Two dogs run excitedly on Cloquet's Selmser Avenue on a sunny fall afternoon. One is white with black spots and markings; the other is white with light brown. They look like a breed of pointer, around 4 months old or so.

Their eyes are bright and shiny as they stop and explore different yards on their adventure. One eats a piece of something hiding in the grass. The other stops to relieve itself in a yard. Their tails wag excitedly as they race back and forth. They are wearing collars, but no owner is in sight.

It’s been about one year since Friends of Animals Humane Society in Cloquet closed its doors. During several meetings with local government officials in 2018, then-Cloquet City Administrator Aaron Reeves stated he did not believe Cloquet had a stray problem. The other officials offered similar sentiments about their own communities of Esko, Carlton, Scanlon and Moose Lake.

In a 2018 Pine Journal story, FOA representatives said they averaged 245 strays a year from Cloquet in 2016 and 2017. In 2015, there were 200 strays from Cloquet. There was a total of 542 strays brought to FOA in 2015 and 184 were reunited with their owners.

Stevie is one of several pets lost in the Cloquet area over the summer. Stevie was adopted as a stray in the summer of 2018 by Maria Cooper and Craig Rahko and escaped her home July 1. The little escape artist has been sighted around her home, but has managed to avoid the live traps set for her. "She is just the sweetest thing," Maria said. Stevie was a skinny, sick stray when they took her in. They nursed her back to health. They have had a few calls about sightings. One resulted in the adoption of a different stray they discovered. They named him Sanford and had him fixed and updated on shots as well as micro-chipped. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal
Stevie is one of several pets lost in the Cloquet area over the summer. Stevie was adopted as a stray in the summer of 2018 by Maria Cooper and Craig Rahko and escaped her home July 1. The little escape artist has been sighted around her home, but has managed to avoid the live traps set for her. "She is just the sweetest thing," Maria said. Stevie was a skinny, sick stray when they took her in. They nursed her back to health. They have had a few calls about sightings. One resulted in the adoption of a different stray they discovered. They named him Sanford and had him fixed and updated on shots as well as micro-chipped. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

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Meanwhile, the "Missing Pets of the Northland" Facebook page has posted hundreds of photos and pleas from Carlton County pet owners in the last year.

Many are animals found running around without an owner. Many others are frantic posts from owners whose pets ran away.

August was a peak summer month for lost and found pets. There were 25 listed on the "Missing Pets of the Northland" page from Cloquet; another dozen were listed from Esko. The total for Carlton County, including several from Barnum, Wrenshall, Moose Lake and Carlton, is roughly 70. That does not include the numerous sightings in which the animal would not come close enough to be caught.

The majority are dogs and cats, but there has also been a pet turtle, sightings of a duck and other more unusual pets.

A horse was recently found wandering in the Cloquet/Esko area.

Cloquet residents can face leash law citations

There is what is referred to as a “leash law” in Cloquet. Pets are required to be on some type of a leash and under the control of their owner when they are off of the owner's property.

The law states: “No person owning, keeping or harboring an animal shall permit the animal to run at large. For the purpose of this section, an animal shall be deemed running at large when the animal commits damage to the property of anyone other than the owner or injury to the person of anyone other than the owner, except in defense of the animals owner or the owners family.”

If a dog is running loose while with its owner, it is considered a leash law violation. However, if the owner allows their pet to run free, the animal would be considered a stray and the owner could be cited with the running at large statute.

These two pups were running up and down Selmser Avenue in Cloquet in August. They paused for a quick photo, then pooped and ran down the street again, no owner in sight. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal
These two pups were running up and down Selmser Avenue in Cloquet in August. They paused for a quick photo, then pooped and ran down the street again, no owner in sight. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

If the dog has a history of running at large, officers will give the owner a citation.

With no place local to bring stray animals, it’s no surprise that there have also been more dead cats.

“I am sick and tired of picking up dead cats off of the roads in the county,” "Missing Pets" page administrator Jodi Carlson said. “Many of them are in Cloquet.”

Once FOA closed, the city administrator asked other pet-related businesses in the area if they could serve as a stray shelter. Everyone declined, citing a lack of space in their individual facilities.

The city of Cloquet built a small impound building that can house three small dogs for quarantine. The doggie doors measure about 12 by 20 inches — a little small for the large dogs that needed to be quarantined in the last few years.

According to Daryl Yankee, a representative of Hermantown's Animal Allies Humane Society, it has taken in 20 strays from Carlton County, which represents 20% of its overall stray intake for 2019. It has also accepted 36 surrenders from FOA’s former service area.

If it is at top capacity, Animal Allies will refuse to take animals from Carlton County. It needs to keep kennel space open for municipalities it has contracts with, including Proctor, Hermantown and southern St. Louis County.

Sheila Keup, manager of the Humane Society of Douglas County in Superior, said they received many calls from Carlton County residents this year looking for help. They had to decline. Legally, they can't take animals across the border from Minnesota, Keup said.

Meanwhile, "Missing Pets in the Northland" members continue to post lost, found, sightings and dead pets in Carlton County.

Carlson rescued a senior stray Labrador mix from being euthanized earlier this year. The dog had been dropped off as a stray needing emergency medical attention at an emergency clinic in Duluth. Carlson stopped by with her pet needing to see a veterinarian after-hours and discovered the dog. If she didn't take the dog the same night, the dog would be euthanized.

Jamie Perfettis 6 year old Maltese/Yorkshire Terrier mix has been missing since the end of July. A friend was watching the seven pound dog at her house when she escaped near Widdes Farm and Feed on Highway 61. Perfetti, who lives in downtown Esko thinks the dog may be between home and Widdes.She has had several calls, but no luck yet. Understanding that there are many people who may not be computer savvy in the area, Perfetti did a direct mailing also. She is grateful for all of the help from residents as well as Missing Pets in the Northland. "I feel like she's still out there," Perfetti said. "She's very smart, playful and fast. She is high energy and sweet. I feel like she's smarter than I thought she was." Jamie Lund/Pine Journal
Jamie Perfettis 6 year old Maltese/Yorkshire Terrier mix has been missing since the end of July. A friend was watching the seven pound dog at her house when she escaped near Widdes Farm and Feed on Highway 61. Perfetti, who lives in downtown Esko thinks the dog may be between home and Widdes.She has had several calls, but no luck yet. Understanding that there are many people who may not be computer savvy in the area, Perfetti did a direct mailing also. She is grateful for all of the help from residents as well as Missing Pets in the Northland. "I feel like she's still out there," Perfetti said. "She's very smart, playful and fast. She is high energy and sweet. I feel like she's smarter than I thought she was." Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

There is currently no list of foster homes for stray dogs in Cloquet, but Carlson scrambled and found a place. After a pre-surgery checkup and fundraising, the dog had a tumor removed and it was found to be non-cancerous.

She adopted the dog, who she estimates to be around 12 years old. Now, her household is full and she can only foster one stray.

She was called to help trap a litter of cats that were found in a dumpster in Cloquet. Several other cats and kittens have been live trapped this year. Animal Allies was full and unable to take them.

Carlson received permission from Northwoods Humane Society in Wyoming, Minn., to bring the cats to its facility.

Several more litters of cats have been reported roaming in Cloquet's Sunnyside area over the summer. Left alone, they will continue to reproduce.

Mutty Trails Kennel in Cloquet had limited open space at the time and took a few stray litters. Owner Christina Johnson has several kittens around 4 months old available for adoption. She said she isn't surprised there has been an increase of dead cats found around the Cloquet area.

Oswald, a 4 month old stray watches through the bars of his kennel Friday, September 20. He is one of several kittens available for adoption at Mutty Kennels in Cloquet. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal
Oswald, a 4 month old stray watches through the bars of his kennel Friday, September 20. He is one of several kittens available for adoption at Mutty Kennels in Cloquet. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

“If the cats are sick or injured, who is there to take care of them?” Johnson said. She said people have been calling her kennel desperately looking for their lost pets since FOA closed. Johnson doesn't take in strays as her kennel space is usually full.

She has also been asked if she will start or help start a new stray rescue organization in the area.

“The first step is to find foster homes in the area,” Johnson said.

Carlson agrees. She only has space to take in one stray.

If you find a stray animal

Carlton County residents need to call 911 and bring strays to the Cloquet Police Department to have them checked for microchips.

In addition to "Missing Pets of the Northland," another localized Facebook page, "Rescue On," has been started for strays and lost pets in Carlton County.

Mutty Trails can be reached at 218-879-2689.

Free microchipping available Sept. 28

Who: Northern Lakes Rescue of Pequot Lakes, Minn.

What: Free pet microchipping available to Carlton County residents.

Where: Dunlap Island Park, Cloquet.

When: Saturday, Sept. 28, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Details: Three-pet maximum; photo ID required to prove residency; all pets must be leashed or kenneled; $20 fee for non-residents.

"I'm devastated," Jane Osborne said about her missing cat.  Jazz is a 5 year old male Maine Coon mix who weighs about 14 pounds and went missing August 19 from the yard.Osborne had several calls with sightings of Jazz and set up traps. She only succeeded in catching several skunks. She has tried putting collars on Jazz many times over the years, but the cat always takes them off. He is skittish around strangers. "He loves yogurt," Osborne said. "Peach is his favorite." Within 24 hours of losing Jazz, Osborne had to have her bichon euthanized due to a huge tumor on the spine. "I love my babies," Osborne said. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal
"I'm devastated," Jane Osborne said about her missing cat. Jazz is a 5 year old male Maine Coon mix who weighs about 14 pounds and went missing August 19 from the yard.Osborne had several calls with sightings of Jazz and set up traps. She only succeeded in catching several skunks. She has tried putting collars on Jazz many times over the years, but the cat always takes them off. He is skittish around strangers. "He loves yogurt," Osborne said. "Peach is his favorite." Within 24 hours of losing Jazz, Osborne had to have her bichon euthanized due to a huge tumor on the spine. "I love my babies," Osborne said. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal