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Animal shelter hits $120K mark

October 22, 2012
Jodelle Greiner , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - The $120,000 goal has been reached.

Multiple donors recently gave $5,000, which the Rosen family matched, enabling Martin County Humane Society to proceed with an expanion to the Carl Nettifee Memorial Animal Shelter.

"Thank you to everyone who donated," said Marilyn Belseth, a member of Humane Society board.

Article Photos

Amanda Kriesel, right, and Megan Green hold Siamese-mix kittens that are up for adoption at the Carl Nettifee Memorial Shelter in Fairmont. Green took hers home. The Martin County Humane Society has raised the $120,000 needed to build an expansion and improve conditions at the shelter.

Fellow board member Laurence Lau has met with city officials to discuss the project plans. The city owns the property on which the shelter sits and pays utilities for the facility. Lau said bids would be advertised in two to three weeks.

"We're looking for the bid opening in January," Lau said.

Construction will probably start in the spring.

Some people have gotten the wrong idea about the expansion, thinking all it entails is more office space for the workers, said Belseth.

"The addition is due to the amount of animals we handle and working out problems," Lau said.

One of those problems is where to put people so they can comfortably meet a shelter animal they are considering adopting.

When the shelter was first built, there was one kennel for dogs, one room for cats and space for one control officer. Back in the late 1990s, the shelter handled about 200 animals a year, but now sees 800-plus come through the doors, Lau said.

The shelter currently houses 40 cats, with another 66 in foster homes, Belseth pointed out.

Over the years, the shelter also became the city pound and requires updates to meet city codes that have changed.

Conditions have gotten very crowded, and the building does not work efficiently anymore. The old office was long ago taken over by cats. Cats are also housed in the exam room, the furnace room and other random places in the building, Belseth said.

"You'd go into the bathroom, and there were little kittens running around on the floor," Lau said.

Then there are the dogs.

Puppies that have not had shots cannot be on the ground outside; so when someone wants to bring their own pets for a meet-and-greet with a shelter animal, volunteers must close off the hallway, which also shuts off access to the rest of the building. Another option is to go into the small bathroom and shut the door, which makes Belseth turn up her nose.

"It will free up not using the toilet or the furnace room," she said.

The current entry/office is about 14-by-9 feet and is where "we do everything," Belseth said. A desk, five chairs, filing cabinets and office equipment compete for space with people. On a recent night, shelter workers helped one woman who wanted to adopt a cat, another who came in to adopt a dog, "and the phone was ringing," Belseth said. "Being on the phone, you can't even hear some nights."

The MCHS members are hoping the new addition solves most of these problems.

The 20x28-foot addition will be built onto the north end of the building, extending into what is now the parking lot. It will include a larger, L-shaped reception area and one end will have an accordion door so it can be closed off for potential adopters to meet animals in comfort. The space will alco accomodate board meetings or training sessions. In the bend of the "L" will be a private 12x10-foot office space with a door that will house all the files and office equipment.

Some of the upgrades will be less obvious. The new addition will have better air flow, cutting down on the animals' scent being carried to the office area. The design will also reduce the threat of disease spreading from animals to visitors, or vice versa.

Not all the changes will be inside. The parking lot will be expanded, and better handicapped parking will be built.

Right now, the main entry/office door is situated on the north of the building, meaning wind, snow and rain come in along with the people. The new addition will have the main door on the east wall, plus a barrier wall to the north is planned to protect the new entrance from the wind.

Another door on the west side will be used to bring new animals into the building. Right now, they are brought in through the main entry/office door into the reception area, which can be full of people waiting with their own pets or looking at shelter animals.

Bringing new animals in through their a separate door will cut down on chaos and stress, but also "reduce the possible spread of disease," Belseth said, since it's never known if new strays are carrying fleas, parasites, etc.

The current office will be given back to the cats, meaning they will no longer have to be housed in the medical exam room.

Other changes may be made in the future. If Belseth gets her way, the little dogs will be separated from the larger dogs sooner rather than later.

For those wanting to help, Belseth said volunteers are needed, especially foster parents for pregnant cats, kittens and puppies since they need round-the-clock care.

The Nettifee Shelter is located at 522 E. Margaret Street and is open 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call (507) 238-1885 or e-mail



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