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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.