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Animal Care Center of St. John Shuts its Doors

Oct. 19, 2004 – The Animal Care Center of St. John shut its shelter doors on Sunday because it was the victim of its own success.
"The more animals we take in, the higher the vet bills go. We ran out of money," president Betty Gerhardt said Tuesday.
There are currently about 35 cats and dogs at the shelter that need homes. The Animal Care Center is not accepting any more animals.
Gerhardt said she and the other volunteers are now trying to regroup and find a way to reopen the shelter.
"We tried to hang on as long as we could before we took desperate measures. We need a 'sugar daddy,'" she said.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley said that he had no instant solution to the Animal Care Center's financial problems, but would try to find a way to help.
"But I can't promise anything," he said.
The Humane Society of St. Thomas may be another source of help, but president Joe Aubain said Tuesday he couldn't comment about that until he meets with the board on Tuesday evening.
Agriculture Commissioner Lawrence Lewis could not be reached for comment.
The Animal Care Center had a paid shelter manager, but she quit and left the island a couple of weeks ago because the center could not pay her enough money so she could afford to live on St. John.
Gerhardt said that although St. John has lots of pricey real estate, many owners do not live here and are not involved in the community. Therefore, they do not contribute to organizations such as the Animal Care Center.
"We only hear from them if they have a stray animal in their yard they want to get rid of," she said.
She said that many small businesses and residents are generous, but their funds are limited.
"It's the same people helping over and over," she said.
Additionally, Gerhardt said the number of volunteers is small. This impacts the center's ability to raise money as well as help with shelter activities.
Gerhardt said that between January and August, the shelter took in $64,000 and spent $62,000. That figure includes an $8,000 appropriation from the government through the Agriculture Department and $24,000 netted at the annual Wagapalooza fund-raiser.
It still owes Cruz Bay Cats and Critters about $1,000 for veterinary services.
The shelter had an average resident population of 44 animals, with about 24 new ones coming in each month.
"Between January and August, we adopted out 75 animals," she said.
Gerhardt said that 75 percent of the dogs that came into the shelter needed immediate veterinary care. Their problems ranged from heartworm to missing parts with lots of problems in between.
In that same January to August period, the center paid for spay and neutering of 250 animals. The center funds this service for feral animals brought to the shelter by residents and caught by volunteers in traps. Gerhardt said that 90 percent of the dogs that come to the shelter are not spayed/neutered.
This program has been a big help in reducing the number of feral animals that roamed St. John.
"A lot of people don't realize how it used to be and the headway that's been made," Gerhardt said.
She said she fears that since the spay and neuter program has stopped, the feral animal population will again soar. She said this could impact the island's tourism-based economy.
"What tourists want to look at emaciated and starving animals in the street?" she said.
After years of fund raising and caring for animals in a dilapidated building located near the Elaine Sprauve Library and in people's homes, the Animal Care Center tore down the old building and built a new one. It opened about one-and-one-half years ago.

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