No-kill small animal shelter proposed for northeast Allen County

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ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — A new no-kill animal shelter could be coming to Allen County.

The Max Cavie’s Guinea Pig Haven will be located in northeast Allen County, just north of the Leo-Cedarville area. The shelter will house guinea pigs, rabbits, and other small animals.

“We love guinea pigs,” Sue Cassel said. “They are just amazing and they have beautiful little faces and we saw the need.”

Cassel is one of the shelter’s board members and volunteers. She’s been rescuing guinea pigs privately for over five years and is currently fostering nine in her home.

“A lot of people have come to me and I’ve had to turn them away because there’s only so many guinea pigs I can take myself,” Cassel said. “I went to my friends and I said how would you feel about started a shelter because this is obviously a need.”

Friend and volunteer Stephanie Diss is a registered vet tech who has seen first hand the need for not only a shelter but better education for small pet owners.

“Their diet is very specialized and they can only eat certain types of food,” Diss said. “It’s very, very important for owners to know what they need because guinea pigs are different than other animals. And I’d always get asked where we can take them and what types of places take them. Of course, in town, there Animal Care and Control but sometimes the person wasn’t from our area.”

Tina James, Owner of TJ’s Pet Sitting and Dog Walking, has been pet sitting for Cassel guinea pigs for years. James herself has recused animals for years and jumped at the chance to help get the shelter up and running.

“I’ve fostered dogs and cats over the years but never small animals,” James said. “In our area, there are a lot of times shelters will have animals like this left outside the shelter in the middle of the night and because people don’t know what to do. It happens more often than you think. So when it was brought up I felt the need to help.”

Together the group of six board members consists of a professional pet sitter, a registered vet tech, a doctor and guinea pig, and animal lovers. They started researching and asking experts on how to start a shelter.

Three of the board members and volunteers.
Left to Right: Stephanie Diss, Sue Cassel and Tina James

The group says several organizations, businesses, friends, and family have offered their support to the cause, including Animal Care & Control.

“As with all animal welfare agencies, we appreciate their willingness to help animals in our community. As the largest open-access shelter in Northeast Indiana, we are here to provide our knowledge and expertise to set them up for success.”  

Amy-Jo Sites, Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control Director

Currently, the group is in the early stages of the shelter and becoming a nonprofit. The shelter will be added to an existing building on Cassel’s property. Once completed it will house 70 small animals. The group hopes to raise $40,000 by selling masks and t-shirts to help fund the project

“None of the money we collect will go toward salaries or things like that,” Cassel said. “Everything will go toward food and support as many animals as possible.”

The group will go in front of the Allen County Planning Commission in February to get the property rezoned and ask for a special use permit to build the main facility.

Once it passes the commission, construction will begin in March and the group hopes to open by late summer of 2021.

According to Cassel, Max Cavie’s Guinea Pig Haven would be the shelter only taking just small animals in northeast Indiana.

The shelter already has a waiting list. Camp Cavy, a guinea pig rescue out of Michigan City, Indiana, has asked that the shelter take some of their pigs once open.

The facility will expect applications for adoptions and families looking to foster.

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