A message from Janelle Dixon, Animal Humane Society President and CEO
June 29, 2020
Today we’re sharing more information about the organizational impact of COVID-19 and some difficult decisions we’ve made as a result of the pandemic.
For more than 140 years, AHS has evolved to meet the changing needs of animals and people in Minnesota. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to adapt more swiftly and dramatically than ever before. Earlier this year, we took decisive action to ensure that we could safely and responsibly meet the needs of animals and people in our community. We temporarily closed our sites to the general public, furloughed 75% of our staff, and focused on providing essential services. Since then, we have been working to reimagine and redesign our programs and services so they can be delivered safely, strictly adhering to the latest guidelines from the CDC and other state and federal agencies.
We’ve taken these steps to protect our staff, volunteers, and community, knowing that COVID-19 will continue to impact our work into 2021 and beyond.
As of today, 231 of 339 AHS staff have returned to work, and we are safely offering adoption, intake, veterinary care, training, education, and other services at our sites in Golden Valley, Woodbury, and Coon Rapids.
However, the impact of COVID-19 has also forced us to make some very difficult decisions.
With heavy hearts, we are announcing today that our current St. Paul shelter will not reopen.
The changes required to make that 70-year-old facility safe and functional under COVID-19 restrictions are not feasible given the building’s remaining useful life. Medical services at that site are delivered on a mobile surgery truck that cannot support safe physical distancing. Likewise, the building itself has narrow hallways and cramped areas that don’t support physical distancing for employees, volunteers, or customers. It also requires costly HVAC and other capital repairs.
In truth, the St. Paul shelter had become functionally obsolete even before COVID-19 struck, and we’ve been actively working on a plan to replace it for several years. We can no longer wait. After extensive analysis, we are confident that, as a temporary measure, we can more safely and effectively meet the needs of animals and people in our community by shifting programs and resources to our other Twin Cities locations.
We know our home in St. Paul holds a special place in the hearts of our community – and we remain committed to the city where we were founded more than 140 years ago. In September, we will open our new full-service veterinary center at our University Avenue location in St. Paul, expanding access to training, education, and affordable veterinary care to even more Twin Cities residents. This new location allows us to offer services that were not previously available in St. Paul and will provide new options for the community.
In addition, we're in the early stages of a capital campaign to support the construction of a new adoption and animal care campus that will allow us to shift services back to St Paul. Today’s decision will bring new urgency to that effort.
Unfortunately, four people in leadership positions at the St. Paul shelter have been laid off today. Nineteen other AHS employees who worked in St. Paul will remain furloughed. Our goal is to call them back to fill openings at other sites as they become available.
Effective July 15, Now Boarding will suspend operations for the foreseeable future.
The impact of COVID-19 has also created overwhelming challenges for Now Boarding, the AHS for-profit boarding subsidiary in South Minneapolis.
Now Boarding has built an exceptional reputation and devoted clientele since it opened in 2008. Unfortunately, with most travel halted and many people working from home, Now Boarding is operating at a fraction of its pre-COVID levels and far below its total capacity. Although daycare and grooming recently resumed, those services do not generate enough revenue to make the business sustainable. Even the most optimistic projections suggest that Now Boarding will suffer significant losses if it continues to operate in the current economic climate.
As a result, the Now Boarding board of directors has made the difficult decision to suspend operations at that business for the foreseeable future. All boarding, daycare, and grooming services will end on July 15. Now Boarding clients have been notified of this decision by email today, and Now Boarding staff will begin reaching out by phone tomorrow to cancel reservations for dates after July 15.
Regrettably, 31 positions at Now Boarding will be eliminated as a result of this change. AHS is exploring options to provide new opportunities at AHS for impacted Now Boarding staff.
The long-term future of Now Boarding remains uncertain. It operates under a lease agreement with the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), and the Now Boarding board and senior leaders are currently working with MAC to determine if there are any workable options for resuming operations when the current crisis ends. AHS will provide an update when those negotiations conclude.
Our commitment is steadfast.
While the decisions we are announcing today are driven by the economic and public health impact of COVID-19, we believe taking these difficult steps now will allow us to successfully adapt to the challenges of COVID-19 and embrace new opportunities to innovate and advance our mission. Despite these challenges, we know our future is still bright. Animal Humane Society remains financially secure thanks to the strong support of our community and the dedication of our remarkable team.
We are profoundly grateful to the staff, volunteers, clients, donors, and community members who have shared their love of animals with us over the years. We hope you’ll continue to celebrate animals and support our vital work for years to come.
Janelle Dixon, President and CEO
Animal Humane Society