Animal shelter ready to open after 10 years of fundraising

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A little picket fence has been painted around the puppy area inside the Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter lobby. The shelter is nearly ready and is anticipated to open Dec. 4. (Photos by Randy Paske)

Dog kennels are shaping up inside the new animal shelter that will open next month in the North Gateway Business Park in Prairie du Chien, after 10 years of fundraising by local volunteers.

After more than 10 years of almost continuous fundraising and donation requests, Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter (RABAS) volunteers will soon see their long-awaited dream become reality. The RABAS Board of Directors recently hired Staci Roth to fill the full-time shelter manager position. Staci is from Wauzeka. She has many years of experience in animal health care as a vet tech in La Crosse, as well as operating her own parrot rescue in Coon Valley. Staci is passionate about helping homeless animals find their forever homes and is very excited about being the manager of Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter. The Board of Directors feels Staci is a “perfect fit” for the organization and hopes her enthusiasm for animal rescue will be contagious to the entire community.

Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter started more than 10 years ago by Jami Quick, doctor of veterinary medicine, who realized the need for an animal shelter in this area. What started as a small group of citizens, concerned about animal welfare in the Prairie du Chien area, slowly grew into a force to be reckoned with as a volunteer organization.

The volunteer group hosts many fundraisers on an annual basis, sometimes sponsoring more than one event per month. Past events have included motorcycle poker runs, dog walks, dog washes, bake sales and brat stands. Some fundraisers have become much anticipated annual events, including the Nelson True Value Pet Expo, Chicken Q, Pasta for Pets, Princess for an Evening, Prairie Pool Puppy Paddle and Wake Up Santa.

There were times when RABAS volunteers felt the shelter would never become a reality and they were ready to give up. But then a donation would arrive in the mail or they would be successful in rescuing a pet and then become re-energized in their efforts. Little by little, RABAS’ bank account grew, as did their confidence and community support. Even without a physical building, people turned to the organization’s volunteers for help with unwanted and homeless pets.

The donation of two acres of land at the intersection of East Campion and 22nd Street by Steve and Lynda Welter bolstered the group’s enthusiasm. Encouraged by the generosity of donors, the group persevered as they saw their dream come closer to fruition. At the prompting of the city, RABAS swapped the two acres of land on East Campion for 3.4 acres of land north of Prairie du Chien, just off State Highway 35, located west of Country Inn and Suites. This new property would benefit the organization in a number of ways—more land, a more rural setting and a location between the Mississippi River and the beautiful bluffs to more closely match the name of the animal shelter.

A building committee, headed by Paula Gutzmer and Don Iverson, formed with the goal of benchmarking successful shelters to identify ideas to incorporate into Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter. After much investigation and design work, the group took a leap of faith and broke ground on Oct. 25, 2016. Top Notch Construction, of Bloomington, was chosen as the contractor and construction began on Nov. 1, 2016.

Just a little over a year from the start of construction, the Prairie du Chien area has an animal shelter the community can be proud of thanks to contractor, local business, private sector and volunteer support. Final touches are being done to ready the shelter for accepting dogs and cats in need.

The board of directors, consisting of Cheryl Statz, president; Bev Pozega, vice-president; Donna Heilmann, secretary; Jill Cipra, treasurer; Randy Paske, Dr. John Kurt, Lynn Rider, Joe Kramer and Staci Roth, are excited to announce that Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter will open on Monday, Dec. 4. In its early stages, the animal shelter will be open by appointment only. Appointments can be made by contacting Staci at (608) 790-2473 or rabasmanager@gmail.com. A grand opening will be held in the spring of 2018.

The board recognizes the fact that fundraising and dependency on donations will always be a way of life for Rivers and Bluffs Animal Shelter as it is for most animal shelters. Volunteers will play an important role in the day-to-day operations of the animal shelter as Staci is the only full-time employee at this time. If you would like to volunteer at the animal shelter, please contact Staci.

For more information, visit riversandbluffsanimalshelter.org or find them on Facebook.

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