HAILEY — Grab a cup of coffee and meet your new best friend.
When Hailey’s new animal shelter opens at the end of the year, its “cat café” will be one new way for potential pet owners to socialize with the felines. Nearby, at “Central Bark,” on-leash dog walking and a splash pad will offer fun for pets in need of a new home.
The new $16 million Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley will replace the existing dilapidated buildings and be an ideal place for the community, Executive Director and Medical Director Jo-Anne Dixon said.
“This is really about getting the community together and promoting compassion,” Dixon said during a digital tour of the future shelter on Thursday. “This is the community’s shelter — we’re just helping to actualize their vision.”
The new shelter will also allow the nonprofit to better further its mission of reducing strays, educating the public and helping Idaho become a no-kill state by 2025.
In a storage-closet- turned-operation-room, Dixon was in the middle of a surgery when a lighting fixture above her started a small electrical fire. It was early May, and she was, fortunately, able to complete the operation successfully.
But as Associate Director Brooke Bonner points out, the building is held together “by duct tape and zip ties.”
“We’ve known for a really long time that we’ve needed a new facility,” she said.
Tucked up against the hills outside of Hailey, the 5,000 square-foot building has also faced exterior threats. A few years ago, it was nearly burned down by wildfire, and a mudslide that followed destroyed several outdoor kennels.
And the shelter is maxed out on space — its administration is housed in an office near the Hailey airport. At the main facility, animals that are in recovery go into the same room where dogs are bathed, Bonner said. Group cat rooms are barely large enough for a person to go inside, and all transactions occur in the same small lobby. It’s created some awkward moments.
“Somebody can be angry and picking up their impounded pet while a kid is picking up a puppy to adopt,” Bonner said.
The 1982 building also doesn’t meet ADA compliance, so senior citizens have difficulty with access.
Aware that there was a need for more space and a safer pet intake system, Dixon and board president Jan Main began planning for a new shelter in 2006. Twelve years later, the shelter has nearly met its fundraising goal and the new facility is under construction, just across the road.
“We’re looking forward to being on a nice flat, open piece of land,” Bonner said.
The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley employs 34 people. On Thursday, it housed 34 dogs and 18 cats and was expecting 11 more dogs the next day from California.
The nonprofit was founded in 1977 as a group of volunteers who took in pets, but the physical shelter opened a few years later.
In 1999, the Animal Shelter of the Wood River became Idaho’s first no-kill shelter, meaning no healthy, adoptable animals would be euthanized. But this created its own challenges. The shelter was immediately overcrowded with a significant population of strays.
When Dixon came on to the shelter in 2006, she saw the need to tackle overpopulation right at the source, ensuring that every cat or dog that was born was wanted. She opened free spay/neuter clinics for all Blaine County residents — resulting in nearly 8,000 surgeries over 12 years.
“That has subsequently resulted in our stray population being reduced by half,” Dixon said.
The nonprofit has seen a 54 percent decrease in stray animals coming in. So while it absorbs the cost of spaying and neutering at about $100 an animal, it sees substantial savings by reducing litters it doesn’t have to house later.
“We’ve seen the success and we’ve seen the power of it,” Dixon said.
Yet the program might not have worked were it not for the community’s support.
“We’re donor-funded almost exclusively,” she said.
The animal shelter recognized, however, that more remote communities didn’t have access to resources. In Fairfield, for example, stray animals were a problem because residents had no animal services — not even a local feed store.
“We call it an animal welfare desert,” Bonner said.
In 2015, the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley became the first rural shelter to receive a Pets for Life grant from the Humane Society of the United States, Dixon said. With this money, staff went door-to-door to Fairfield residents, offering pet services — collars, kennels, fences, food and even free spaying and neutering.
It was a good start, but they weren’t done yet. Consistent return trips have become necessary to ensure the program’s success.
The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley has since expanded those services into Richfield and Dietrich. The goal is that in time, the shelter can reduce the stray populations in those areas, too, and promote animal welfare throughout Idaho.
Last year, Hailey’s animal served 2,500 animals, both in and outside of its facility. Dixon performed 720 surgeries and the shelter adopted out 622 animals — 175 of those adoptions were to people who live outside of Blaine County.
The success of its adoption program has allowed the shelter to assist other shelters across the West. About 40 percent of its adoptable animals last year came from outside of Blaine County — including 266 animals from other shelters in Idaho.
Given its limitations, the shelter could easily have chosen not to assist those other facilities. But the decision came down to its no-kill mission: In September, the shelter board committed to making Idaho a no-kill state by 2025.
Bonner explained that taking in animals from shelters that euthanize helps relieve overcrowding. And it’s her hope that this will, in turn, preserve animal lives in those shelters.
The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley is continuing its no-kill mission with a coalition of shelters around the state. Dixon seeks to identify problems other shelters face that prevent them from adopting no-kill policies.
The Hailey shelter also seeks to promote animal welfare with younger generations. Last year, staff talked to hundreds of schoolchildren about the need for vaccinations, as well as how to humanely interact with animals.
When the new shelter is completed, Dixon hopes to continue and expand that program.
“Little things add up to big things,” she said. “It’s one piece of the whole vision we’re working on to improve animal welfare.”
The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley still has a ways to go to reach its goal. As of last week, it had raised $14.2 million of the needed $16 million for its new facility. This is its third year of fundraising.
“There’s no taxpayer money being used for our new facility — it’s donations only,” Dixon said.
Staff expects an uphill battle to get the remaining $1.8 million. But for Dixon, it will be all worth it.
The animals will be healthier and more adoptable in the new shelter, Bonner said. Last year, a group of cats died of a disease that spread quickly.
But the new shelter will have a complete air exchange 14 times per hour, similar to a human hospital. It’ll also have separate receiving areas for adoptions, surrenders and surgery recipients. Any animals taken in will be evaluated for health before they can join the rest.
The 30,000 square-foot facility will have double the housing capacity for dogs and cats. And Dixon believes a friendly atmosphere will result in triple the adoptions by 2021.
At the cat café, people can order a coffee or cookies and go into an adjacent petting area. Cats will also be housed in group rooms or in individual “cat condos.” Some of those sunlit rooms will have their own outdoor “cat-ios,” Bonner said.
The community will also have access to training and event rooms.
“It’s about people coming together and sharing that animal-people bond,” Dixon said.
BOISE — Idaho voters will narrow the candidates in each primary race Tuesday after being subjected to lengthy and expensive campaigning efforts that have taken a negative turn.
With Idaho’s strong red roots, the GOP primary is often considered the most competitive leg of the election season because Republican candidates rarely face a strong Democratic challenge in November.
As a result, millions of dollars has been spent on advertising, flooding the airwaves, social media and mailboxes with candidates throwing jabs in hopes of getting the upper hand. TV advertisements have accused gubernatorial candidates of being snakes, others have used shadows shaped like Pinocchio noses to highlight their candidates’ so-called lies, while some mailers have sparked outrage by implying that candidates were really foreign agents and attempting to buy power in Idaho.
The most competitive and crowded races are for the open seats for governor and the 1st Congressional District, but Idaho’s lieutenant governor and state treasurer seats are also up for grabs without an incumbent. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra is hoping to secure a second term against GOP opponent Jeff Dillon. Meanwhile, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney and State Controller Brandon Woolf aren’t facing primary challengers.
The top candidates running for governor are Lt. Gov. Brad Little, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador and Boise businessman Tommy Ahlquist. Three-term Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter announced he would step down after serving nearly four decades in public office.
All three gubernatorial hopefuls have claimed to be the most conservative candidate, promising to cut taxes and address the state’s health care system to make it more affordable and efficient.
Labrador, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus with strong support from the Statehouse’s most far right members, is hoping his name recognition and efforts in Congress lead to a heavy turnout from his supporters.
Little has the endorsement of not only Otter but also every living former GOP governor in Idaho. Little maintains that the state is on the right path to continue growing and attracting businesses but his leadership is needed to navigate the growth.
Ahlquist, an emergency room doctor turned developer, has campaigned on being the “political outsider,” arguing that he has the vision needed to shake up the status quo. He has no political experience.
For Democrats, former state Rep. Paulette Jordan is vying to become Idaho’s first female nominee of a major political party. In her bid for governor, Jordan faces Boise businessman and longtime school board member A.J. Balukoff.
Balukoff is making his second attempt to be the party nominee after failing to beat Otter in 2014.
With Labrador stepping down to run for governor, seven Republicans have flocked to take over his congressional seat, including former state Sen. Russ Fulcher, former Attorney General and former Lt. Gov. David Leroy, first-time candidate Michael Snyder and state Reps. Luke Malek and Christy Perry.
Meanwhile, five Republicans are vying to become the state’s next lieutenant governor: Idaho Falls businesswoman Janice McGeachin, former Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates, state Rep. Kelley Packer, and state Sens. Bob Nonini and Marv Hagedorn.
Idaho’s lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate and steps in when the governor is out of the state. It’s a part-time position, and any major impact largely depends on the relationship between the governor and the lieutenant governor.
Two Democrats are also running for the lieutenant governor seat, but only Kristin Collum has the endorsement of Jordan. The two women have teamed up to call themselves “Idaho’s first all-female joint ticket” — although joint tickets don’t exist in Idaho — as a sign of solidarity in pushing a progressive platform. It’s unclear if either candidate will step down if the other loses on Tuesday.
Idahoans can register to vote the day of elections. However, four years ago, the Idaho Republican Party closed the state’s GOP primary so that only registered members could participate.
Despite fears, the move has not resulted in a steep drop in voter turnout. Instead, voter turnout in Idaho has hovered around 25 percent among registered voters in recent primary election cycles.
TWIN FALLS — A downtown merchant wants to revive an old Twin Falls sale event downtown.
Kindsey Ringenberg, owner of The Brass Monkey, will seek permission from the City Council on Monday to host “Crazy Days on Main” June 2 — during Western Days. She says that while Western Days brings people to the City Park each spring, downtown businesses nearby don’t see a lot of foot traffic.
The Crazy Days on Main event would take place from noon to 7 p.m. It’s named after a “Crazy Days” event Twin Falls businesses used to host with sidewalk sales and contests in years past.
“The idea is just to kind of tag onto Western Days,” Ringenberg said. “We’re kicking it off at high noon with an old-fashioned shootout performed by the Orpheum Theatre.”
Skits would continue every hour on the hour. Additionally, Bull Moose Bicycles will host a bike race, and Rudy’s — A Cook’s Paradise will host a sheet pan bake-off, she said. Taproot Church will also have a cornhole tournament, and the Brass Monkey will host stick horse races for adults and children.
The event will also include sidewalk sales and a farmers market to make use of Main Avenue’s new wide sidewalks.
“We did our street as a festival street so we could do more events like this,” Ringenberg said.
The City Council will consider the first-time event during its meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers at 203 Main Ave. E. There is some concern the event would conflict with Western Days, Twin Falls Police Sgt. Justin Dimond said in his report.
Also at the meeting, the Council will consider whether to contract with Pivot North Architecture for a feasibility study for a recreation center in Twin Falls. The contract was tabled earlier this year so city staff could see a breakdown of costs.
“This time there’s a cost breakdown per step,” Deputy City Manager Mitch Humble said.
The first step would cost $47,339, the second step $23,424 and the third step $27,509. The total for all four steps comes to $98,272, and the council could vote on whether to include a community survey for $16,000.
After meeting with the rec center ad-hoc committee and the City Council, Humble feels confident about the contract.
“I think the Council will approve it,” he said.
Also on the agenda:
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the United States will need to “provide security assurances” to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un if the adversaries are to reach a nuclear deal, describing the stakes of President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Kim.
Pompeo met with Kim last week in North Korea, helping set the stage for Trump’s historic summit with the North Korean leader in Singapore on June 12.
Trump’s goal is for North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons in a permanent and verifiable way. In return, the U.S. is willing to help the impoverished nation strengthen its economy.
Pompeo was asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether the U.S. was in effect telling Kim he could stay in power if he met the U.S. demands. Pompeo said: “We will have to provide security assurances, to be sure.”
The top U.S. diplomat did not elaborate, but his comment could refer to the type of assurances North Korea has sought in the past. A statement issued during international negotiations with North Korea in 2005 over its nuclear weapons development said the “United States affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade (North Korea) with nuclear or conventional weapons.”
The North has said it needs nuclear weapons to counter what it believes is a U.S. effort to strangle its economy and overthrow the Kim government.
“Make no mistake about it, America’s interest here is preventing the risk that North Korea will launch a nuclear weapon into L.A. or Denver or to the very place we’re sitting here this morning,” Pompeo said from Washington. “That’s our objective, that’s the end state the president has laid out and that’s the mission that he sent me on this past week, to put us on the trajectory to go achieve that.”
Pressed in a separate interview on whether the U.S. would seek regime change, Pompeo said “only time will tell how these negotiations will proceed.”
“The president uses language that says ‘we’ll see,’” Pompeo told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” ‘’The American leadership under President Trump has its eyes wide open.”
North Korea said Saturday that all of the tunnels at the country’s northeastern nuclear test site will be destroyed by explosion in less than two weeks, ahead of Kim’s summit with Trump. Observation and research facilities and ground-based guard units will also be removed, the North said. Pompeo praised it as “one step along the way.”
John Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, described the types of steps that North Korea would need to take as part of a denuclearization process, including the potential involvement of a processing center in Tennessee.
“The implementation of the decision means getting rid of all the nuclear weapons, dismantling them, taking them to Oak Ridge, Tennessee,” Bolton said in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” ‘’It means getting rid of the uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities,” adding the process would also need to address North Korea’s ballistic missiles.
“I don’t think anybody believes you’re going to sign the complete ending of the nuclear program in one day. But we are also very much interested in operationalizing the commitment as quickly as possible,” Bolton said.
Bolton said in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” that North Korea should not “look for economic aid from us. I think what the prospect for North Korea is to become a normal nation, to behave and interact with the rest of the world the way South Korea does.”
“The prospect for North Korea is unbelievably strong if they’ll commit to denuclearization. That’s what the president is going to say,” he said.
Pompeo said private-sector Americans could help rebuild North Korea’s energy grid and develop the country’s infrastructure. He described the possibility of American agriculture being used to “support North Korea so they can eat meat and have healthy lives.”
South Korea has said Kim has shown an interest in dealing away his nuclear weapons in return for economic benefits. But it remains unclear if Kim would ever fully relinquish the weapons he probably views as his only guarantee of survival.
North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of “denuclearization” that bears no resemblance to the American definition. The North has vowed to pursue nuclear development unless Washington removes its 28,500 troops from South Korea and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan.
The White House has said withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops from South Korea is “not on the table.”