Brandi Tracy's passion is to rehabilitate abused dogs and give them a last chance at being adopted from her five-acre rescue shelter south of Hastings.
But local township officials plan to snuff out that chance in mid-October, along with the three-year-old dog shelter.
"I rehabilitate the dogs that other rescues can't handle," said Tracy, director of Braveheart Dog Rescue in Marshan Township, population 1,116. "I take aggressive dogs, or severely abused dogs, non-social dogs ... I socialize them."
Tracy, 59, obtained a dog kennel permit from the township for 35 dogs about 10 years ago and said she had planned to apply for a rescue shelter permit when the kennel permit ran out this year. She said she started taking rescue dogs, mostly large northern breeds about to be euthanized, from midwest and southern states about 3 1/2 years ago.
Clerk Marjory Snyder said the township has no ordinances for rescue shelters, which makes Tracy's operation a nonconforming use that's not allowed. Snyder said the three town board supervisors all voted in April to close down the shelter.
The board told Tracy to remove or euthanize her dogs and close by July. When she requested more time in July to place some of her remaining 17 dogs out of state, the board agreed.
"We gave her an extension until Oct. 17 to get rid of those dogs," said Township Board Chairman Jerry Bauer.
Tour of the facility
"I won't allow a dog to go to a home until they are ready," Tracy said last week during a tour of her spacious facility.
A few dogs, like docile-looking huskie-malamutes Ice and Sasha, will never recover enough to be adopted, she said. The pair will live out their days in her 3 1/2-acre fenced area.
It has several tree-shaded, acre- and half-acre areas with high fences where dogs lay or trotted about last week. The dogs go into cages on very hot or cold days in her heated and air-conditioned building. "Exercise is really important for dogs. They get tired and listen to you better," she said.
Tracy said she relies largely on pet business grants, adoption fees and donations, and has eight volunteers who daily clean out the kennels and wash dog blankets, pillows and other items.
Bauer said some residents have told the board they don't want the kind of difficult dogs Tracy handles.
"She takes dogs from down south and all over, and some might not be the tamest dogs. We are a farming community. We have livestock. She had some wolf dogs," Bauer said.
Tracy said she didn't have wolf hybrids, but did take two feral puppies from an Ohio shelter that killed most of their litter. She said while taking the pair to a Hastings veterinarian in December, they escaped and were later caught by an animal activist who called the Marshan board.
That call is how the board discovered the kennel had become a rescue shelter, said Snyder.
She said the township had one other complaint from a shelter visitor who came to adopt a dog. The visitor saw a large dog chomp a puppy through a doorway between fenced areas and scratch or bite a volunteer who freed the pup.
Keith Streff, a state investigator for the Animal Humane Society based in Golden Valley, said he has inspected Braveheart twice since last fall after receiving animal welfare complaints, one from the activist that called Marshan. The complaints proved unfounded.
"Her animals were satisfactorily maintained and the minimum required conditions were met," Streff said.
Rescue operations take some difficult dogs that humane societies, such as Golden Valley's, would euthanize because they are too risky to offer for safe adoptions, he said.
"I saw no significant problems," Streff said.
But he noted if Tracy got ill or her volunteers didn't show up, problems could develop. He said such private, small operations "typically are underfunded and understaffed and try to do too much with too little ... That's when problems start."
Sought a new ordinance
Tracy said the township denied her request to draft an ordinance for rescue shelters. She said she is looking for an attorney to challenge the shutdown.
"She can challenge, but if there is no ordinance [for a rescue], you can't do it," Bauer said. He said that Tracy is free to apply for a new kennel permit. He noted that Animal Ark, another rescue shelter, is less than 5 miles away in Hastings.
Bauer said some residents gripe, but haven't filed complaints, about Braveheart dogs barking at night. Tracy's five-acre lot is about a quarter-mile from her neighbors, except for one farmer. Tracy said she talked to her neighbors, and they said the barking keeps coyotes away from their pets.
"We don't want to add more problems," Bauer said. "People don't want a dog rescue in there if we have no ordinance, and we don't foresee having an ordinance."
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283