MAKING AN IMPACT: NE Iowa shelter brings pets, people together

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 2:39 AM CST
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DECORAH, Iowa (KTTC) – The Humane Society of Northeast Iowa (HSNEI) works every day to bring humans and animals together.

Pepper and Carly are just one success story.

Pepper is a 4-year-old bully mix who has lived with her parents Carly and Ethan Zierke in Decorah since November 2022.

“She’s been really, really perfect for us.”

Carly Zierke, Rescue Dog Owner

But Pepper’s journey to find a forever home was not an easy one.

Pepper was brought into HSNEI as a stray at the beginning of last year.

“She was in the shelter for about eight months here,” Zierke said.

“I could see her week by week the stress just getting to her,” Ries Magnuson, Executive Director at HSNEI said. “She would get more depressed and crabbier at various times.”

Magnuson said shelter life for a prolonged period of time can cause a decline in any animals’ mental health.

“Being in the shelter with other dogs barking, constantly hearing and smelling other dogs, it can be stressful,” Magnuson said.

Staying true to the organization’s goal of finding every adoptable animal a home, Magnuson and HSNEI worked tirelessly to improve Pepper’s quality of life.

“We approached her when she was on her walk and sat down with the director for just a few minutes and talked about her and she immediately laid across my lap, with her arm out, and it was very cute,” Zierke said. “When I got to see her in person and hear how much she could benefit from getting into a home as soon as possible, I decided that I wanted to bring her home.”

Fast forward to today, Pepper is getting more comfortable in her settings.

Zierke added, “Every day she relaxes a little bit more and gets to know my husband and I a little bit better.”

“I’d like to think she picked me, but I think she’d do that to just about anybody. She’s a very sweet dog.”

Carly Zierke, Rescue Dog Owner

“I’ve seen her a few times that she’s been adopted as well and it’s just great to see her being so much more comfortable and back to her true personality,” Magnuson said.

The humane society has been helping abused, neglected, abandoned, and unwanted companion animals in the five northeast Iowa counties of Allamakee, Winneshiek, Howard, Clayton, and Fayette since 1995.

365 days a year, staff members and volunteers are cleaning, feeing, medicating, and providing enrichment and exercise to dogs and cats in need.

“It really makes me feel so much purpose and joy and sometimes responsibility and a bit of pressure, too, but generally just such fulfilling work,” Magnuson said.

Currently, HSNEI is housing around 20 dogs and just under 50 cats in its 4,200-square-foot facility. All need new families to call their own.

Magnuson added, “Don’t think of the pets here in any way as damaged goods. They are all such wonderful animals with their diverse personalities just looking for a home where they will be loved forever.”

To learn more about the adoption process, click here.

The nonprofit is also always looking for volunteers and foster families.

For an in-depth breakdown of HSNEI, its operations, and getting involved, watch below: