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Friends of Animals: A valuable resource to our county

For some 35 years — first two, then a few, and now many people — have been quietly working, with little notice or fanfare, to make our little corner of the world a better place.

Better because hundreds, or thousands, of domestic animals — cats and dogs, primarily — have been integrated into new homes and households where they have become a part of a family's fabric, part of a loving family experience as they all grow together.

Research highlights the human health benefits of pet ownership, such as calming effects and lowering blood pressure and increased endorphin release. Children benefit from all that in addition to learning valuable life lessons like responsibility and companionship.

Our county has also quietly become better because of the thousands of sterilization procedures, which Friends of Animals has been responsible for over the years. Without that, pet overpopulation gets even more out of hand. When you learn that after seven years, the number of descendants of one unspayed female cat can total up to 5,000, the efforts of FOA to break so many of those breeding cycles due to their policies and programs has paid off in spades, and you wouldn't have even noticed it.

Perhaps we don't know even need to bring up the problem of the impact of dog overpopulation in our county. Let's just acknowledge the fact that dogs are larger and have the potential of causing larger, and more dangerous, problems. We are a better place around here because FOA has been responsible for so many dogs getting sterilized. And we're all better when unwanted dogs can be paired with the right people instead of roaming the streets.

This is much of what FOA has been quietly doing for over 30 years, making both people and animals happier and healthier. With a beautiful new (to us) facility on Avenue B and 10th — you know — where you used to go to renew your car licenses — and a dedicated and loyal staff of workers and volunteers, FOA was poised to become the epitome of the ideal animal shelter. Indeed, even in the old dilapidated facility, state inspectors typically cited our shelter as a model of excellence.

Unfortunately, a perfect storm of a subcontractor nightmare in the remodeling process and other factors drove a financial stake into the heart of FOA in 2017. Despite the valiant efforts of new interim director Mary Nelson to surgically cut the operating budget over the past eight months, the available resources were not able to support the operation.

So, after a last analysis of the dire fiscal situation, with a heavy heart, the Board of Directors realized that the only plausible solution was to close the doors — at least for the time being.

It is our intention that the decision will only be a temporary reality. We hope that with some restructuring and possible governmental aid, which we are currently in discussions with city and county officials about, and which would replace the old contracts for impound service to the county, a new and improved FOA can emerge to better serve Cloquet and Carlton County.

To that end, FOA would like everyone to know that even though the doors will be closed for now, we will still need to be fundraising. Why? Because it is our intention that this will be overcome.

But to return as an even more effective animal shelter/Humane Society, we need to be able to reopen our building, which has the potential of being that almost perfect sanctuary for animal welfare, and all for Carlton County.

Without that building, we would be back to 1983 as far as helping with the problem of strays needing help and none being available. We can do better. We must do better!

And what will it take?

Money to continue to make mortgage payments so that we can keep the building ($90,000 to pay off).

Money to make building improvements that have been draining our coffers, and to make sanitation improvements in kennels to eliminate the transmission of disease ($60,000).

Money to pay for the continued need to maintain utilities over the winter and insure the building.

We don't relish the idea of funding expenses to stay viable when we're actually closed. But if we want to reopen, that is reality.

So, if you have contributed in the past, or have the capability of doing something now, we do implore you to keep FOA in your heart.

And in addition to funding, what we will also be needing is more people with energy and ideas. We will be looking for new members to fill out the Board of Directors, new people to help with fundraising activities and even a new shelter director once we reopen.

So, if you love animals, here's your opportunity to join us and make a difference. You are invited to call or text 218-343-7424, or mail the FOA at P.O. Box 706, Cloquet, MN 55720.

You have no idea just how appreciated you will be.