Animal Shelter Plans To Close, Building Conditions Blamed

By James Schugel, WCCO-TV

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO)
— A Minnesota animal shelter — currently the only animal shelter in Itasca County — is making plans to close because its ventilation is making workers and pets sick.

“The thought of having to lock the door and close this place for good is really hard to try to swallow,” said Kim Olson, a board member with Star of the North Humane Society in Coleraine, Minn. “We all have a responsibility in our area, and the animals are part of that responsibility.”

The building’s ventilation system is failing, and mold and bacteria are becoming overwhelming. There are several parts of the shelter where metal is so old, it’s rusted out, and these spots are in the dog kennels.

But shelter director’s say there isn’t enough money to fix the numerous problems.

It’s the latest case of hardship for the shelter, which has helped thousands of pets throughout the years. The shelter has been a bright spot for the close to 700 who get help here annually, including dogs and cats that are malnourished, sick and abused.

“The animals deserve a safe place to do when they haven’t been treated properly,” said Olson. “With the way the building is now, no, we cannot ethically continue in this building.”

In a letter to Itasca County Commissioners a month ago, shelter directors said, “We are not living up to the responsibilities of the humane society we formed.”

The president and vice-president of the board of directors went on about the conditions.

“The largest drain of the society over the last several years has been the uninhabitable conditions of the facility. Because of the run-down conditions, the deterioration of the infrastructure, and the inability to keep the building hygienically clean, we have spent thousands of dollars treating illnesses in the animals.”

Fixing numerous problems is too expensive at a time when donations are down and funding is being cut.

“We really basically rely on donations to keep the doors open,” said Olson. “And unfortunately, with the economy and where it’s at right now, our donations are down so much. They’re down so much that we’re hoping we can make it through the end of the week.”

Itasca County used to grant the shelter $20,000 dollars a year. The grant is less than half that now, and money comes in on a per-dog or per-cat basis.

“This wasn’t about not wanting to give them less. Everybody’s getting less,” said County Commissioner Rusty Eichorn.

He says the county just can’t afford what is used to pay. With state cuts in funding to the county, leaders have made tough choices about where to allocate money.

“We are providing the necessary service at this level, and it’s been working,” said Eichorn. “So it’s not just because of cuts Itasca County has made over the years that is causing the predicament the shelter is in.”

The county could be without a shelter in days, which doesn’t sit well with Coleraine’s mayor Mike Antonovich.

“I think it’s a responsibility of all of us to maintain the building, because we all bring animals there,” he said.

A task force made up of other shelter managers and city leaders in Northern Minnesota wants to find a solution, but Star of the North’s future is looking dimmer, and so is the future for animals that depend on it.

Comments

One Comment

  1. Citizen says:

    This is so sad. And so unnecessary. Maybe some millionaire sports player will step up and donate an hour or two of salary to help the shelter? Maybe Ziggy Wilf? Or wait, how about a donation from Michelle Bachmann’s 2.2 million dollar campaign chest? I am so disgusted with the priorities of business and politicians. Seriously, where can the public send donations to help?

    1. #$% says:

      @Citizen
      Go back to the crack pipe!

      1. MARK says:

        #$%, you’re an idiot.

        1. MARK says:

          People who disagree with you smoke crack? Is that the best you’ve got? I had more intelligent debates in elementary school. Enjoy yourself.

          1. Citizen says:

            @Mark. The really sad thing about parts of these posts are that people are forgetting how many of these poor animals came from puppy mills, from breeders who are just in it for the money and have not given any thought to the health of the animals they produce. Having rescued several purebred dogs and mutts I can attest to that personally! The purebreds I rescued originally cost a lot of money and then were discarded like yesterday’s trash when they failed to live up to the owners’ expectations. They were bought for big bucks by people who could afford to spend that money. But, the humane organizations and rescue groups who take in these poor animals have to beg to stay solvent.

      2. Citizen says:

        @#$% Such a stupid comment really doesn’t deserve a reply. But, the main reason I spoke to the wealthy having to step up is because of the Michael Vick story. Think of the rescue groups that had to try to take care of the dogs he mutilated physically and mentally–him with his big sports salary. He’s back playing now, too. I guess the fans have forgiven him for what he did to his dogs. Who is paying for the care for those dogs now? Is he being forced to give up part of his big player’s salary to take care of them? I don’t know, but I’m sure that plenty of the people caring for these animals will never see 7 figure pay checks. Then, there is the issue of thoroughbred race horses, even ones that have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for the owners, being sent to slaughter. And the greyhounds dumped onto shelters and rescue groups when they can’t race any more. Who are the people who dump these animals? Most of the time, the wealthy and well-to-do. Thanks for your support, Mark. I think when someone gets convicted of animal abuse, they should have to contribute their money and time for a long time.

    2. grandma(4) says:

      There is no reason for this! If they are due $20,000 a year then give it to them instead of putting it into the pockets of the CEO and fat cats! The city should be ashamed! I want them to get in contact w/Butler County Humane Society to see if we could transfer those animals!

  2. Missy says:

    yes where do we send funds to help…. why isn’t that info in this poorly written article?

    imminently ??? really is this a word or doesn’t ‘cco have spell check? way to proof read James

    1. James Schugel says:

      Please know that a Web Editor here at WCCO-TV actually makes changes, and that word was added to the story after I wrote it. Just because it has my name on it doesn’t mean I’m entirely the one who wrote it.
      Yes, I do proof-read stories and own a dictionary.
      -James Schugel, the reporter

      1. Kim O. says:

        James,
        Thank you so much for taking the time to do this story. You did an amazing job. Myself, board members, volunteers, supporters, and all of our furever friends are so grateful. Thank you!!!!

  3. Henry says:

    Info on contact is on their website at http://www.starnorth.org/aboutus.html

  4. sunny says:

    Only a leftie such as “Citizen” could turn an animal shelter crisis into an attack on a Republican ! Hey, “Citizen”, your god, Obama raises hundreds of millions of dollars for his elections….how about attacking your precious god? ? : )

    1. Citizen says:

      Interesting rant, Sunny. What makes you think I’m a leftie, because I know if you think I’m that, you don’t understand the definitions behind the political labels. You’ll also note that I referred to Minnesota citizens, since humane work is a state and local responsibility. I think I’ve made my populist beliefs abundantly clear that people with money and means need to step up to the plate and help with charitable work. Did you watch the video and listen to the tax cuts being forced on the local citizenry by LGA cuts? Without those cuts a lot of things would not be on the chopping block.

    2. MARK says:

      What does President Obama have to do with a shelter in Minnesota? Michelle Bachmann is supposed to represent people here in this state. Republicans are so completely obsessed with the president that they can’t help but spout his name at every opportunity. Scary.

  5. Star of the North says:

    Donations can be made at http://www.starnorth.org through Paypal or Razoo
    Also to
    Star of the North Humane Society
    PO Box 458
    Coleraine, MN 55722

    God Bless

  6. red says:

    where are these poor animals going to go if the shelter is shut down ? I pray not

    1. Layne says:

      I know when the Humane Society in Burnsville closed a lot of local rescue groups stood up and took on as many animals that they could. Hopefully people will step up and save this place but in the event that doesn’t happen hopefully the rescues will step in to save the animals!

    2. Roxanne says:

      Maybe the Grand Rapids pound will take them. After spending 500,000.000, on the facility, they should have the capacity!

      1. Ashley Miller says:

        Whats funny is GR pound euthanizes after 5 days and no they do not have the capacity they only hold 10 dogs then they get put down

    3. Kim O. says:

      None of the animals will be put down, while in our shelter. We are working very hard with shelters/rescues all over the state of MN to help us place the animals. We have had awesome support and currently working on placing about 12 dogs, and 15 cats. Thanks to everyone. We are forever thankful.

  7. mbarb1947 says:

    are there no people in the area that could do the repairs? the community should support the shelter and not just sit there and ask where did the money go!
    if everyone did what the could to repair their shelter it would take probably take one weekend and they would be up and running again.

    1. Ashley Miller says:

      The building is beyond repair is may be hard to believe but it is. Also the location needs to be changed because it is in a residential area to noise complaints are made frequently! But yes it would be great if the community would back us up

  8. Gwen Riggin says:

    Imminently is a word. I found it in my very large dictionary. It’s meaning is “close at hand, hanging over one’s head, impending”. Seems like a good word to describe the focus of this story. .

    1. Missy says:

      ya it’s word but I doubt it’s the word that was intended to be used…

      James Schugel should use the dictionary

      1. James Schugel says:

        Please know that a Web Editor here at WCCO-TV actually makes changes, and that word was added to the story after I wrote it. Just because it has my name on it doesn’t mean I’m entirely the one who wrote it.
        Yes, I do own a dictionary.
        -James Schugel, the reporter

  9. sunny says:

    Dear “Citizen”, judging by length of post, yours was the rant…. By the way, IS Obama your god? ? You don’t even have to answer…it’s that obvious. When you fire back, try to keep to the topic of the plight of animal shelters. Will you be able to do that without bashing Republicans??? I doubt it. : ) P.S. get a job and stop hating productive , true citizens

    1. MARK says:

      Sunny, try to stay on topic here. Your god Rush Limbaugh doesn’t read posts on WCCO.com, so you’re not getting any brownie points from your leader. This story is about pets in Minnesota, not your blind hatred for a political party. And your line about getting a job and “true citizens” is very helpful. Stay classy.

    2. Citizen says:

      Thanks again for your support, Mark. Sunny, I will repost a previous reply right now to you. Please read it, and then take your political garbage elsewhere. The animals don’t need you!
      “Such a stupid comment really doesn’t deserve a reply. But, the main reason I spoke to the wealthy having to step up is because of the Michael Vick story. Think of the rescue groups that had to try to take care of the dogs he mutilated physically and mentally–him with his big sports salary. He’s back playing now, too. I guess the fans have forgiven him for what he did to his dogs. Who is paying for the care for those dogs now? Is he being forced to give up part of his big player’s salary to take care of them? I don’t know, but I’m sure that plenty of the people caring for these animals will never see 7 figure pay checks. Then, there is the issue of thoroughbred race horses, even ones that have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for the owners, being sent to slaughter. And the greyhounds dumped onto shelters and rescue groups when they can’t race any more. Who are the people who dump these animals? Most of the time, the wealthy and well-to-do. Thanks for your support, Mark. I think when someone gets convicted of animal abuse, they should have to contribute their money and time for a long time.”

  10. ! says:

    My parents have a animal rescue in Texas it costs a lot of money to house and feed the dogs! They get help from local residents and company owners, building up keep is all free by the comminity.I tried to volenteer at the the Humane Sociaty in St.Paul and all they really wanted was money no other help was needed

  11. Roxanne says:

    If it were only a matter of a weekends work it would not be an issue. This building is not repairable. The animals need a building that can support their needs. That building was not built to shelter animals and I am surprised that it held up this long. I am greatful for all they have done over the years and I have adopted three wonderful pets from them. I only wish that I could give more than my time and the food donations.

  12. janelle says:

    I am from Coleraine , that is the original building the Humane Society started in and it was run down then and renovated. Its simply always been to small of a space for the amount of animals that come in. I know first hand my aunt and former mother inlaw were 2 of the original founders. I did alot fostering of animals for that humane society back in the early 90’s before I more to the twin cities. Its very sad after years of struggling for volunteers and donations , that the citizens of Itasca county are still not stepping up to help. There is no reason why this should be happening, if citizen just step up!!!!!

  13. Monica Beighley says:

    I think the responsibility lays on those that have not been responsible in caring for animals they bought at a pet store or from a breeder and then passing them on to the shelter. It is not the responsibility of ALL of us Mayor Antonavich. Not ALL of us have brought animals there. Remember Bob Barker, spay and neuter. I do feel for the animals but where do they sit on the chain so to speak? Sad but so many humans are suffering at the moment. County Commissioner said it well. Many citizens are far beyond their budgets as is. Stepping up and helping many other charitable causes. And for some sports milionairre many of them donate to several charitable causes. Why because they have done well for themselves do they always get ridiculed for not helping eveyones causes? I will try and do my part and adopt. Best thing to do now if YOU WANT to is adopt or find a home for those animals in care right now.

  14. Shelley says:

    Enough people ! Get back to the need .. This shelter needs us in numbers
    not just DOLLARS everyone getting together and donating whatever works
    for their budget, we can make a difference !

    1. Kim says:

      Thank you Shelley! Animals/pets are vital to families and deserve to be loved and cared for. People will say “it’s not our fault people don’t take care of their pets and have to give them up or have them taken away. Why should we have to pay for that when they probably shouldn’t have gotten one in the first place”. But what, if we said that about the people who do not take care of their children and we end up paying for and helping? We don’t say “they shouldn’t have had kids to begin with”, we help instead. It should be no different for the animals. We have to be a voice for the animals! Please help our shelter so we can go back to helping the animals of Itasca County.

  15. Not the whole story says:

    I have adopted three pets from the Star of the North. My first two adoptions were over 13 years ago when I moved to this area. It was great. My last adoption was last Christmas. It was a horrible experience. I understand the need to check out people who are adopting animals, but I was mortified by the questions asked of my references and vet about my personal character. After I got my new cat home, I spent over $300 the first month ridding her of disease. This is sad but there is a lot more to this story than just money.

    1. Kim says:

      We take great pride in the adoption process we have implemented to make sure our animals are being adopted by loving, caring homes who will keep up with vaccinations, take care of spaying/neutering when needed etc. This way the animals go to good homes and we don’t get them back again because of neglect. I’m sorry if you had a “bad experience” but for every “bad experience” we have MANY others who now refer to their adopted pets as family members.

    2. janelle says:

      Your right it is not the whole story, its a lack of citizens not stepping up volunteering and donating, including more veterinarians reducing their prices on spaying and neurturing ,mn creating better laws setting higher standards for breeders ,which will make puppymills illegal and making sure people are arrested for cruelity. It is very sad and my heart goes out to the people dedicated volunteering and fostering.
      Again I will say it , citizens step up.

  16. Judy says:

    I wonder how many animals they get from out of state? And if this one doesn’t, I will commend them for it. But as a whole, how many animals in shelter/rescue are from out of state.
    I wonder how much money is spent to get the animals from out of state?
    I wonder how much money is spent for medical/dental on animals that come from out of state?
    It’s one thing to take in animals due to diasters (hurricanes, tornados, etc), it is totally different to go to states like Kentucky and get animals just because you can and you have people and organizations that donate lots of money and this is how some rescues choose to use it.
    What happens when individuals in our own communities are loosing their homes and need to surrender their animals and can’t find places in the shelters and rescues here in MN?
    It truly is a shame that shelters/rescues are closing due to the conditions of their buildings, landlords that go into foreclosure and such. It is the animals that suffer the most.
    If states such as Kentucky, New Mexico and others do not have such a wonderful shelter/resuce as MN does, then some of these here, if they want to help out, then move there. Get a great program up and running there!
    MN shelters need to be available for the people and animals here!!

  17. Kim says:

    Judy, we do NOT get any animals from out of state. We have enough to contend with from our own county. So to answer your question, no money is spent on animals from out of state.

  18. Not the Whole Story says:

    Kim –
    My bad experience was not with the animals, it was with the humans. I believe your implication that I don’t refer to my animals as family members gets to the heart of the issue of the new management. My husband begged me to bring that kitten back but I wouldn’t do it because I made a commitment to that animal who is now one of “my girls”. I could care less about the money spent but you should have told me I had such a sick little one. I would have adopted her anyway just like I took home a very sick cat 13 years ago and she is still part of our family.

    1. Citizen says:

      @Not the Whole Story. It is very hard for shelters to afford to so thoroughly vet every animal who comes through the door. With limited funds, they all do their best. You have to realize that most, if not all, shelter animals have health, mental and physical, problems endured because they have been unwanted, uncared for, and discarded. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently. Every animal I have rescued has had some of these problems. I simply take care of them. That is the bargain YOU make when you go to a shelter and adopt. Anyway, thank you for supporting your local shelter.

  19. Kim says:

    I have been in touch with several people in the Grand Rapids area pertaining to this article. I have been rest assured that the animals remaining will be sent to the Hibbing Shelter. I am disappointed in the City of Grand Rapids and the County Commissioner whom was relected to this postion has not done more knowing that this Shelter was unsafe for humanes and animals. I also believe that the imates could assist with building a new shelter since what else have they got to do as I am sure someone would donate the material and time to build a new shelter.

    At least the animals will be spared a death sentence!

  20. Ashley Miller says:

    You can donate mulitple ways your can go to our site at starnorth.org thank you soo much for your support!!

  21. Judy says:

    Kim ~
    I honestly do not know of your organization. I was making a statement in general. I had reworded my statement before having it reflected here for that reason..

    It is a shame that you are forced to close as local shelters/rescues are so very important to our communities.

    I hope that good things come your way and that this takes a turn with positive results!!

    We adopted a dog the Humane Society, within the first month, she was diagnosed with Lupus. Our vet explained that it was sitting dormant and that just happened to be whenit showed its ugly head. The Humane Society was wonderful. I am greatful for the short time we had with Lady then to not have had her at all.

  22. Eric says:

    Just one suggestion if Star of the North H.S. continues in some way. Change the name. Very difficult to remember and find in the phone book. Usually, one thinks of North Star rather than Star of the North. Too generic. People look for the location in the name when trying to find the facility.

  23. Citizen says:

    And, again, for everyone reading here, so many of the cast-off animals from thoroughbreds and greyhounds to purebred hunting dogs are the product of demand by wealthier citizens who later reject these animals to be cared for by the TAXPAYERS and ordinary citizens using bake sales, fundraisers, and pledges by concerned people. So, anyone here who doesn’t think the wealthy need to step up and contribute to the care of these animals and be responsible, well, you are part of the problem!

  24. Jessyca says:

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”
    -Mahatma Gandhi

  25. Terri says:

    I live in the North East and we had a similar problem in my town. We formed an Animal Shelter Committee and raised funds by raffles, and all kinds of fundraisers. We got Habitat for Humanity to do much of the work as they do public service work when not building houses. Several contractors donated labor and materials. A local printer offered to make a newsletter, that would give free advertising for all the businesses that contributed time, materials or money. The volunteer members wrote our own articles for the newsletter. Girl and Boy Scouts had flea markets, Local musicians gave a concert. We had auctions, and craft fairs. .So much can be done when people get together. Not everyone can donate money, but they can donate a few hours a week. Even children got involved by donating used books and toys for sale. It took two yrs to build this new beautiful shelter ,and nearby shelters and rescue groups offered to take in the animals. If I were closer, I could try to organize many fund raisers that are also fun for everyone .I have been a shelter volunteer and fundraiser for over 20 yrs. and love it and have received much more than I have given.

  26. Ilene Geoghan Black says:

    Can you post a list of animals current;y in your care?

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