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Denyse Madden gets ready to take Wally for a walk.
Gregory's Gift of Hope, a private, nonprofit rescue facility, houses more than 85 animals. Director Colleen O'Shaughnessy says the county has a serious animal control problem and it's time the county and area municipalities do something about it. 
<i>Jackie Grumish photo </i>
Denyse Madden gets ready to take Wally for a walk. Gregory's Gift of Hope, a private, nonprofit rescue facility, houses more than 85 animals. Director Colleen O'Shaughnessy says the county has a serious animal control problem and it's time the county and area municipalities do something about it. <i>Jackie Grumish photo </i>

Animal abandonment causes regional problem

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government River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Colleen O'Shaughnessy is tired of people dumping animals on her property.

As director of Gregory's Gift of Hope, 1374 Hwy. 65, in New Richmond, O'Shaughnessy said she's bombarded daily by people who want to bring strays, abandoned animals and pets to her facility.

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When she tells them no, they threaten her with euthanizing the animal or decide to dump the animal on her doorstep, knowing she won't turn them away.

"I started this as a kennel -- a profitable business," she said. "Now I've become a dumping ground for the county. I'm not the end solution."

In one case, O'Shaughnessy found a cat with several kittens shoved into one small cat kennel and left on her doorstep. In another case this summer -- on one of the 100-degree days in June -- a dog was left in the facility's outdoor exercise area with no food or water. In another case, someone walked into the building during the chaos of a training session, set a kennel on the ground (with a cat inside) and left.

"This kind of thing has been going on for years," O'Shaughnessy said. "I'm not animal control. I'm a private, nonprofit rescue. The county, the county board, municipalities, towns and villages just look the other way."

O'Shaughnessy said it's time for local elected officials to stand up and recognize there is a problem in St. Croix County and New Richmond.

"I'm not advocating for a county facility," she said. "I don't want them dumped on either. I'm willing to do it. There just needs to be some funding."

While several cities and villages have their own animal control officers, O'Shaughnessy said the area would be better served if there was a cooperative effort when it came to animals.

"Everyone does their own little thing," she said. "And no one is doing it right. It's not right to pick up an animal, hold it for seven days and then bring it across the border to Minnesota to be euthanized at the humane society. Many dogs die each day because people don't care enough."

That's what happens in the city of New Richmond, town of Richmond and village of Roberts, she said.

Many people think that strays eventually end up at Gregory's, but that's not true if you're calling the local animal control officer, she said.

"Those animals are being brought to the humane society, which is a kill facility," she said. "Most of those animals are being euthanized."

O'Shaughnessy said she's offered to handle the impounding of several local municipalities, but most village boards and city councils balk at the cost.

Instead, they're contracting with someone who brings the animals to a kill facility a week after they're impounded.

In a perfect scenario, the county should hire an animal control officer, she said. That person could then hire a few officers to work under him or her and a policy could be developed to help solve the animal problem in the county.

"Somebody needs to step up and not stand for this," she said. "These are elected people. Why are we not addressing this? I'm not proud to live in a community that just closes their eyes to this stuff."

All animals at Gregory's Gift of Hope are spayed or neutered. The proper vaccinations are given to each animal and, when needed, most get additional vet service to take care of other problems.

"Someone needs to take care of them," she said.

As a community, O'Shaughnessy said it's important for pet owners to take complete responsibility of their animals.

"If you lose your job, move or if the animal gets sick or pees all over because you didn't train it -- that's on you," she said. "Why is it OK for you to bring that animal to me?"

O'Shaughnessy said the problem has gotten so bad that she's just about burnt out.

"The community thinks animals are a convenience. I don't believe the animals are the problem. It's the people," she said. "Some days it sucks to be a nice person. I take care of these animals like they're my own, but it takes money and manpower. I use my volunteers to the best of my ability, but in the end it's me."

Without some help, O'Shaughnessy said she'll be forced to close her doors.

O'Shaughnessy said she hates having to ask the community for financial help, but it's necessary to provide a safe haven for the more than 85 animals currently living at Gregory's.

"We need volunteers; we need donations; we need money," she said. "You know what would be huge? Pay our vet bill. Call Countryside Veterinary Clinic (715-246-5606) and make a donation on behalf of Gregory's. Our vet bill is enormous."

Even if people don't have a lot to give, O'Shaughnessy said every $5 makes a difference.

For those who don't want to donate to Gregory's, there's one other way they can help: Get your animals spayed and neutered.

Gregory's Gift of Hope offers refuge, nourishment and medical attention to injured, abandoned and abused animals. Surrendered pets are accepted when space is available. The goal is to adopt out every animal taken into the program.

For more information on Gregory's Gift of Hope, visit www.ggohinc.com.

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Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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