have mislead everyone and even thwarted attempts to find out who they were and what they were doing to save the shelter. I don’t see how they could remain if said miracle were to happen.

  13. Deb
    December 9, 2010 at 2:09 AM

    HEY no good… this is the one I always refer people to. It’s a good place.
    How can it be changed? There must be a way.

    • Mel
      December 9, 2010 at 6:23 AM

      I wish there was a way Deb, but we’re looking at a need of 2 million dollars to both buy the new building (ours is so bad that when it rains it leaks into the light fixtures above the dog kennels) and to renovate it for the shelter’s needs (it was formerly a furniture warehouse). It looks like there is no miracle in sight. 😦

      It breaks my heart. I have made so many good friends there and had the pleasure of helping so many dogs find their forever homes. I wonder where the strays and unwanted dogs and cats of the South Metro will go now?

    • Mel
      December 9, 2010 at 6:40 AM

      I wish there was Deb, but unless a donor comes through with a lot of money I don’t see how. 😦
      It really is an awesome place with the most awesome staff and volunteers!

  14. December 9, 2010 at 2:21 AM

    This is really unfortunate. Thank you for sharing this for people to learn about the closing.

    • Mel
      December 9, 2010 at 6:03 AM

      Thanks Kathleen. It is very sad to so many of us that gave our money, our time, and our love to the shelter and its animals.

  15. elizabeth frost
    December 9, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    I see your pain but the real mistake was in serving the humane society in the first place and not someone who is actually in it to help animals. Less than 1% of the proceeds go to actual shelters.. they. want. the. money. for. themselves. Idiots… selfish idiots…

    • Mel
      December 9, 2010 at 8:31 AM

      Thanks for your comment, but I must correct you on this. Not ALL humane societies are big shelters with a big business attitude. MVHS was an exception. They DID spend the money on their animals. I saw it in person and I have seen the financials. To assume such a figure is applicable here is not only incorrect, but making a BIG assumption with no data to back it up.

  16. December 15, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    This is sad news. Is there no way to save the shelter?

    • Mel
      December 16, 2010 at 10:44 AM

      I wish there was Charlotte, but unfortunately it appears to be a “done deal”.

  17. BADKarma
    December 15, 2010 at 9:59 PM

    “Please Note: If you are coming here to read this because HumaneWatch.org sent you here, please note that this shelter DID NOT close because of anything HSUS did or did not do and I completely disavow their misrepresentation of this fact in order to push their agenda to smear HSUS or any other group that supports caring for animals in a humane way.”

    Are you stupid or just totally brainwashed? I’m curious.

    The H$U$ supports one goal: eliminating all human contact with animals and killing all domestic animals, which they describe as “breathing GMOs”. If they gave one fat damn about “caring for animals in a humane way”, they would have ponied up a few hundred thousand of the several hundred MILLION they have in the bank to help this shelter stay open. Do yourself a favor, Twinky… Don’t advocate supporting your local shelter by bashing the organization which is spearheading efforts to force the H$U$ to either live up to its own hype or admit its true (AR/Veganist Jihad) agenda.

    • Kristin Heiberg
      December 16, 2010 at 7:22 AM

      Hey BADKarma, why don’t you go f*ck yourself? You don’t know Mel, nor do you know the MN Valley Humane Society. Its closing has NOTHING.. understand? NOTHING to do with HSUS. Period. It is a very small, completely independent humane society that had no ties with HSUS, the larger Animal Humane Society of MN, or any other organization.
      So, I’ll answer your question: No, Mel is not stupid and she is not brainwashed. Neither am I. Now you, I’m not so sure of. But don’t use Mel’s blog for your soapbox, okay?

    • Mel
      December 16, 2010 at 10:54 AM

      BK – It is rather disappointing nowadays that people choose to respond to a blog post (or this disclaimer) by using name-calling and demeaning terms (Really? Twinky?). I much more prefer an engaging discussion using real data or thoughtful insight than stooping to the lowest common denominator. I think we Americans have become too comfortable with letting our anger define our response these days, and yet, have you noticed that this approach is the one that is least likely to engage people in an actual conversation?

      I welcome a good discussion, and your thoughtful points on the post or the disclaimer, but before I do I would just ask that you read my response to Erica’s thoughtful comments first.

  18. Erica
    December 16, 2010 at 2:55 AM

    I noted your clause at the bottom of the article where you stated ” If you are coming here to read this because HumaneWatch.org sent you here, please note that this shelter DID NOT close because of anything HSUS did or did not do and I completely disavow their misrepresentation of this fact in order to push their agenda to smear HSUS or any other group that supports caring for animals in a humane way.”

    While I completely understand this – it would be fair to point out that if HSUS still adhered to the 60/40 split they were set up to do then maybe this wouldn’t be happening. And due to the additional stress of the animals during this time, as well as the fact that your org has a high adoption rate AND does not put time limits on how long they will hold animals – it would be fair to say that the HSUS should & could step up and assist your shelter financially so that you wouldn’t have to close your doors.

    I feel so bad for the animals, staff & volunteers that have put their hearts into saving these animals. I hope that you are able to place all the animals with good loving homes and that they don’t end up somewhere that will place a time limit on their lives and/or end up somewhere that doesn’t treat their animals as humanely as your shelter does. It is always sad to see any shelter close their doors, but doubly hard when the shelter has such a good success rate of saving animals.

    • Mel
      December 16, 2010 at 7:32 AM

      Erica – Thank you for your thoughtful, articulate and polite response. I agree that it is a shame that my shelter is closing given it’s high adoption rates, lack of a timeline for pets that stay there and the wonderful staff who will no longer have jobs after December 31st. Sadly, this situation has less to do with HSUS than may have been implied by my post. Yes. They are closing because they could not raise enough money, but the money they could not raise was for the Capital Campaign to buy a new building. You see, the Executive Director and Board of Directors chose to sell our current building before we had a new one in place. It was only after they sold it that they also discovered that many of the buildings that were available to us were worse than our current one (and believe me ours was bad!) or more expensive or in a bad location (where no one could see it). Even if HSUS had given money to our shelter, it likely would have gone to the general fund used for the day-to-day operations, not to a capital campaign which is by law a separate fund from the general funding used to run the shelter.

      Also, in my opinion (one that is supported by many of the volunteers and staff) the Executive Director and Board of Directors did a miserable job communicating the needs of our shelter. They never let the volunteers or staff know where the capital campaign was in terms of goals and dollar amount. In fact, many volunteers asked to attend board meetings, and even asked to learn more about the capital campaign’s status for over a year and each time they were denied or turned away by the Executive Director. In fact, the board used to be called “the shadow board” because no one knew who they were. How’s that for transparency?

      Since the announcement of the shelter’s closing, people have called trying to find out how they can help, but their calls have been unanswered and requests on how they can help have only been met with silence. So you see, this has nothing to do with HSUS.

      My disclaimer at the bottom of the page was merely meant to let HumaneWatch.org supporters that I do not support the organization’s use of my post as a way to further their agenda to attack HSUS. I never said I was a supporter of HSUS. Like many organizations, there are things I like and dislike about HSUS (support of Michael Vick being one of the things I most dislike), however the fact that this group would use my post to further their agenda is offensive to me. I happen to know who is behind HumaneWatch.org and I completely disagree with their agenda, philosophy, methods and goals. Since they have chosen not to remove a link to my post from their site, and in fact, have since told me they could do as they pleased (certainly true), I have chosen to do the only other thing I can do – let people know that I do not support their use of my post in this manner.

      Thanks again for your response. I really enjoyed reading it.

  19. Sandy
    December 17, 2010 at 11:55 PM

    Mel- you are a wonderful person and obviously a smart one. Too many in the animal community turn legitimate differences into name calling and bashing.I have read several of the posts on Humanewatch and I doubt some who post even like animals. Maybe in the future you and others in your community can start another shelter if you are not completely worn out by this sad experience The need is great and I am certain the animals would benefit. Until then, God bless you and the others for all of your good works

    • Mel
      December 18, 2010 at 4:46 AM

      Wow Sandy. I’m not sure I deserve such high praise, but thank you!
      We are looking at some options, including trying to get another shelter in our area. There is only one that is relatively close by and that’s not even that close. We are all struggling with the loss and saddness.

  1. December 3, 2010 at 5:24 AM
  2. December 6, 2010 at 7:20 PM
  3. January 1, 2011 at 3:51 AM
  4. January 10, 2011 at 10:14 AM

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