The Heart of Minnesota Animal Shelter is looking for a new location, though it isn't yet clear just what form its move from the McLeod County Fairgrounds will take.
The shelter currently operates out of two buildings on the fairgrounds. Dogs are housed in a former McLeod County solid waste building just off Century Avenue Southwest. Cats are kept in a house on the green space just north of the Commercial Building and fair offices.
In the process of long-term planning, the fairgrounds commission identified the green space with the house as a good spot for future expansion.
“They gave us a year notice on the cat building,” said Larry Sorensen, a Heart of Minnesota board member.
In a letter to the shelter, the county asked for plans to be in place to move out by the end of 2020.
The house itself dates back to before the fairgrounds were moved to their current site in 1993.
“It was part of the original farm site before the fairgrounds,” said Paul Wright, a member of the McLeod County Board on the fairgrounds commission.
The county later agreed to let Heart of Minnesota use the building, and in return its members took care of it and updated it as needed.
Wright said there are no definite plans as to how to use the space north of the Commercial Building. Potential options include a green space or a site for an event center.
“There is nothing but just ideas at this point,” Wright said. “But the house itself doesn't really lend very well to the general appearance of the fairgrounds. The house is a little out of place. … We want to make it look nice.”
The commission's desire is to have the location open within a year to a year and a half, or to have a plan in place by that time to vacate it.
“(The shelter volunteers) are very well organized,” Wright said. “And they do a very necessary thing.”
He said the shelter provides service and coverage for a wide portion of rural Minnesota, as other shelters are not nearby.
“You go south and west of here and there isn't much,” Wright said.
As a farmer just southwest of Hutchinson, he said he sees firsthand the need for the shelter, as too often people drop off pets in the countryside in conditions that are dangerous or lethal for the animals.
“There is a (need) for them to be active,” Wright said. “We're just asking them to make plans to move so we don't have to make rash decisions down the road.”
Some Hutchinson residents have heard rumors that the shelter plans to close, or to close its services for cats. The concern was even brought up at a recent Hutchinson City Council meeting. But, Sorensen said, that is not the case.
“We are not shutting down,” he said.
What's certain is that Heart of Minnesota means to go forward with a plan to relocate. The question is what approach will be taken.
“We'd like to thank the county for the use of their buildings,” Sorensen said. “We had heard this was coming. We hoped to buy the dog building and add a wing on it for cats, but that didn't work out. The county wants to keep that property.”
It isn't possible to move the cats in with the dogs, as there are too many, and because the two animals don't always make great neighbors when they can hear each other. Sorensen said that while Heart of Minnesota looks for a new place for the cats, it will look into bringing the dogs along as well if there is a separate, appropriate space or wing.
The shelter is open to various options. If it can acquire land to build on, that is one option. If there is a building available, that may work as well. It is open to looking in town or out of town.
“If people have an idea or suggestion, we'll follow up on it,” Sorensen said.
Regardless of what options appear to be the most prudent, Heart of Minnesota expects it will need to raise money to purchase, build or rent.
“Hopefully we can accomplish that,” Sorensen said. “If we can't, I don't know what we'll do then.”