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TODAY IS AQUASI HOME ANIMAL SHELLER’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF ANIMAL CARE. The property at 5060 Lincoln St. in Quinnesec will celebrate with an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Here, shelter manager Diane Luczak takes 2-year-old Max, who is available for adoption, to the exercise yard. (Terri Castelaz/Photo from the Daily)

QUINNESEC – The almost-home animal shelter now marks half a century of being the region’s bridge that connects homeless animals to adoption.

The shelter at 5060 Lincoln St. in Quinnesec will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The public is invited to tour the facilities, as well as enjoy a barbecue and cake.

“We want to share this milestone with the community,” said shelter manager Diane Luczak, who has worked at Almost Home for 32 years. “Without the support of donors and volunteers, we couldn’t do what we do.

Since its inception, the shelter has been committed to caring for lost, abandoned and abandoned animals, while seeking out loving caregivers who will provide them with a “still” residence; be a community educator for the benefit of the pet population; and provides support for pet owners.

The animal shelter has evolved over the decades. The first Humane Society Zone opened in June 1969, after a group of concerned residents sought funds to establish the much needed service. The rented building on US 2, between Quinnesec and Norway, could house up to 10 dogs and 10 cats – which peaked on day one, despite five adoptions. In September it was forced to close due to limited space and the unsuitability of the winter months.

THE nearly 10,000 square foot animal shelter opened at its current location, 5060 Lincoln St. in Quinnesec, in May 2012. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

Determined to build a larger and more adequate facility, a group of dedicated volunteers launch an intensive fundraising campaign. In June 1970, Robert and Alva Johnson of Iron Mountain offered a ground lease option—999 years for $1 a year—on property just off M-95 near Spring Lake. Construction was a cooperative effort of the company’s trustees, Blomquist and Associates Architects, and vocational students and instructors from the Dickinson-Iron Middle School District.

The Dickinson County Humane Society opened on June 24, 1972, and was accredited by the American Humane Association in July.

“It was the first of its kind to open in the Upper Peninsula or northeast Wisconsin,” Luczak said.

The 2,000 square foot facility had a capacity of 14 dogs and nine cats.

Yet over the course of three decades, the Spring Lake Animal Sanctuary began to show its age, so in the early 2000s, the board decided it was time to start considering a new sanctuary.

RUTHIE IS THE animal shelter cat mascot of Almost Home who resides in the facility’s community chat room.

After successfully achieving their financial goal, they were able to purchase land and begin preparing for construction.

Building the 10,000-square-foot facility took a few years, Luczak said, with the Almost Home animal shelter opening in May 2012 at the Quinnesec site.

“The new name was chosen after a competition”, she said, noting that this was the third name change over the years.

The large structure houses 16 kennels for prospective adopters and eight for strays who may still have owners, as well as an exercise yard. This area was dedicated in honor of Gina and the late Burt Angeli for their unconditional love of dogs, Luczak said.

The adoptable cat room has 30 cages, with another 30 cages in the cat admission room for stray and/or abandoned felines.

ANIMAL ALMOST HOME Shelter manager Diane Luczak, who has been at the facility for 32 years, checks two guinea pigs available for adoption. (Terri Castelaz/Photo from the Daily)

“We also have five to six cats that reside in the ‘Community Cat Room’, including our mascot, Ruthie,” she says.

Those who wish to adopt can now spend time with the animals in the meeting rooms. “We have a separate one for dogs and cats“, Luczak said. “It worked very well.”

Having a bigger facility has been a blessing, added Luczak.

In addition to having more space and being air-conditioned, the new facility has many other important features, including a maternity ward and an infirmary.

“We’ve never had this before and we’ve helped tremendously,” Luczak said.

They are also able to provide separate rooms for small animals such as guinea pigs, hamsters and birds.

Shelly Gunville of Vulcan’s Paws to Train has been offering dog obedience and agility classes in the basement since 2016.

“This is done with the aim of keeping the family dogs in their home by correcting unwanted behavior,” she says. “That was a big plus for us.”

The shelter receives an average of about 1,200 animals each year, Luczak said.

In addition to rescuing and arranging animal adoptions, Almost Home Animal Shelter provides veterinary care, neutering procedures, behavior training, and no time limits on keeping animals in its care.

“Nothing leaves here unfixed – that includes rabbits”, Luczak pointed out. “We saw fewer animals coming in because the adopted animals were fixed up before they went to their new homes.”

They found homes for all types of animals. “We’ve had almost everything from little mice to pot-bellied piggies,” Luczak said. “We do not refuse an animal.

She also noted that their adoption costs haven’t changed over the years. “We’re not here to make money – the small fee doesn’t even cover the cost of having them neutered or neutered,” she says. “We just want them to find good homes.”

During the pandemic, they were forced to close the doors of the shelter to the public and move to appointment-only.

However, it turned out to be very beneficial for the establishment, she said. “We noticed much less stress on the animals and it reduced the spread of disease between cats,” Luczak said.

This policy has also had no effect on the number of adoptions – they are as busy as ever.

Anyone who needs to return a pet can do so no questions asked, Luczak pointed out. “We’ve had terrible results when people put animals in boxes along roadsides or parks,” she says. “There’s no reason to leave them like that – we don’t turn anyone away.”

Pet drop off fee is $10 or $20 for mother and litter.

They serve not only Dickinson County, but surrounding towns in northeastern Wisconsin as well.

Volunteers play a vital role in running the Almost Home Animal Shelter.

“We have around 50 volunteers who lighten the daily workload of staff to ensure the animals are well taken care of,” Luczak said. “I can’t stress how important they are to us.”

Anyone interested in donating their time to the shelter can contact the volunteer coordinator, Joan Recla.

In addition to Luczak, who is the only full-time staff member, they have two part-time employees and three “irregular” workers.

Almost Home Animal Shelter has an eight-member Board of Directors, all of whom are also volunteers, and separate fundraising and building maintenance committees.

Cash donations are always greatly accepted, as well as the objects of their “wish list”. These necessary items, from food to cleaning supplies, are displayed on their website and Facebook page.

Its biggest annual fundraiser is the ValenTails event each February, which is open to the public to enjoy dinner, raffles and silent auctions.

In addition, the refuge has two “continued” fundraising — the collection of returnable/recyclable cans and bottles and the grocery receipt program.

“It’s easy and clear money for the shelter”, Luczak said. “Thank you to the volunteers who take the time to do this – it’s not fun and time consuming work, sorting and totaling slips.”

The Almost Home Animal Shelter Newsletter “The companion” is another fundraiser that comes out twice a year.

Luczak said it all adds up to help keep his doors open, pay for veterinary care, and be able to care for hundreds of animals each year until they find their forever homes.

“The shelter continues to succeed in large part because of the endless support of donors and our wonderful volunteers,” she says.

The shelter at 5060 Lincoln St. in Quinnesec is open by appointment from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 7 days a week, except for major holidays. Appointments can be made by calling 906-774-1005 or by message on the shelter’s Facebook page.

For more information, visit the website at https://www.almosthomeanimalsheltermi.com/

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