The River Bluff Humane Society has seen a surge in animals surrendered by their owners over the past several months. 

They rarely turn people away, but with a full shelter it can be hard to spread their resources.

River Bluff has a contract with the city to take in strays, and outside of city limits it is dependent on whether or not they have the space. 

Lately, they haven’t had a lot of extra space due to the high volume of stray animals coming in. 

“We have a contract with the city to take in any stray dogs or cats within city limits, outside of that it is dependent on if we have the space,” Director Liz Zolondek said. “We do get a lot of owner surrender requests from people in the city and county.”

The problem spans beyond Red Wing and Goodhue County. There is a shortage of space at several animal shelters throughout the state. 

“We get them outside of the county from as far as Rochester, places in Wisconsin and the Twin Cities because people are reaching out to their local shelters and rescues, and they are in the same situation as us,” Zolondek said. 

River Bluff is a smaller shelter in comparison to some of the Animal Humane Society facilities in the cities. 

They don’t have the large kennel spaces like those facilities, so it is difficult to accept animals with limited space. 

“If we do have the space and it is an animal that we think can do well in a shelter environment then we take them in,” Zolondek said. 

When they are in a situation where they have to turn someone away they try to provide resources and direction on where they can go next. 

There are several reasons as to why the issue is arising, but it’s hard to pinpoint a solution. 

When people are moving they struggle to find places that accept pets if they are renting, this leads to animal surrender. 

“We have run into a lot of people who are moving, and they can’t take pets into their new rentals,” she said.

The humane society has seen an overwhelming number of stray cats and cat surrenders over the past several months. 

At any given time the shelter has had more than 30 kittens at a time for months. 

“Since May of last year I haven’t had less than 30 kittens, my head count for kittens alone has been between 28 and 40 kittens since then,” Zolondek. 

“I just got down to 28 right around Christmas, and that was the first time the count had been below 30 since May,” she continued. 

Some of the issues may be a result of the pandemic. 

COVID-19 led to shortages in employment, less surgeries to spay and neuter pets and a surge of people adopting a dog or cat. 

“There are a couple different issues, during the pandemic animals didn’t get spayed and neutered as frequently,” Zolondek said.

“We also used to have MNSNAP come down to our clinic in the summer every month, and they would do low cost spay and neuters for people who met the financial requirements. They only came twice last year because of shortages in their veterinarians and vet techs, ” she continued. 

They see a lot of people surrender their dogs because of behavioral issues. 

“Some people come in and say their dog is too energetic, and they don’t have the time to train it,” Zolondek said. 

River Bluff Humane Society won nonprofit of the year at the annual Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce awards dinner this year. 

They say it was unexpected but also validating considering the hard work that they have put in this year. 

“I was surprised and super proud of ourselves that we won. When I started last year part of our goal was to change the perception and the reputation of the animal shelter,” Zolondek said. 

“We wanted to get more involved in the community, be more positive and have a better customer service approach, and I think we have managed that. We are always trying to get involved in different ways,” she continued. 

They are working to try to find some solutions to the challenges they are facing. They want to provide more education to people when they are thinking of adopting a pet.

They want to find ways to provide low cost resources to owners. 

Currently River Bluff is only taking appointments for adoptions. Applications must be filled out prior to the appointments. 

Applications are available on their website at

The shelter takes monetary donations and donations for food, litter and cleaning supplies like laundry detergent. 

There are links on their Facebook page and on their website with information on how to donate. 

River Bluff Humane Society hosts an open house event every other Thursday to give people the opportunity to come in and visit with the animals. The next open house is March 30. 

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