The mission of the organization, the void it looks to fill in the community, and the debate over whether the city should help fund a full-time facility
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield Area Pet Shelter (MAPS) was founded in 2011 and is an organization entirely composed of volunteers. MAPS President Karen Rau said she founded MAPS because she wanted to find out what happened to unclaimed animals in Marshfield.
The city currently contracts with the Parkview Pet Motel, where it sends stray cats that are picked up by Marshfield Ordinance Control, and with Wenzel Country Stable, where it sends dogs. Cats are housed for a period of seven days at the Pet Motel, and dogs are housed for nine days at Wenzel’s. Both the Parkview Pet Motel and Wenzel Country Stable are private businesses with other aspects to their operations aside from housing stray animals.
The case had been that prior to the advent of MAPS — especially with cats, which, according to MAPS and ordinance control, are found in much higher numbers than dogs around the community and more often go unclaimed — that animals could be euthanized after the seven- or nine-day holding period had elapsed.
In the case of the Pet Motel, which previously also housed stray dogs but no longer does, animals would be put up for adoption after the holding period expired. However, there were cases where animals were euthanized if they were wild or not domesticated, said Marshfield Police Department Staff Services Supervisor Lorrie Krokstrom. Krokstrom supervises Marshfield’s ordinance officers.
“If there were some extremely wild ones, … we did euthanize them. That was our procedure back then,” Krokstrom said. She said that some animals, even with the advent of MAPS, are euthanized if they are sick or severely injured or feral but that MAPS takes euthanasia out of the equation for pets that could be adoptable.
Rau said that MAPS fills a void for the city, which was doing what it could to find homes for stray animals prior to the advent of MAPS.
“For the most part, the city of Marshfield was doing the best that they could to try to find houses or homes for these abandoned animals, but realistically there are so many that they couldn’t provide housing for all of them and keep them long enough to find available homes for them, so, therefore, some of them were euthanized because they had no resources,” Rau said. She added that MAPS is similar to a humane society, “We are the humane option that hasn’t existed ever in Marshfield.”
The city’s contracts with Wenzel Country Stable and the Parkview Pet Motel have 30-day cancellation notices, meaning that either entity could terminate the relationship, and the businesses could choose to no longer accept stray animals after a 30-day period. That is what happened with the Parkview Pet Motel, which used to accept dogs but no longer does and now only takes stray cats.
Rau said MAPS fulfills the need for a more lasting and sustainable model for caring for the city’s stray animals.
“There is no long-term, permanent solution to what the city is currently doing, and the time has come where there needs to be something more permanent, and I think that the common council, many of the members realize that we need to find something more permanent to what we’re doing. At any time either one of these private boarding facilities could send in a letter to the city and say, ‘We quit. Here’s our 30-day notice,’” Rau said. “What is the city going to do if one of the two or both quit?”
City Administrator Steve Barg also raised the issue of the contracts’ longevity.
“There are questions as to how long those facilities would be available to us,” Barg said. He later added, “We’re not really sure what the long-term future of either one of these facilities is, and that’s not to be negative or disparaging toward them or what they do, but the city obviously has a long-term interest in a shelter as well.”
Barg added, “We have nothing negative about either the Pet Motel or Mr. Wenzel’s operation. It’s just looking ahead at perhaps a more full-service facility.”
Barg said that both the Pet Motel and Wenzel’s do more than house the city’s stray animals.
“These guys are a broader mission. They’re about finding owners for pets, well beyond just holding impounds,” Barg said. He added that Marshfield has not committed to bringing stray animals directly to MAPS, but that request could soon be presented to the city.
Krokstrom said that eventually it would be beneficial to the community to have a single shelter take care of all of the needs that are currently being served by the Pet Motel, Wenzel’s, and MAPS.
“Ultimately, down the road I think in our citizens’ best interest it would be great if we had it all under one roof,” Krokstrom said.
Where strays go
Currently, MAPS sends cats to the Clark County Humane Society and pays $50 per cat that it sends there. MAPS also sends some dogs to the Portage County Humane Society and pays $75 for every dog sent there. In addition, MAPS runs a local foster care program and works to find homes for stray animals in the Marshfield community.
Rau said that previously dogs were sent to the South Wood County Humane Society, but it became evident that MAPS was overburdening that facility. Rau said that regardless of where they send animals, it is not sustainable to continue to send dogs and cats to other areas.
“It is not (sustainable). Ultimately, we’re still overburdening other area humane societies. They have their own communities that they need to be freed up for and help, and we just continue to appreciate the service that they’ve been providing us with, but we’re also overburdening them, and we’ve got to take care of our own animals in our own community,” Rau said.
To that end the city has approved the use of the old airport terminal building, which lies vacant on the Marshfield Municipal Airport property, for the purposes of establishing a temporary pet shelter that MAPS will operate and will likely open later this summer. MAPS will lease the facility for $500 per month plus utilities, and the term of the lease is for three years with the possibility of seven one-year extensions after that.
While the airport location will give MAPS a place to call home, Rau said it will not meet the full needs of the stray animal population in Marshfield, and the organization is still looking to build a new facility that would have an increased capacity to house stray animals. At the airport terminal building, MAPS could house up to 30 cats and five dogs.
Rau said that over the course of a year Marshfield sees about 200 stray cats and that last year 65 stray dogs were found, though the majority of dogs are claimed by owners.
Gus Wenzel, the owner of Wenzel Country Stable, said that he has six kennels available for stray dogs from the city and that he has never been overburdened with too many dogs.
“My kennels are generally empty,” Wenzel said.
Does Marshfield need MAPS? The opposition view
While a majority of the Marshfield Common Council has been supportive of MAPS — both in recently allocating $60,000 toward installing an HVAC system in MAPS’ airport facility and the general concept of providing city funds at some point for the construction of a new shelter — there are council members that question both the need for a full-time facility and whether the city should help fund the organization.
Alderman Ed Wagner, who voted against allocating $60,000 for the HVAC system and opposed the idea of including $250,000 in a future city budget for a full-time MAPS facility, said that he wants to see other options brought forward besides MAPS for caring for the city’s stray population.
“Marshfield Area Pet Shelter says they’re the only answer. We think there are other answers,” Wagner said. He said that one possibility would be the city contracting with other area humane societies, as MAPS has been doing, and subsidizing those organizations so that they would accommodate animals from the Marshfield area.
“I’m not against MAPS. I’m not against the concept. I just don’t think we’ve explored all the appropriate options available to us to handle the problem,” Wagner said. He later added, “We have a huge responsibility in the sense that we’re dealing with tax payers’ money. This is not our money. The money we collect is in trust for the tax payers, and we’ve got to make sure they’re getting the best bang for their buck.”
Wagner also expressed concerns about MAPS’ long-term business plan and about allocating city money to a project that he feels has an unclear future.
“From MAPS we haven’t seen a business plan. We don’t know how they’re going to operate. We don’t know if we’re going to end up throwing more money into it in the future,” Wagner said.
Alderwoman Alanna Feddick expressed similar concerns over MAPS’ business plan and whether or not there are alternatives to MAPS at a May common council meeting.
“I’m still concerned about not knowing the business plan and the need in the community when other communities offer this availability for housing cats and dogs and other animals,” Feddick said. At that same meeting, Feddick later said, “I’m concerned given our strategic planning and what we’re doing and where we should put our money and what’s in most disrepair and what should be fixed and where we should be putting our money, if this is really where we should be putting certainly, I don’t know, $250,000 but $60,000 even.”
An ongoing discussion
While MAPS does now have a temporary home, the old airport terminal building is scheduled to be razed 10 years from now. That, coupled with the fact that Rau has said the airport facility will not meet the full needs of the stray animal population in Marshfield, keeps the discussion of a full-time facility and whether the city should help fund one relevant.
In 2014 the common council decided against including consideration of contributing $250,000 towards a full-time facility for MAPS in the 2015 budget because it would have required major shifting or cutting of other budgeted items and because MAPS had raised just $130,000 toward their goal of a new $1.2 million facility. Rau has said that MAPS is still right around $130,000 raised toward a new facility and that it is possible the plans could be scaled back to make the facility more affordable.