Mar. 27—ST. JAMES — Watonwan County Humane Society leaders had been saving up to someday move to a more spacious space to care for cats and dogs.
Someday now needs to be as soon as June.
The city of St. James has asked the Humane Society to move out of the city-owned buildings the nonprofit has occupied for decades.
A city official said in a statement the city is flexible on the timeline. But Humane Society board members say an eviction notice gave them 90 days to get out and they have received no direct word that deadline is not firm.
The organization's volunteer leaders say they are frantically looking for a new home in or near St. James. If a suitable property can't be found in time, they'd have to rely at least temporarily on foster caregivers to take homeless animals into their homes.
That would severely limit the number of animals the organization can help, board member Sue Leach said.
Whatever happens in the next few months, Leach said the organization will not be deterred from its mission of aiding animals and the community.
"We're committed to helping the community as we have done for 24 years," she said.
The volunteer-run organization was formed in 1997. Its volunteers care for stray animals impounded by the city and finds them new homes if their owner cannot be found. It also finds new homes for animals whose owners can no longer care for them and takes in animals from overcrowded shelters across the country.
Last year was their busiest ever with adoptions of nearly 300 animals.
The Humane Society also helps pet owners with supports including low-cost spay and neuter clinics.
The nonprofit operates out of two buildings on city property on Weston Avenue on the northeast edge of town. One of the buildings was constructed with donations from Humane Society supporters, according to board members.
It's not clear why the city is now asking the nonprofit to vacate.
"It's frustrating because we have not been given a reason why," said Humane Society board member Ann Hofstad.
St. James City Manager Amanda Glass gave The Free Press the following statement:
"We have been working with Watonwan County Humane Society about relocating their operations for about a year. The city is very flexible with the time line and has offered to assist in any way possible. The city appreciates and applauds the work of the Humane Society and looks forward to continue a working relationship with the organization. Based on legal advice the city has no further comment at this time."
The Humane Society's leaders say they don't have time to dwell on the city's reason as they hunt for a new location.
They have a few prospects, Hofstad said, but are seeking the public's help finding additional possibilities. They are considering both buying or leasing.
Options are limited because they need to be in a non-residential area so barking dogs won't bother neighbors. They would like to stay in St. James to be near their partner veterinarian and most of their volunteers.
A meeting between city officials and Humane Society leaders is tentatively planned for next week and could yield more clarity on the time line.
The Humane Society will post opportunities for supporters to help with the transition on its Facebook page. The group also can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.