PEQUOT LAKES, Minn. (WCCO) — Stray and injured animals in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, now have a new resource for care.
The Babinski Foundation Animal Shelter opened earlier this month.
Built on a vast plot in rural Pequot Lakes, the facility makes a good first impression.
“We want to be the premier facility in the area,” said Donald Snyders, grandson to Donald Babinski.
The brand new, state of the art facility is designed to help 200 animals at any given time. However, it’s the story behind it that leaves the lasting impact.
“It makes me sad he didn’t see it for himself,” said Elizabeth Babinksi, Donald’s widow.
“I hope he would be very happy. I think he would be,” Synders said.
The Babinski family designed every inch of the 2,300 square feet with a loved one in mind, Donald Babinski, the patriarch of the family, who passed away three years ago.
“He just had a huge love for animals,” Elizabeth said.
Fifteen years ago, Elizabeth said her husband started talking about building an animal shelter in Pequot Lakes.
“My husband had it all decided, what was going to happen,” she said. “He just kind of got in his mind we’ll build our own, we’ll do our own thing.”
Donald was the owner of a successful apartment rental company. The self-made man began saving his own money with a plan to build an animal shelter he could fully fund on his own.
“He had a lot of pride he wanted to do everything himself,” said Ryan Babinski, Donald’s grandson. “He was really good at saving his money, too.”
Donald instilled that passion and drive into his son, John, and daughter, Janice, both of whom wanted to help with the facility.
“My son and my daughter were very, very, very close. And this was actually a dream of theirs, too,” Elizabeth said.
However, life kept any concrete planning from taking shape. Demands of the rental business took much of Donald’s time and then the unthinkable happened in the early 2000s.
“’05, we lost my daughter and we lost my son in ’06,” Elizabeth said.
The family always thought John and Janice would help get the shelter up and running. With no one to spearhead that effort, it remained an abstract goal until Donald’s death in 2014.
“He wanted to see it done. This is what he worked his whole life, for this, to be able to leave something like this. We couldn’t let it die with him. We wanted to see it done for him,” Snyders said.
“We finally made a go on it and said this was going to happen,” Ryan said.
In their grief, Donald’s grandsons saw a way to honor their grandfather. Ryan, Donald and John Babinski, Donald’s third grandson, spent three years bringing this dream to reality.
“It’s almost 100 percent complete,” said Ryan. “It’s still getting worked on. We’ve got a lot of landscaping left to do.”
The cousins made sure to include a full surgical area featuring the latest technology and equipment.
Veterinarians can perform complicated procedures as well as spay and neuter every animal the shelter takes in.
“Grandpa would’ve wanted to make sure that everyone was getting a healthy dog and taking care of them,” Snyders said.
The shelter has capacity for 100 cats and 100 dogs, each in a separate wing.
The cats stay in portable, two level “condos” that allow ample space to move.
“You can tell these animals aren’t frightened, they’re getting good care,” said Elizabeth as she played with a kitten.
The dogs also get roomy kennels and sprawling outdoor space for the necessary exercise.
In addition to several large fenced in areas, the Babinskis are also building walking paths on the property.
It is a multimillion dollar facility yet the mission is quite simple, find pets a good home.
An aspiration that started with one man and now spans three generations.
“I hope they’re looking down on us and I hope they’re proud of what we did do,” Snyders said.
The Babinski foundation is always looking for help at the shelter.
If you’d like to help, click here.