Watonwan County Humane Society faces long road of challenges in search for new facilities

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

For the past 27 years, the Watonwan County Humane Society has been providing services to sheltered animals in Watonwan County.

On March 12th, the board of directors at the Watonwan County Humane Society received a letter from the City of St. James, informing them that they have to move from their current facilities on Weston Ave. in 90 days.

Since then, the Watonwan County Humane Society has been garnering support and looking for a potential new location.

"We received almost 100% support it's been wonderful," said Board of Directors member Sue Leach. "People support animal shelters. They want us there to help support the animals."

Finding a location with the correct zoning for the Humane Society is another challenge the board and its volunteers face. Moving locations also will cost the Humane Society, a non-profit organization, a significant amount of money.

"We're just a small operation and 100% of our money goes towards the animals," said Leach. 

The current location is not near any residential neighborhoods. Barking dog complaints could become an issue if the shelter is moved into a residential area.

"Our current location is perfect," said Leach. "It's tucked into the far corner, I don't know that we've ever gotten a barking dog complaint."

If the Humane Society is unable to find another location within the timeframe, it is unclear what will happen to the animals currently within the care of the Humane Society.

"That will be really difficult," said Leach. "If we have to go to foster-based only, it will severely limit our ability to take in animals because there are not a lot of people that want to foster."

"We were just about to launch a spay-neuter subsidy program, but that has come to a halt because all of our energy is on what we're going to do— looking for a location, trying to find something—all of that just came to a halt. It's been really stressful for our volunteers and for us, not knowing what our future holds."

"Even though it is still around 70 days, that affects our decision-making now as to what we can take in because in 65 days we may have to find a place for that animal. We hope in that amount of time it has found a home and been re-homed, but it may not, and then what do we do if it doesn't have a place to go?"

The City of James did say they would be flexible with the 90-day notice.

“We have been working with Watonwan County Humane Society about relocating their operations for about a year," said City Manager Amanda Glass in an official statement. "The city is very flexible with the timeline and has offered to assist in any way possible. The city appreciates and applauds the work of the Humane Society and looks forward to continuing a working relationship with the organization. Based on legal advice the City has no further comment at this time.”

As of now, the Humane Society does have two regular foster homes, and approximately 20-25 people. The Humane Society has reached out to community members, and some have agreed to become foster homes.