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The Twin Cities-based Animal Humane Society says a sprawling new campus planned for St. Paul will push the envelope for what role animal welfare organizations play in communities nationwide. 

A recently-announced $6 million estate bequest, gifted by longtime volunteers Steven Nordberg and Betsy McDonald, will help propel the plans forward. 

Nordberg, who died in 2020, and McDonald, who died last year, volunteered in the organization's "bottle baby" foster program, providing intensive care to orphaned kittens for over 2,200 hours between 2014 and 2019. 

“This is the largest single gift that we’ve received and this will also be the largest single project that we’ve undertaken," said Chief Advancement Officer Lisa Bonds.

While still in the early stages of design, plans for the new campus have been under development for several years — the organization has already landed on a location and acquired the former Brock White warehouse off Highway 280 and Kasota Avenue. 

A conceptual rendering of the Animal Humane Society's adoption center and care campus being designed for St. Paul. Courtesy of the Animal Humane Society.

A conceptual rendering of the Animal Humane Society's adoption center and care campus being designed for St. Paul. Courtesy of the Animal Humane Society.

Bonds said the new campus will reflect changing trends in animal welfare that've been foreseen for many years. 

Educational and philanthropic efforts, for example, have significantly boosted awareness about having pets spayed and neutered, leading to less overpopulation. 

That's especially true in Minnesota. 

“We knew that, over time, the number of animals coming to us would begin diminishing," Bonds said. 

While adoptions will continue to be a central part of the Animal Humane Society's mission, the new campus will also allow the organization to further support pets that've already found their forever home. 

Plans for the new campus include a pet food and kitty litter distribution center —the AHS already helps stock Minnesota food shelves with high-demand pet supplies and the new space will help the organization expand their efforts. 

“It’s really frequent that people will feed their animals before feeding themselves and of course that’s not what we want to be happening," Bonds explained. 

Emergency or transitional housing for animals is another feature being designed for the new campus. 

“If someone becomes unhoused, or they face a major medical or health situation and don't have anyone who can care for their animals, we’d like to be able to do that for people," Bonds said. 

The new campus will also provide areas for adoptable dogs to thrive in a group setting under a concept already tested by AHS at other shelter locations. 

The design includes a large play area for dogs to exhibit their natural pack behavior and "dens" for the animals to retire for some quiet time. 

A conceptual rendering of the Animal Humane Society's adoption center and care campus being designed for St. Paul. Courtesy of the Animal Humane Society.

A conceptual rendering of the Animal Humane Society's adoption center and care campus being designed for St. Paul. Courtesy of the Animal Humane Society.

Cats will also find enhanced versions of the living quarters already used in AHS facilities. 

The "cat colonies" will feature glass doors, climbing structures and scratching posts, in addition to cat patios — called "catios" — where the animals can safely explore the outdoors and feel green grass under their paws. 

A conceptual rendering of the Animal Humane Society's adoption center and care campus being designed for St. Paul. Courtesy of the Animal Humane Society.

A conceptual rendering of the Animal Humane Society's adoption center and care campus being designed for St. Paul. Courtesy of the Animal Humane Society.

The new campus will also offer plenty of reasons for the public to come visit. 

A dog agility course, movie nights, cat yoga, educational events and an amphitheater featuring live concerts are all included in the early plans. 

Bond said AHS staffers visited over two dozen animal welfare institutions across the country while developing the design and believe the St. Paul campus will be the first-of-its-kind in the nation. 

“I look at this as AHS leading the way for animal welfare and transforming how animal shelters change to meet the needs of the future," she said. 

The new facility could open as soon as 2025. 

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