Morning Edition

Minneapolis Animal Care and Control: 'Where animals go to live'

Dog looks through metal bars
A dog waits for adoption at Minneapolis Animal Care and Control amid an influx of pet surrenders.
Gracie Stockton | MPR News

Like many animal shelters around the country, Minneapolis Animal Care and Control is dealing with an influx of pet surrenders, due in part to COVID-era eviction protections expiring.

The housing crisis for humans means more displaced dogs and cats.

A person pets a cat
A volunteer cuddles with kittens at Minneapolis Animal Care and Control
Gracie Stockton | MPR News

On Friday, Minneapolis hosted a clear the shelter event, waiving all adoption fees and resulting in 23 dogs and 13 cats finding new homes.

Caroline Hairfield, director of Minneapolis Animal Care and Control, has worked in animal welfare for more than 25 years. She says the model has changed significantly, shifting away from euthanasia to rehabilitating animals “mentally, physically, behaviorally [and] spiritually.”

MACC also investigates animal crimes, requiring staff to be trained in forensic veterinary practices so they can become expert witnesses in court.

A bulletin board displays photos of people
Around 300 volunteers help tend, walk and play with the animals at Minneapolis Animal Care and Control.
Gracie Stockton | MPR News

The shelter, with a small but mighty staff, relies on the help of roughly 300 volunteers. They do everything from walking or running with dogs to sitting and playing with kittens. Hairfield says this helps the animals with mental stimulation while relieving her staff.

In a fenced area covered in turf, a volunteer sat outside with a dog named Jango Thursday, offering quiet support.

“Took me a little bit to get him out of the kennel,” the volunteer said. “He’s totally just shaking.”

Person interacts with a dog as seen through fence
A dog waits for adoption at Minneapolis Animal Care and Control.
Gracie Stockton | MPR News

Looking on as the pair drew closer, Hairfield stressed that this is an example of rehabbing animals beyond just their physical health.

“That’s what she’s doing for this dog. Because in the past, these are the dogs that wouldn’t have made it out alive. But he’s got a good chance because of volunteers,” Hairfield said. “This isn’t just a place where animals come to die. It’s a place where animals come to live.”

Hairfield said it’s vital to keep families together — which includes pets.

“People with pets in their household are more stable — kids are not in trouble. They teach compassion and empathy and responsibility,” she said. “That’s a foundation block for society.”

In the lobby, a man named Kenny waited to pick up his dog, Benji, who’s a serial escape artist. He’d even considered renaming his pup Houdini.

A person interacts with a dog
Kenny is reunited with Benji, a lifelong escape artist, who he's considered renaming Houdini.
Gracie Stockton | MPR News

But along with a trip to MACC came a free exam, vaccines and a microchip — standard practice for every dog they pick up and take in.

“He escaped me so much when he was younger that the animal control man remembered him. He said, ‘Oh, Benji, you've grown,’” Kenny said.

In an adjacent room, Diane and Jerome of St. Paul welcomed a new dog, Spanx, into their family. They’d just bought a house and had been looking for a playmate for their dog Sugar.

A person smiles with a dog
Jerome with his new adoptee, Spanx.
Gracie Stockton | MPR News

“We said ‘you ready to go home with us?’ He got up to go,” Diane said and laughed.

“My mother always said the best dog you’ll ever own is the one that picks you,” Hairfield said.

Listen to the audio postcard by using the player above.