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8.17 bg day of caring

BRIAN GEHRING/Tribune

A group of volunteers from Coca Cola Bottling in Bismarck helped the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House build kennels for homeless people who have pets. The project was part of the United Way’s annual Day of Caring in Bismarck and Mandan.

Any pet owner will tell you their animal is a part of the family. And that applies if you are homeless.

At the Ruth Meiers Hospitality House, Shanna Urban says more and more people they serve are coming to their door with pets.

“The national economy is playing a big part in that,” Urban, a program coordinator for the shelter, says.

“People hear the unemployment rate is 3 percent and while there are jobs here, housing is hard to find,” she said, “especially if you have a pet.”

With the help of about a dozen employees from Coca Cola Bottling in Bismarck Wednesday, the Ruth Meiers House now has kennels to house some of those pets.

The project was part of the 12th annual United Way Day of Caring where some 300 volunteers came together to help out about 20 agencies in Bismarck and Mandan.

Urban said the three shelters in Bismarck and Mandan — The Ruth Meiers House, the Abused Adult Resource Center and the Welcome House — are often filled to capacity.

“And we can’t take pets so these people go back and stay in their vehicle or on the street,” she said.

Urban said she has done some research and to her knowledge, there are only two other shelters in the country that can care for pets.

She said it’s a small kennel now, with room for three large dogs and three small dogs or cats, but it’s a start.

She said they have been fortunate in that some pet supplies like food, cat litter and other items have been donated and one local veterinarian has offered to provide vaccinations for two cats.

“We’re doing OK for now,” Urban said as far as supplies, “but we can always use more in the future.”

(Reach reporter Brian Gehring 250-8254 or brian.gehring@bismarcktribune.com.)

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