Local woman opens up pet boutique, rescues wildlife animals
Surrounded by a blind cat, an unwanted cockatoo, a dog and a miniature pig, Shelby Holmberg has her hands full.
Holmberg, often called the Bird Lady, has a total of 16 pets. And her love for animals has grown since she rescued her first animal — an injured pigeon — at 18 years old.
Now, at the age of 22, Holmberg has saved countless other animals and opened up Birds of a Feather Pet Boutique and Lounge. Located at 322 E. Havens Ave. in Mitchell, the boutique and lounge opened in July 2016 and serves as a place where "pet parents" can come together and socialize their pets.
The boutique sells pet-friendly apparel, accessories, toys and treats for all types of animals. And while she's there, Holmberg is surrounded by many of her pets.
"It's a job, but it's not a job one bit," Holmberg said.
On top of the boutique, Holmberg is the go-to person in Mitchell for wildlife rehabilitation. If there's an injured owl, squirrel, turtle or pheasant, Mitchell authorities know to call the Bird Lady.
But many of the rescued animals require medical care, which leads to expensive medical bills. These bills are all taken care of by Holmberg. And now with more people calling Holmberg weekly for injured animals and growing vet bills, Holmberg has taken to the internet for help.
This week, Holmberg started a GoFundMe account explaining her situation and has already raised $420 of her $1,000 goal. She not only wants to raise money to pay vet bills, but also to help fund a larger facility. The facility, Holmberg said, would offer more housing for wildlife, dogs and cats as they continue rehabilitation or await a new home.
"We need to give people the idea that there is hope out there," Holmberg said. "There is room for growth out there. There's so many programs for cats and dogs and we see all the funding for cats and dogs and foster homes. But you can't have someone foster an owl. So there was just a large need."
'I go wherever I'm needed'
Holmberg often hears the phrase, "I didn't know who else to call."
In the Mitchell region, there are very few places that will rescue and rehabilitate wildlife animals and for groups such as animal control or South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, it's a liability, Holmberg said.
But as word spread about Holmberg and her willingness and ability to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife, more calls began to come in.
Holmberg estimates she receives approximately one to three calls for injured animals every week, and each season brings a different issue.
Sometimes, according to Holmberg, the people who are calling are simply concerned for the animal and there's nothing actually wrong with it.
This is where classes and more education would benefit the Mitchell community, Holmberg said.
"We have very little resources in Mitchell for things like that," she said. "If we had education, we'd have a lot less emergencies."
Holmberg herself has taken several courses across the state on animal rehabilitation, and plans to take more. But first, she's working on obtaining her state permit with South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, allowing to her to legally rehabilitate wildlife.
And it doesn't end there.
Holmberg also has plans to obtain her federal permit for migratory birds, but this requires a lot of time and studying before she can pass the test and application process.
In the meantime, Holmberg plans to continue her work rescuing and rehabilitating area wildlife and on Wednesday was gearing up to take a trip to Madison to rescue a pig.
"It's not just letting the animal down, but it's letting the people down that are calling you," Holmberg said. "I go wherever I'm needed."
Two weeks ago, Holmberg submitted paperwork to start a nonprofit organization that she plans to call Forget Me Not. This way, people can donate to her cause, in which she plans to focus completely on wildlife and domestic animals in need of her help.
Holmberg doesn't do it alone.
She has a support system behind her that includes employees of her box-coffee shop, Hot Shots Espresso, her parents, her husband and other individuals in the community.
Holmberg works with many veterinarians in Mitchell for injured animals, as well as area sheriff's departments, the local police division and GF&P, who all know to call the Bird Lady when there's an animal in danger.
And Holmberg doesn't mind at all.
"It all started with that first pigeon," Holmberg said. "It's my desire to see wildlife."