By Jeff Keeling
The Washington County Animal Control Board (ACB) is closing in on hiring a new director for the local animal shelter. Longtime director Debbie Dobbs announced her retirement last fall and will step down when her replacement is found.
Ralph Van Brocklin, one of two people representing the city of Johnson City on the five-member board, said the ACB has interviewed three finalists for the job. Van Brocklin, a Johnson City commissioner, was a key fundraiser as the ACB successfully completed a drive for a new animal shelter.
The new shelter opened in July. It offers a much more pleasant environment for people to interact with animals for potential adoption, has much more capacity than the old shelter, and has significantly better accommodations for the animals. All these elements, Van Brocklin said, should be attractive to a new director whom the board wants to see take full advantage of a facility and community that Van Brocklin believes are ready to move toward a much lower animal euthanization rate.
“The whole concept behind expanding an animal control entity into an animal welfare type approach is what I think we’re looking at most critically,” he said. “We’re looking for somebody who has a demonstrated history of not only being involved in animal control and animal adoption issues, but we’re looking for someone who has demonstrated leadership in helping turn a shelter with a high euthanization rate to one with a lower rate.”
Van Brocklin said the ACB is seeking several other primary qualities, and that all the finalists possess them in some measure.
One is simply experience managing an organization of similar size and scope, in terms of number of employees and number of animals that come in. In the seven months from July 2015 through January, the shelter took in a total of 3,900 animals.
Another important quality, Van Brocklin said, is, “demonstrated success in bringing somewhat disaparate groups with similar hearts and minds together – and that’s going to be huge in our community.”
That extends to an additional quality, that of creating a good working relationship with employees that makes them cohesive. That, Van Brocklin said, should be combined with, “creating enthusiasm in the public for what you’re trying to do and bringing people on board.”
Despite the new digs, the shelter still has room to improve on the euthanization front. A feline disease skewed numbers in the first few months after opening, but December-January comparisons to the same month a year earlier show the following:
625 animals came in in those two months of 2014-2015, compared to 783 in 2015-2016. The earlier two-month period saw 467 adoptions, while the more recent period had 608 adoptions. “Returned to owner” totals were 80 in the old shelter period, 125 in the recent period. Euthanizations totaled 101 in the earlier period, 123 in the more recent period.