Marshfield Area Pet Shelter Founder Takes Leap as Full-Time Volunteer

Permanent Facility in Design Stages

It’s been over seven years since Karen Rau took the leap and founded Marshfield Area Pet Shelter in the fall of 2011.

Since then, the shelter has accomplished more than those who were part of that first board meeting could have ever thought possible, and created a happier ending for thousands of animals.

“Seven years ago, I just wanted to see if I could start something. At least I would know that I had tried,” she said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this could have evolved as quickly as it did.”

Now Rau has taken another leap – retiring from her 38-year career as an application system specialist at Marshfield Clinic and devoting her attention to MAPS as a full-time volunteer in the role of Executive Director. She has also stepped down as board president to focus more on the daily operations of the shelter.

The move will allow Rau and staff more time to develop programs, form relationships with area businesses, market its pets and services, and continue working toward a permanent shelter. Since 2015, MAPS has operated a temporary intake facility in the old airport terminal building and also runs an adoption center inside Marshfield Mall.

MAPS recently welcomed Kiana Weiler to its staff as an animal caregiver, joining two other full-time staff members.

The addition of another full-time employee was an essential next step for the shelter, which takes in around 500 pets every year. A vet at the UW-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, while impressed with the shelter’s operations, had advised that more staff was needed to maintain a high standard of health and safety for the pets. That advice was “a wake-up call” for the board, said Rau.

Besides staff, volunteers are an invaluable component of the day-to-day operations. Out of fifty active volunteers, there are eight regulars who come in day and night to feed, clean, and make open hours possible. A separate team exercises and looks after the dogs.

“We continue to need lots of involvement from people to complete this for the animals in our community,” said Rau.

MAPS Adoption Center inside the Marshfield Mall

Their dedicated work highlights the fact that there’s much more to running a shelter than simply taking in strays. While the shelter doesn’t fix or vaccinate animals as a professional service, it does perform these services for all of its adoptable cats and dogs along along with micro-chipping.

Resources provided at MAPS include the Lost and Found program to locate missing animals, a Working Pet program which finds a home for undomesticated cats in a barn or shed, and of course, the fostering and adoption of animals.

“The more I learn about sheltering, the more I am proud of the fact the sheltering community has evolved into providing a service not only to animals, but people,” Rau said.

As the shelter grows in staff, the organization is taking steps to get its permanent shelter off the drawing board. Architectural firm Design Unlimited donated a concept a few years ago, but currently shelter staff is in the process of designing its own facility.

“Once we started working in a facility, we realized that a lot of what was on the original design needed to be changed, because the needs have changed,” said Rau. “Talking to the Shelter Medicine Program, going to the animal care expos, and talking to other shelters, we realized that the designs needed to change a bit.”

While it may not have a permanent building, Rau emphasizes that the shelter is already up and operating just as if it did – which means daily expenses of rent for two locations, supplies, surgeries, vaccines, and staffing.

“A new building will give us more opportunities, but we still need donations for the daily operations that we have every day,” she explained. “None of this would be possible without our donors and volunteers, and our community’s support.”

Follow Marshfield Area Pet Shelter or make a donation at its website, MarshfieldPetShelter.org.