PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Catholic Charities of Maine, long known for its aid to people in need, has extended its scope of care and concern to four-legged creatures as well, with the installation of a structure in Presque Isle that will allow the Amish and other horse owners to leave their animals in a safe environment, regardless of the weather.
“We’ve been working with the Amish for over a year now to come up with a structure that provides adequate protection from snow, rain and the heat of summer,” said Dixie Shaw, executive director, Catholic Charities.
About a year ago, Shaw got together with city officials, including Code Enforcement Officer George Howe, to determine what would be required to obtain approval and a building permit.
“Noah Yoder, of the Amish community, drew up plans that were then submitted. Catholic Charities obtained the permit, since the structure is being placed at our Presque Isle thrift store on Davis Street,” Shaw said recently.
Shaw said she’d heard a lot of conversations in recent years regarding the Amish horses and how they were left out in all kinds of weather. It really hit home for her during a thunderstorm however.
“I had an Amish gentleman, Sam Miller, who’d come shopping at the thrift store when we first opened. He left his horse tied outside. A thunderstorm hit and all he could do was watch from the window — his poor horse had no place to get out of the weather. That’s when it hit me that I could help come up with a solution,” she said.
Construction of the horse shelter was completed recently, with delivery taking place on Thursday, Dec. 27.
“The building was designed and built by the Amish community. The Menonite community arranged for Tyler Yote to deliver it to us,” said Shaw.
Helping set up the structure were three men from the Amish Community: Dennis Gingerich, of Easton; Abe Miller and Norman Miller, of Fort Fairfield.
“It didn’t take long to build it. We had about a dozen working on it,” said Abe Miller. “Many hands make light work.”
“This isn’t just for Amish horses. Anyone with a horse can use the structure,” added Norman Miller.
The building would be ideal for those riding horses in the Memorial Day Parade who may want to attend festivities at the Memorial Park but aren’t sure where to leave their horses, noted Shaw.
With one building in place, Shaw hopes other businesses will see the need and get onboard. She said it’s good public relations and good for the economy.
“We encourage the Amish to come and shop here. It takes a lot of money to feed the County,” said Shaw. “Other places that want their business should get onboard.”
Shaw said members of the Amish community frequent a number of other local businesses, including MPG, Tractor Supply Company, Lowe’s, the Aroostook Centre Mall, Walmart and Mardens. She envisions more structures going up throughout Presque Isle in the future, with the project possibly expanding to Caribou or Fort Fairfield.
“We’d be willing to work with businesses to construct shelters at other locations,” said Abe Miller. “This building was built at zero cost to Catholic Charities. It was completely funded by the Amish community.”
“It’s the right thing to do. These animals are their livelihood. I’d like to see several around the city to provide shelter for the horses,” Shaw said.
“These animals are working animals, much like a service dog; they’re not pets. The Amish don’t condone the misuse of animals. Their horses are often retired racehorses who are accustomed to running and tend to be leaner,” said Shaw.
The three-sided building is constructed of wood, with a metal roof and siding and a panel that opens in back to let air circulate. Inside is a trough where food and water can be left for the horses. It’s wide enough for two horses to stand comfortably.
As for horse manure, Shaw said she’d handle that.
“I’ve been around animals all my life. I don’t mind doing a little cleanup now and again. I can always find someone to sell it to, with proceeds going to buy more food for those in need,” said Shaw, who is always looking for a way to raise money to feed the hungry.
The shelter, located in Catholic Charities’ parking lot, has already served its purpose, providing Amish horses shelter from the snow and strong winds over the weekend.