Archived Story

Mower County humane society plans new home

Published 8:04pm Monday, May 30, 2011

AUSTIN — Roughly 100 cats and 25 dogs soon may have a new temporary home.

Planning for a new Mower County Humane Society animal shelter is in its infancy, but MCHS President Joe Lutz said they are ready to move forward this summer.

Lutz, who works in the Hormel Foods Corp. engineering division, said the first step will be to research other area humane society facilities and come up with a blue print for a new building or to remodel an existing structure. From those building plans, he said, they will have an estimated cost for the project and they can launch their fundraising campaign.

“That’s critical to have before we can launch our public campaign,” Lutz said of the building design and cost. “Then people can visualize what it’s going to be.”

But the lack of a fundraising campaign hasn’t stopped two anonymous donors from already pledging major contributions. Kelly Rush, MCHS manager and also Lutz’ wife, said one person has pledged $100,000 and another promises to match funds once the campaign reaches the $200,000 mark. While that would put the campaign at $400,000, Rush said they may need more.

“We want a shelter that will last, and (we want to) do it right the first time,” Rush said.

Lutz said the MCHS moved into its current, 3,300-square foot facility in 1999, and ever since has been in desperate need of more space.

“We’ve struggled since the beginning to run the operation in that much space,” he said. “Once you factor in storage, (building services) and office space, you’re pretty much out of room.”

Lutz said the facility was never designed to be a wash-down facility, which is needed to sanitize and control disease.

“It’s a very old building,” said Rush, adding that their structure, which was once a restaurant and a car garage, floods constantly. She said they need about 80 kennels just for cats, and moving the dogs is a “traffic nightmare.”

Since everyone at MCHS is a volunteer, including Lutz and Rush, and they get no funding from the city or county, Lutz said they will probably rely entirely on donations.

“We’re all volunteers,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that we’re not in any way affiliated with the county or city and we’re not connected with the dog pound.”

But Lutz wouldn’t rule out a partnership with the city shelter if it gets extra funding.

“Perhaps, but that’s a long way off, a long way from happening if at all,” he said. “We’re going to move ahead either way.”