Braveheart owner responds to closure mandate
Eighteen dogs are still waiting at Braveheart Rescue for new, permanent homes. In April, the Marshan Township Board told the rescue, which is located in Marshan Township, that because it didn't have a proper rescue permit, it could no longer operate. The township does not have an ordinance to allow rescues, and board members denied Tracy's request that they create one.
Board members gave Braveheart owner Brandi Tracy until July 17 to find homes for all the rescue dogs on her property.
Tracy has been running the rescue for the past three and a half to four years, she said. Her business started as a boarding kennel, and she hadn't planned on opening a rescue. But as her business grew, she started getting people who would drop off dogs for boarding and then at the end of their stay ask her to keep them or find a new home for them. She started getting requests from people to look into other out-of-state places where dogs would be euthanized or where they were being abused.
She tried to run both the boarding kennel and the rescue together for a while, but when she decided to apply for a 501(c)(3) charitable organization tax exemption - and got it - she phased out the boarding.
"It just evolved into rescue," Tracy said.
She had a 10-year conditional use permit for the boarding kennel from the township, and figured she could transfer it from boarding to rescue at the end of the 10 years.
"I didn't think it was a big deal," she said.
Since the rescue started, it's been involved with several public events such as an on-site open house, pet adoption days with Petco, MN SNAP's mobile spay and neuter program, local fundraisers and more.
"I haven't tried to hide (the rescue)," Tracy said. "It's no secret."
When she found out late last year that the permit was a concern, Tracy contacted the township clerk to get the paperwork in order. It was right before Christmas, though, and she recalled being told she could get the transfer done after the holidays. In April, she received a registered letter summoning her to the township board meeting. Tracy thought that meant it was time to transfer her permit.
"That's what I thought I was walking into," she said.
Instead, she found out the board had decided to shut down her organization.
"I have had no due process. I was told I had to close my rescue," she said.
"I was totally ambushed at the meeting."
A question of safety
Township board members expressed safety concerns about the dogs at Braveheart. At the April board meeting, a woman told board members she had seen one of the adult dogs attack a puppy.
"The dogs that are out there, they're not the tamest dogs," said board chairman Jerry Bauer in an earlier interview.
Bauer said he had not visited Braveheart Rescue himself, but that the board had sent its building inspector to see the facility.
Tracy defended her dogs' temperaments.
"We are not a danger and we do not have dangerous dogs," she said.
Some of the dogs she rescues have been in abusive or traumatic situations, however, and require special rehabilitative attention as well as time before they're ready to be adopted. Often, when they first come to Braveheart, they're frightened, she said.
"You don't get Lassie in two weeks," she said.
While Tracy admitted there have been some incidents with particularly difficult dogs and that "things happen" when working with any kind of live animal, she also said incidents don't happen often at her facility. She also pointed out the tall fencing she uses to keep dogs contained.
Although Tracy is still hoping to find a way of saving her rescue, she's working to meet the township's requirements. She's actively re-homing the dogs still at her 2.5-acre facility, but is no longer taking new ones in, she said.
Considering the action taken against her, she said she has considered relocating. A larger piece of property is even a sort of dream of hers.
"Really, I want 200 acres and I'll take every single dog they throw at me and do sanctuary as well," she said.
Tracy invited people to call or drop by to visit and see for themselves what sort of work she does. Braveheart's website is www.braveheartrescueinc.com. The phone number is 612-382-4234.