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Animal shelter to be located on Hwy 59 North

Here's something to sink your teeth into: The Becker County Humane Society has decided on a different location for its 50-bed animal shelter.

If the county board throws it a bone and supports its proposal, the Humane Society will build its 4,000-square-foot shelter on a 7 acre, pie-shaped chunk of leased land on Highway 59 North, just south of Cozy Cove Road.

The building will be able to house 25 dogs and 25 cats.

Under terms of the proposed 99-year lease agreement, the Humane Society would pay the county 8 percent of the assessed value of the land, or $1,200 the first year, with a 2 percent increase each year.

The Becker County Attorney's Office drew up the lease agreement. Commissioners will review it and likely act on it at their next meeting April 25.

The Humane Society had planned to build on 3 acres of land donated by the City of Detroit Lakes near the yard waste recycling area on the former Ray J. Anderson property off Highway 59 North.

But that idea was rejected in favor of the county site, chiefly because of enhanced visibility, since it's right on Highway 59, according to Steve Anderson, president of the Becker County Humane Society.

"Visibility is crucial," he said. "We hope it will increase our pledges over time."

The Humane Society has cash and pledges of about $350,000 committed to the building project, enough to obtain a bank loan to start construction.

Its fund-raising goal is $500,000, with $100,000 of that to go towards the first year's operational expenses, Anderson said. Because of the way they are structured, grants and other funding will become available once the shelter is finished, he said.

To supplement existing fund-raising efforts, the Humane Society has applied for a charitable gaming license, which takes effect Sept. 1. The group is now scouting for good sites for its future gaming operation, Anderson said.

Animal shelters are expensive because they require isolated air exchange areas. The new shelter will have three furnace systems, for example: One for new animals -- strays that often have multiple diseases that could be spread through a shared filter system -- another for healthy animals, and a third for the public part of the building.

There are also special plumbing needs - drains and water systems in each animal holding area, Anderson said.

And tough flooring is needed to handle chemical spray treatments.

Five contractors submitted bids, and the Humane Society Board accepted the low bid of $384,000 from a construction company owned by Commissioner Bob Bristlin.

With a shelter, the Humane Society will be able for the first time to accept animals "surrendered" by owners who do not want them anymore or can no longer care for them -- people getting rid of a litter of puppies, or pets left behind by people who moved away, Anderson said.

"Right now we can't take them. We have to tell them no," he said. "The only thing we have time for today is strays picked up by the sheriff's department."

There are about 200 such animals per year, a number he expects to double or triple when the shelter is open to "surrendered" animals.

The shelter will employ a full-time manager, who will rely on volunteers to help walk dogs and keep the shelter running smoothly.

The Humane Society acreage will be broken off a larger site now used for county highway department storage. The south half will continue to be used for storage while the north section is leased to the Humane Society.

The group hopes the Minnesota Department of Transportation will allow it to move the driveway a ways north on Highway 59, to more directly serve the shelter. The county storage area would then be accessed through the shelter area.

Plans for a rest stop-cultural center at that location fell through earlier when the White Earth tribe pulled out of the project because of funding problems. That left the site open for the Humane Society.

Donations of cash, volunteer time or in-kind labor and material from pet-lovers and Good Samaritan contractors are welcome, Anderson said. Call 847-0511 and leave a message.