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St. Croix Animal Friends begin push to build shelter

Diana Neubarth, left, is the founder and president of St. Croix Animal Friends. Vicki Donatell, a retired Hudson elementary school teacher, is the volunteer organization's secretary. Both women reside in Hudson.

St. Croix Animal Friends Inc. is ready for action, the leaders say.

Seven years after the nonprofit corporation formed to establish a shelter for dogs and cats, it is preparing to embark on a major capital campaign in the fall.

"We want to strongly state to the public that we are moving forward," Diana Neubarth, founder and president of the organization, told the Star-Observer last Friday.

Neubarth and St. Croix Animal Friends secretary Vicki Donatell met with the newspaper to give a progress report.

"We're really focusing on getting the word out that we are here, and that the shelter will be a reality," said Neubarth.

Donatell added, "It took a long time to reach this point, but we expect that progress is going to accelerate now that we're initiating the campaign because that is going to get the shelter built."

The Animal Friends have secured the services of professional fundraiser Rob Schultz, who is in the process of developing the campaign and training group members on how to conduct it.

Schultz developed the successful capital campaigns for YMCA Camp St. Croix at Hudson and the St. Paul Police Foundation.

The goal will be to raise an additional $3.4 million to build the Humane Society Adoption and Education Center, and establish an endowment to help fund its operation.

"The thing people don't realize is the amount of money it will take," Neubarth said. "They think that just holding brat stands and dinner dances is going to raise the money for the shelter, but that's not the kind of money we're talking about for a facility."

The plan is for an 8,000-square-foot center with space for 60 dogs and 75 cats.

The Animal Friends already have the location for the shelter. It's a 6.5-acre site on Hwy. 65 near Roberts, immediately south of I-94 where The Country Store used to sit.

The organization also has a history of fundraising success to build upon. It has raised $600,000 to date, a portion of which was used to purchase the building site.

In addition, the organization had the foresight to gain assurance from the St. Croix County Zoning Board of Adjustment that the site is approved for an animal shelter.

@by:Big plan

@t:The care of dogs and cats in need of a permanent home is the first priority in the business plan for the Adoption and Education Center.

"First, the humane society must excel at serving the animals with care, efficiency, and expediting the adoption of its animals into welcoming homes. SCAF believes that the best place for animals is with loving families and individuals," the organization's 2012 business plan reads.

Indeed, the lack of a facility in St. Croix County where people can surrender unwanted pets or look for ones to adopt is the reason that Neubarth, a Hudson resident, organized the Animal Friends. The group formed after the animal shelter in River Falls closed in 2005.

The shelter will have a no-kill policy, meaning only those too sick, injured or vicious to be rehabilitated will be euthanized.

"No-kill is an industry term used to define a shelter or community that does not kill animals for lack of space or lack of necessary treatment. It is a facility where healthy dogs and cats, sick and injured but treatable dogs and cats, behaviorally challenged or traumatized dogs and cats, and unhealthy and treatable feral cats are saved," reads a policy statement adopted by the Animal Friends board.

The animals will have licensed veterinarian care and oversight, the plan says.

As the name implies, the facility also will function as an education center.

Neubarth and the rest of the leadership of St. Croix Animal Friends believe that people often lack information about selecting the right pet for their family and caring for the animal.

"A lot of times, people fall in love with a color or a breed -- it's a cute puppy or a cute kitten -- and they do not have a clue as to what the requirements are for that particular animal," said Donatell, a retired Hudson elementary school teacher.

"There will be a very strategic way to place animals in homes so the match is good, and the homes are going to be forever," Donatell said.

The plan is for the facility to also offer boarding services, grooming, a surgical suite, a meeting room for community organizations, picnic areas, and an animal exercise and training park.

"Every inch of the land will be used for something," said Neubarth.

@by:Current programs

@t:St. Croix Animal Friends already is an active organization with some 170 members from throughout the county and beyond.

Its 16-member board of directors meets monthly at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on County UU east of Hudson.

The annual election of officers took place at the June meeting last Thursday. Neubarth was re-elected president, Donatell was re-elected secretary, and Nette Jenkins was returned as treasurer. Rick Ottino, a St. Croix County Board supervisor from the town of Hudson, is the new vice president.

The organization currently provides assistance in finding lost pets, finding new homes for unwanted pets, an animal foster care program, a low-cost spay and neuter program (in cooperation with veterinarians), and pet food assistance for families in financial need.

To learn more about St. Croix Animal Friends, go to its website at

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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