Lake Country animal shelters find homes for our four-legged friends


Lady, a boxer, was brought to Paws and Claws shelter pregnant. She gave birth to several adorable puppies, and the whole family received love and attention daily from staff. Once the puppies were old enough, all the dogs were adopted to loving homes. Photo by Kate Perkins

YOUR FUTURE BEST FRIEND AND FAMILY MEMBER MIGHT BE WAITING PATIENTLY FOR YOU AT ONE OF LAKE COUNTRY’S ANIMAL SHELTERS. While that cat or dog certainly needs a good forever home, don’t feel too bad. Each of the area’s shelters provide animals with great care and love, run by people who have a passion for pets.

Typically animal shelters are thought of as dreary, sad places with minimal comforts and minimal love. But Lake Country pets are lucky enough that no matter which shelter they land at, they’ll be given plenty to eat, fresh air, and sunshine—not to mention attention and affection. Each of these shelters, which take in stray or abandoned pets, takes great care to make the animals’ stay there relaxed and enjoyable, making it through a phase of their lives that will bring them to their new family.

Annie, a chocolate lab, stands proudly in front of her many puppies born at the Babinski Foundation in Pequot Lakes. Once the puppies are old enough, the shelter adopts both the mother and the pups to caring, permanent homes. Photo by Kate Perkins


The area’s first and original shelter, located in Baxter, was built from the ground up by donations and passionate people. Executive director Donna Wambeke recalls getting involved after seeing an article in the paper seeking volunteers. At that time, HART had no staff and no building, but was run completely by volunteers who fostered animals in their own homes.

“We started with no building and no money, just some caring people,” Wambeke said. HART was founded in 1987

In 1990 a donor made it possible for HART to rent a storefront in Brainerd, and in 1992 HART was able to purchase the building it currently uses today. Since the purchase, the building has undergone renovations and improvements to further the animals’ comfort and health. Wambeke said she’s very proud of the dog kennel, which has good ventilation and good-sized kennels for each dog, which has a bed, toy and blanket.

To keep the shelter funded, HART offers impounding services to area cities. Cities are able to bring their stray animals to HART through this contract. Fundraising and donations also make the shelter possible.

HART has been so successful in adopting out dogs that when it has space, it takes in dogs from high-kill shelters in other states where numbers of stray dogs are high. The dogs are driven in and adopted out at HART to their new homes.

After thirty years, HART has found homes for thousands of pets and continues to do so.


At Paws and Claws in Hackensack, executive director Coretta Czycalla, the staff and volunteers all seem to know the animals’ names and personalities. When a visitor comes to adopt a dog or cat, they are able to tell them what sort of temperament they have and how far they’ve come in their health and happiness since they arrived at the shelter. Like many shelters, she feels that getting to know the animals allows staff to better match them with a family.

Paws and Claws was started by Jack and Betty Thomas, who own Mann Lake Ltd. in Hackensack, a beekeeping supply company. Jack and Betty don’t have children, and Betty said that animals have always been an important part of their lives.

Jack (left) and Betty Thomas, founders of Paws and Claws Rescue and Resort in Hackensack, stand with executive director Coretta Czycalla at the animal rescue, which opened last year. Photo by Kate Perkins


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