Group's aim: Give them shelter
Sharon Elliott loves animals and lives in the fastest growing Wisconsin county -- it's also a county with no place to house stray and abandoned dogs and cats.
"I would like to see that change soon," says Elliott, president of St. Croix Animal Friends. "Our group has one ultimate goal, and that's to build an animal shelter for this county."
The shutdown a year and a half ago of the town of River Falls animal shelter that served both Pierce and St. Croix counties left a void for displaced dogs and cats.
Elliott and her recently formed nonprofit group say the need is greater than ever for a new shelter. While the old shelter handled both counties, St. Croix Animal Friends is focused on bringing a shelter just for St. Croix County.
"Both counties are really big enough to need their own shelters," said Elliott, a secretary at Rocky Branch Elementary School in River Falls for 10 years.
Elliott has been an animal lover her whole life. She and husband Bruce have five dogs, four cats, a turtle and a fish in their Roberts home. They've had ferrets, rabbits and cockatoos.
A lost, roaming animal or two has also been known to find refuge with the Elliotts, but she adds that most strays aren't so lucky, especially now that there isn't a shelter.
"More and more are being dropped off -- left on roads, with veterinarians, tied to sign posts," she said.
Elliott said bad times like a recession are harder on pets. Many get dumped if families or individuals decide feeding and caring for them is too costly.
St. Croix Animal Friends has an outreach program for this purpose. Working with Target stores, the group gets torn, unsalable bags of food that needy pet owners can obtain.
St. Croix Animal Friends is just over two years old. It has a seven-member board and more than 200 members.
Elliott says interest in the group is growing.
"At first, people were watching to see if we were for real or just fly-by-night," she said. "Now they see we are earnest and that we have a presence and a goal."
St. Croix Animal Friends meets the first Thursday of every month from 7-9 p.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 502 County UU, in Hudson.
"What we're hoping to build sometime in the next three years is a 'green' type building for the animals," Elliott said.
This environmental shelter would have very clean air-circulation and heating systems and a natural lighting design.
Elliott said a green building might cost more, but the payback should come later with lower operating costs and healthier living conditions for the animals.
The biggest problem? No site for the shelter has been found. Elliott said there've been offers to donate land, but county planners say a new animal shelter needs a minimum 40 acres.
"That's pretty large, and we haven't received an offer to donate property of that size," Elliott said.
Two big fundraisers have potential to boost St. Croix Animal Friends' coffers. Elliott said the group has banked about $20,000 but will need to surpass the six-digit range before a shelter groundbreaking is possible.
And that's assuming a 40-acre site can be secured first.
Those two fundraisers are:
For those wanting more information, call Elliott at (715) 749-0179.
"Join us for those events or consider joining our group," Elliott said. "And if you'd like to donate land for a shelter, please get in touch with us."