Humane Society of NW Iowa Kennel Fundraising Goal Nears Finish Line

Happy smiling puppy dog expression, Isolated on green background

It won’t be long before the dogs at the Humane Society of Northwest Iowa in Milford will be frolicking outside in the warm, spring air. After a fun romp around the yard or basking in the sun, the dogs will soon be walking inside to their new indoor Snyder MFG kennels.

The Humane Society of Northwest Iowa is nearing the end of a fundraiser goal to replace the kennels and add a building extension with real life rooms to help with dog stress and training. The AWC Family Foundation has made two grants towards the effort, an outright grant of $25,000 and a challenge grant for an additional $15,000.

“We, and the hundreds of stray animals we take in each year need your help,” said Melanie Becker, who serves on the board of the organization. “We appreciate our past donors involved in projects to help us bring our visions alive in Dickinson County.”

The current kennels have seen better days. “They have seen so much use and over time rust and wear take a toll. We have several kennels that are simply unusable because sharp exposed edges make them unsafe. Others are so beat up that they simply cannot contain the animals,” remarked Becker. “Without functioning kennels, the number of dogs the shelter can take in is significantly reduced.”

The organization has been raising funds to replace the kennels for about a year, along with several other necessary upgrades to the dog kennel area.

The generosity of the AWC Family Foundation, under the direction of a local philanthropist Andrea Waitt Carlton, has stepped forward once again to assist with the efforts.

“For almost ten years, the Humane Society of Northwest Iowa ran Dickinson County’s only stray animal rescue operation out of homes of volunteers,” Becker said. “It was until 1996 that seeds for a permanent shelter were sewn thanks to the generosity of Andrea Waitt Carlton.”

That initial generosity, in the form of a $100,000 matching grant, proved just the motivation needed to raise the remaining funds in 1996 to build the shelter facility known as “The Chelsea Dog Center,” named after Andrea’s beloved French bulldog, who had recently passed.

“I am originally from Sioux City but have spent every summer growing up in Dickinson County on the shores of Lake Okoboji,” recalls Mrs. Carlton. “That time created in me a love for this area, and I already had a heart for animals – particularly those that were mistreated or without a loving home. That $100,000 grant was my first significant step into Philanthropy, and to use it to encourage others to give to the same need was very rewarding.”

When the new shelter opened in 1997, the gleaming new facility housed a bright reception area, office space, 28 dog kennels, including fourteen without outside runs, impound kennels, a crematorium, four meet and greet rooms, a pet care administration area, and a staff lounge. It has served Dickinson County and several surrounding counties for more than 25 years and continues to do so today.

The need for new kennels has been growing, especially when dogs must be turned away because of the wear on current ones and because of the lack of space.

“With our current dogs, we can only take in 12 dogs due to the size of the kennels we currently have. If we have puppies or small dogs, we could take in one to three more, as they can be placed in the same kennel,” Becker shared. “Once Phase 2 and 3 are complete, we will have more room, along with an impound area that is safe for our staff and the dogs.”

On December 3, a new furnace was installed as the start of Phase 1 of the renovation project. The floor in the kennel area will be fixed and coated before the new kennels are installed, and in March, 12 new kennels will arrive that are constructed with two parts and separated by a gilly door.

“This helps us clean one side while the dog is on the other side hanging out,” Becker explained. “Currently, we have to put all dogs outside in either the heat or cold while we clean. With the new kennels, we will be able to leave them in when the weather is not ideal for them to be out long. The new kennels will definitely help reduce stress and increase safety for all dogs and staff.”

Phase two and three of the remodel will be a building extension that will add real life rooms to help with dog stress and training. The new layout of the dog area will allow indoor space for Hailey Huckfelt-Dirks, Shelter Manager at the Humane Society, to provide training and play groups inside with the dogs.

“This will really help the dogs get ready to go into ‘furever’ homes!” Becker exclaimed. The AWC Family Foundation grants have helped HSNWIA purchase new kennels, purchase a new boiler and repair and seal the current concrete floor in the dog area. To date, the Humane Society has raised $111,034 and is looking for donations from the community to meet the $15,000 challenge grant offered by Ms. Carlton’s foundation, which will fully fund the initiative.

“The Chelsea Dog Center is so important to the community that we couldn’t stand the thought of the dog kennel area not being able to operate at full capacity,” said Ms. Carlton. “And those animals need and deserve a safe place to be while waiting for their forever homes.”

John Carney, Executive Director of the AWC Family Foundation, he personally saw the significant need for renovations. “I had the privilege to pay the HSNWIA a visit this past summer and recognized how much the kennels needed replaced. Given our history with the Chelsea Dog Center, I brought the need back to the Board and to Andrea,” Carney shared. “We were fortunate to provide a two-part gift with an outright grant for $25,000 and the challenge grant for an additional $15,000 to help the HSNWIA reach the finish line.”

As renovations began this March, Becker is very appreciative of the AWC Family Foundation and Andrea Waitt Carlton, as well as numerous other generous donors assisted in bringing this project to life - Okoboji Foundation – YIP, Dickinson County Endowment Fund, St. Croix, Facebook donations, Wags and Whiskers in the Park, Steve Dulin Contracting and Grant from Micro.

Financial gifts to the dog kennel replacement project can be made online at or checks can be dropped of or mailed to 607 28th St., Milford, IA 51351. You can also venmo the Humane Society of Northwest Iowa by searching @hsnwia on venmo. The deadline to raise the remaining funds is March 31, 2024.