City of St. James moves to evict Watonwan County Humane Society

Watonwan County Humane Society is scrambling to find a new home after being evicted.

The Watonwan County Humane Society says it has just finished its best year ever, with the largest number of animals adopted and a record number of donations -- but now that high has been replaced with a new low.

For over two decades, the city of St. James has provided a rent-free building and paid for utilities for the Watonwan County Humane Society while the shelter cared for stray animals that were the city’s responsibility. However, soon that relationship will be broken, as the city has moved to evict the organization.

"Save our shelter, keep us in existence, support us, help us find a new location," Watonwan County Humane Society Treasurer Sue Leach said Saturday.

The privately-owned Watonwan County Humane Society, just west of Mankato, is currently scrambling, searching for a new home for its furry residents.

"If we didn’t have a shelter there’s a lot of people would be dumping animals on the side of the road, or out in the country, and there would be a lot of animals roaming around with no care or homes," Watonwan County Humane Society Volunteer Terry Aspelund told FOX 9. "We were told in the beginning of March that we have 90 days to vacate the premises. We had no warning that this was going to happen, it came by complete surprise, we were very shocked along with a lot of the community because we’ve been in St. James for 24 years."

Volunteers say the city has not shared the reason for the eviction.

"They alluded to us that there have been issues in the past," Aspelund said.

"A few small problems recently that we are working through," Leach added. "We made some changes; we thought we had complied."

"We are really not sure exactly what has happened to make them want to have us leave," Aspelund said. "We would like them to be more transparent with us and with the community. We feel that the community wasn’t given any information about this."

Because of that, signs reading "Save our Shelter" are springing up around town, and volunteers say a petition for the humane society has around 80 signatures.

The city says it’ll be flexible in how soon the humane society must leave the property, sending FOX 9 this statement: "We are currently working with the WCHS board of directors along with our City Taskforce to reach an amicable solution, on a proposal that they brought forward.  We want a solution that will benefit all parties involved.  We want to continue our relationship and support of WCHS but it is no longer appropriate for the City to serve as their landlord.  The City is not closing WCHS and has offered to assist in any way possible."

St. James Mayor Gary Strum says as soon as city attorneys allow him to share more information, the situation will be made more transparent. The city continues to have meetings with the Humane Society.