New organization forms to build animal shelter
A group of women in the Hudson area have formed Saint Croix Animal Friends with the aim of building a new animal shelter.
The shelter would primarily serve St. Croix County but coverage would likely extend into Pierce County.
With the recent forced shutdown of the River Falls animal shelter -- which covered both counties -- the new organization has incentive to move forward.
"We're focused on a plans to forge ahead, but with the River Falls shelter closing, there's more urgency now," said Diana Neubarth, founder and now vice president for St. Croix Animal Friends. "We might have to expand our range. In any case, we're in it for the long haul."
Neubarth said it could, however, be two or three years before SCAF can realistically open a facility. For the moment, the group still is without a site.
"We were looking in the Hudson area but there doesn't seem to be any land available for a site," Neubarth said. "Now we're looking toward Roberts."
Neubarth said if land is donated for a new animal shelter, the process of opening the business will accelerate.
SCAF formed late last year when the board of directors for the old Humane Society of Pierce St. Croix was struggling financially to operate the town of River Falls shelter.
Operations for that shelter were then transferred to Jen Kamish of Newport, Minn. She in turn was closed down last month by Pierce County authorities who cited numerous health and sanitation violations. Many of the animals were adopted out; some of the sicker ones were euthanized.
Neubarth is from Hudson and works at the Target store in Hudson. She was volunteer fundraising coordinator for the Humane Society from 2001-04.
"Last winter when we got wind that the animal shelter was in trouble, I was upset and made some calls to people about joining me to do something," Neubarth said. "You really have to care about animals to form an organization like this.
"Without a shelter for the area, I had visions of dogs running all around, loose, hungry and potentially harmful to the community because some could be aggressive. I guess that's my motivation for starting this."
Besides Neubarth, other board members for Saint Croix Animal Friends are Sharon Elliott (president), Judy Kelly, Veronica Anderson, Barbara George and Judy Webster.
And another big backer is Laurie Henn, owner of Mr. Movies in River Falls and Hudson.
Henn and her daughter used to work the hot dog stand outside stores to raise money for the Humane Society of Pierce St. Croix.
Now Henn's helped with fundraising for the new group. At River Falls Mr. Movies there's a collection canister at the front counter to support Saint Croix Animal Friends.
"This new group seems so caring and giving, so concerned about the welfare of animals," Henn said. "They're not in it at all for their own glory, and they're working their butts off to get this thing going. That's why I support them.
"I truly believe we need another shelter, even more so because of what's happened to the other one. We have so many fundraisers for people and groups, the needs of the animals tend to be forgotten. They can be such good people companions. It's important that we not forget them."
Henn's remarks came from her desk at Mr. Movies in Hudson.
"I'm a big dog lover," she said. "Even as we speak I have my dog here at work sitting in the chair with me."
Henn said that if the rural River Falls animal shelter somehow reopens, there's still a need for another animal shelter. She said with the size of both counties, one shelter isn't adequate.
Neubarth said there will be two fundraisers for SCAF soon at area restaurants: Thursday, Oct. 26, at Country Kitchen in Hudson, with 10% of the day's proceeds going to SCAF; and in November at Baker's Square restaurants with a program called "Pies for Pets."
"Hopefully we can get out the word about Saint Croix Friends and someday have a truly wonderful facility for the animals," said Neubarth.
She added that she and fellow board members hope to tour other area animal shelters to see how they operate.
SCAF has held open public meetings every first Thursday evening of the month in the second floor community room of the downtown Hudson Public Library, 911 Fourth St.
SCAF's Web site is www.saintcroixanimalfriends.org.