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Humane Society struggles with transportation needs

Ashley Wyffels,an animal care assistant at the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County, loads a dog crate into the back of the Humane Society's somewhat bruised and aging van. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- The tires are wearing out. There's a dent in one of the passenger doors from a mishap on icy roads this past winter.

The latest woe to befall the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County's aging van? A broken radiator hose.

Bobbie Bauman, director of animal care at the shelter, used the vehicle for a quick local trip Thursday morning -- but had to stop and put air in the tires first.

"You just kind of hold your breath," she said.

The van is on its last legs, and as far as Steve Gardner is concerned, the timing couldn't be worse.

The Humane Society is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $500,000 for furnishing and equipping a new shelter.

The shelter is under construction and will be ready for occupancy by the end of October.

A mechanic has told the Humane Society that its van will "cost more to fix than the van is worth," said Gardner, a member of the Humane Society board of directors. "It's bad timing but we really have no choice. We could really use some help right now."

The organization is hoping someone will come forward soon.

"We're not looking for anything fancy," Gardner said. "It's not for people comfort. It's for transporting animals and doing the work of the shelter."

The Humane Society's current van, a 1995 model, was one of two donated by Willmar car dealer Rollie Swenson.

The other van was used for about four years, Bauman said. "We finally retired it this spring," she said.

That leaves the Humane Society with just one vehicle. It can still be driven locally but it's "not dependable enough" for long-distance trips, Gardner said.

The vans have been heavily used, Bauman said. She's not sure how many miles the current van has, but she knows it's "a lot."

Almost every day, shelter workers have to pick up or deliver something -- donated dog and cat food, cat litter, cages and cleaning supplies, to name a few. The van is often used for going out on an animal rescue. It's also used to transport animals to other shelters, mainly in St. Cloud or the Twin Cities, when there's an overflow.

The long-distance transports are one of Gardner's main worries.

"We've got a lot of animals and we don't have room for them all. We have a waiting list of people who want to surrender their animals to us," he said. "If we can't find some place for the animals and we can't transport and we can't find anyone to transport, then we're in a bad way."

Animals who are otherwise adoptable might have to be euthanized if the shelter becomes too crowded and there's no way to move them to another shelter that has more room, he said.

Bauman used her own vehicle this past week to make a trip to St. Cloud. She also was busy trying to line up a volunteer to transport four dogs to an out-of-town shelter.

With the opening of the new Kandiyohi County shelter less than two months away, it'll be especially critical to have reliable transportation to move dozens of cats and dogs, plus food, supplies, paperwork and all the other trappings of running a shelter.

"It puts us in a really bad situation," Gardner said. "If someone out there has a vehicle they're thinking of trading in, and if it's something we could use, perhaps they'll be able to consider us in terms of donating the vehicle to us."

If you can help, call the Humane Society of Kandiyohi County at 235-7612 or board member Steve Gardner at 212-1312.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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