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St. Paul Animal Shelter welcomes new manager

ST. PAUL - After being closed for a number of months, the St. Paul Animal Shelter is back up and running, with a new manager leading the way.

Erin Smereka officially started with the shelter in late November. For over a month, she worked on getting the shelter ready to reopen once again accept animals in need. The shelter officially reopened in January, first working with the Town of St. Paul and County of St. Paul, then opening to the public on Jan. 27.

Smereka explains how she recently completed a veterinarian assistant program, and initially was looking for a job in a clinic setting. Then, she saw the shelter was looking for a manager and decided to apply.

Smereka has two dogs of her own at home and believes animal shelters play an important role in communities. She says it's her "passion and love for animals" that drew her to the position.

Essentially, she just wants to make sure animals are fed, healthy, happy and warm.

When Smereka joined the shelter in November, she says it felt like a fresh start, since the shelter had been closed for a number of months due to COVID-19. When the pandemic hit, the shelter was able to send all the animals in its care to other facilities.

Smereka began by reorganizing the facility, which is located west of St. Paul in the County of St. Paul, and setting things up for new intakes. She worked to ensure policies and procedures were in place and up-to-date, and now, the shelter is ready to be helping animals.

In fact, there are a number of cats and a couple of dogs already in the shelter's care. And those animals will be available for adoption soon.

Whether people are surrendering an animal, or looking to adopt, an appointment is required, due to COVID-19 measures in place. While it's tough to say exactly why some people may come to the shelter to surrender animals, Smereka says the cold weather does play a part in some stray animals arriving at the shelter.

When asked why she would encourage people to consider adopting an animal from a shelter, she says people may have a variety of reasons for doing so. The animals that come to the shelter not only need a home, but "they do need love" too. Families adopting pets from the shelter can also be assured that the animal is up-to-date on its vaccinations and is already spayed or neutered. 

For those who need to surrender a cat or dog, there are fees in place for doing so, with those funds helping the shelter get the animals the proper care needed until they are adopted. 

And for those coming in to adopt a pet, fees range from $200 to $250 for kittens and cats; and $400 to $450 for puppies and dogs. Senior pets are priced on a case-by-case basis. 

Along with Smereka, the shelter has hired a part-time staff member that also helps out. Smereka says it's been a learning curve since she and the other employee are both new, but "it has been a fun experience." She acknowledges the shelter's board has also been helpful as she eases into her new position.

Smereka says there will be opportunities for the public to volunteer and get involved with the shelter in the coming months. Volunteer application forms are available at the facility, and extra help will be needed in the warmer months to walk animals and spend time with them.

Volunteers are also needed to work bingos and help with other fundraising efforts.

And when it comes to donations, Smereka says the shelter is always in need of the extra help, whether it's in the form of pet food, toys, kitty litter, gently used blankets, or monetary donations.

A fostering program is also something that Smereka hopes to work toward in the future.

The animal shelter is open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. Appointments are required. To contact the shelter, call (780) 645-2262.