MASON CITY | Dr. Judy Siems has always loved animals.
She became a clinical psychologist and years later, decided to pursue her love of animals by beginning the process of building an animal sanctuary.
“I’ve wanted to do this since I was 6 years old,” Siems said. “Well, 60 years later, I’m doing it.”
After looking for a place in Minnesota, it became clear to Siems that her childhood home near Mason City and Burchinal would be the perfect place.
“I was born here and later raised in Charles City,” she said, laughing. “I moved to Minneapolis in my 20s, so I’ve been a city-slicker for 45 years.”
The Glady Mae Animal Sanctuary, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization incorporated in 2014, will become a safe and permanent home for cats and dogs at risk of euthanasia, Siems said.
The area has special significance for Siems.
Her mom, Glady Mae, grew up in Burchinal and met her father at the Surf Ballroom. The pair married in Mason City.
When her mom became ill in 2014, she told Siems to work with animals again.
“I’m a trained psychologist, and she said, ‘That’s all fine well and good but why aren't you working with animals? That’s who you are,’” Siems said. “I’d never thought about it that way.”
Before her mom died, Siems promised her she would open the sanctuary, which she named after her.
“It dawned on me one day, this doesn’t belong in Minnesota,” she said. “This belongs somewhere in Cerro Gordo County.”
It took few years to find the property. One property in Clear Lake, off of Buddy Holly Place, fell through. Eventually, she stumbled upon the property in the 12000 block of Quail Avenue, south of Mason City.
The Cerro Gordo County Supervisors approved the project in May 2017 and consulted with neighbors who also support it, Siems said.
“We want to be good neighbors,” she said.
Siems bought the 10-acre property in June since the non-profit didn’t have enough money. In September, she moved into the house on the property with her pets.
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“This property is far enough away from neighbors that it won't be too loud for them,” Siems said. “Still, we’re going to keep the sound down.”
Siems said it’s going to be a long road but she has a lot of help with family and friends in the area as well as the board members.
“Everybody’s itching to get going,” Siems said. “The snow is holding us up a bit.”
The sanctuary is in the process of of developing the property and repairing the four barns in order to build kennels, runs, and and a play area.
“There are some wild animals out here,” she said, noting the need for the area to be enclosed and secured to protect the cats and dogs who will live there.
There are a few feral cats and coyotes on the property, which is surrounded by farm fields.
The barns and outbuildings need quite a bit of work before they're ready. Since purchasing the property, Siems and others have cleared out most of the junk, broken-down equipment and an overturned semi from the property.
After repairing the buildings, kennels and more will be added. One building will be set up like a living room for the older dogs, and maybe some cats, who may have been dropped off due to old age.
“This sanctuary is really about quality of life for these animals,” Siems said.
Siems also wants to be able to provide a safe, temporary home for the pets of domestic abuse victims who cannot bring the pets with them to a shelter or safe house.
“When they’ve found housing, they can come back and pick them up,” Siems said. “We’ll take great care of them.”
All animals are spayed, neutered and microchipped. Siems hopes to have a small medical building on site for a vet, when needed.
It will take a lot of work to get the Glady Mae Animal Sanctuary open but Siems said she’s up for the challenge.
“I always thought I was an odd duck and no one loved animals the way I do,” she said. “I realize now that it's not true and there are so many who love them."
Siems wants to do her part in the area to care for sick, injured, old and young pets, including those who need a temporary loving home.
The sanctuary is currently an all-volunteer organization relying on donations. Visit www.gladymaesanctuary.org for more information.