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The Barn on Baseline opens pet sanctuary in Genoa

GENOA – Darth Vader, a black cat whose owner is a trucker and between residences, has found a temporary home in The Barn on Baseline’s Family Pet Care Center, where he will stay and be cared for until his owner is ready to pick him up.

Darth Vader the cat is one of the first long-term boarders at 16173 Base Line Road in Genoa. The new 5,000-square-foot building behind The Barn on Baseline animal shelter has been open about a month and features 4-by-8-foot suites for cats and 8-by-8-foot suites for dogs.

Manager David Mullner said the boarding service is meant to help people maintain ownership of their pets while going through hardships or life transitions, such as an extended hospital stay or military deployment, or while recovering from a crisis such as a fire or tornado.

Those who otherwise would have to surrender their pets to a shelter can have peace of mind knowing they are safe and comfortable, he said. Owners and their family members are welcome to visit the pets at any time.

"It’s something that I think is going to catch on," Mullner said. "We've had a lot of inquiries over the years in the shelter about keeping pets long term, and we’ve done that. But the shelter environment is not the best environment for like your little Chihuahua dog. It’s a high-stress environment."

Unlike the nearby shelter, which opened in 1975, there are no cages or kennels in the Family Pet Care Center. The rooms are more like little apartments, with dogs having their own TVs, doors to go outside and themed decorations ranging from the Chicago Blackhawks, motorcycles and the beach to a princess room that's a favorite for lap dogs.

Pets enjoy amenities like radiant floor heating and central air conditioning. They can have their own room or share with another family pet, and they have space to play with other pets, if their temperaments allow.

"We don’t just lock them up in these rooms and leave them alone," Mullner said. "We get them involved, either individually out in courtyard, or with the group in the daycare room."

Mullner said a pet's stay is customizable to fit their needs and personality.

For example, Lincoln, a large white bulldog, stays in a room with minimal furnishings because he's a bit destructive, and he gets individual playtime outside because he doesn't do well with other dogs.

"There’s a lot of different things we can do, and there’s also probably things we can do that we haven't come across yet or haven't been asked yet," Mullner said. "We're willing to try to help as much as we can in those situations."

The other services offered at the center are available for boarded pets as well, including doggie day care, basic obedience and agility field training, and grooming.

The cost for boarding is assessed on an individual basis, based on the pet’s needs and the owner’s ability to pay, and a portion of the fees from boarding, grooming, daycare and training services go toward maintaining The Barn on Baseline shelter, Mullner said.

"This animal shelter’s been in existence for almost 42 years, and we're always trying to find new sources of income," he said. "We thought if we built this facility, the income raised here would help to sustain this building and the animal shelter, as well."

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