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OPERATION RENOVATION: HART gearing up for long-anticipated renovation project

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BAXTER — Who let the dogs out? HART, HART, HART, HART.

HART, as in Heartland Animal Rescue Team, really will be letting the dogs and well, cats, out too.

HART will leave the shelter on Dellwood Drive in Baxter temporarily as the building will be remodeled. All the dogs, cats and staff are expected to move May 1 to the Brainerd High School Farm off Highway 25, just outside of Brainerd city limits.

HART staff and volunteers spent years determining what the future of the animal shelter would be. HART looked at remodeling the existing shelter or building new. HART was in the process of planning a new shelter in 2008, but when the economy collapsed, it was not feasible. HART then sold its nine-acre property off Highway 210, east of Brainerd, where the new shelter would have gone.

Donna Wambeke, HART director, said HART’s building is in dire shape and is in need of a makeover.

“We are doing this to improve the building,” said Wambeke. “The animals have gotten excellent care even though the building is falling down.

“When we bought this building in 1992, it was a manufacturing building and we had to renovate it to work for an animal shelter. We have not had any major work on it since then, only minor repairs.”

The HART board voted this past fall to enter into a major renovation of the existing shelter. HART hired Widseth, Smith and Nolting as its architectural firm to design the shelter.

The complete renovation will cost HART $350,000.

Wambeke said the cost of the project is to not increase its size and will not increase its services of taking care of its animals. Wambeke said the cost basically will cover the renovation of the interior of the building.


• A new design of the lobby, offering two separate entrances: One for visitors and potential adopters and one for people surrendering or re-claiming their pet from impound.

• In the front of the building, the cat rooms will be relocated, adding a small animal room to house the cats HART helps. There also will be a combination consultation and meet/greet room and new reception area and new offices.

• The ventilation/air system will be new and designed specifically for a shelter.

• The dog kennels will be taken out and reconstructed with an updated design to include separate drains in each kennel.

• HART has never had an appropriate isolation area for incoming animals, with the new design this will be possible, said Wambeke. This is the only renovation that will be included in the impound area of the shelter. This is an area that is not open to the public.

• Other additions include: A puppy play room on the adoption floor; a new stairway in the front lobby leading to the redecorated education room on the upper level; the medical room, staff break room and laundry room will be updated; and the parking lot will be improved.


Wambeke said HART has $166,000 of the $350,000 for the renovation project, which came from the sale of the land on Highway 210.

Jan Germann, education director at HART, who is chair of the building project, said HART board members will meet with community members, speak to civic groups and invite the public to join in raising money for the project. Invitations also were sent to HART supporters and businesses throughout the area.

“Money we receive from our annual HART walk which is set for May 17 this year will not go to the renovation,” said Germann. “That money from the walk is used to help with direct care of the animals.”

Wambeke said there will be naming opportunities for rooms in the shelter. If people want to make a pledge for a certain room they may designate a name will to be imprinted on a commemorative paw in the room. The size and color of the paw will reflect the amount of donation given.

“We have $18,000 in naming opportunities for people,” said Wambeke.

Donations to HART for the project may be made by going to the website at and going to the donate button; pledges of monthly donations will also be offered; and by filling out a donation card.


HART will keep some of its services at the existing building as it remodels. The animal intake and impound operations will remain at the existing shelter, where strays will be accepted. Wambeke said there will be no animal intake at the temporary facility.

Wambeke said HART will not take in any personnel cats or kittens which a pet owner wants to surrender, during the renovation period, due to the large number of cats HART takes in during the spring and summer months. She said HART also cannot take any cats or kittens that were live-trapped.

The hours of operation at the existing shelter will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

Adoptions will take place at the temporary shelter at the high school farm, said Wambeke. All adoptable animals will be at this shelter. Hours at the temporary shelter will be 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

Wambeke said HART anticipates that the renovation will be complete in three months and that it will move back to the Dellwood Drive location by Sept. 1.

Wambeke said all the 70-plus volunteers will take a break during the construction period because of liability.

“We all will be wearing our bright, neon green T-shirts that say ‘Operation Renovation’ to help spread the word of our project,” said Wambeke.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at