Who works for your local humane society? You might be surprised. Many folks in our community view the Peninsula Humane Society and all animal shelters for that matter, as simple places. They see lots of animals available for adoption and figure we’re mostly about cleaning cages, feeding animals and waiting for adopters.
We certainly do that, and take great pride in our ability to keep animals happy and healthy and to make them well when they arrive needing care, but there’s much more. A level of specialization animal people will find pleasantly surprising and reassuring.
I’ll start with our president, Ken White. He more or less lucked himself into this field 30+ years ago; a creative writing major who answered an ad for a humane educator with a large animal welfare organization. He earned his master’s degree, loved the animal welfare work and went on to senior-level positions with different local organizations before the Humane Society of the United States wooed him away. He left this national group to lead the Arizona Humane Society for eight years before coming back home when he joined the Peninsula Humane Society in 2000. Animal welfare executives aren’t ranked, but, by any measure including reputation among peers and other leaders in our field, Ken is at the top.
Moving around the shelter, and in no particular order of importance, meet a few other employees. Our Volunteer Manager has a law degree and once worked as a blackjack dealer. Of course, he has significant experience leading, training and cultivating volunteers, which is why we hired him.
Our Behavior & Training Manager, the person responsible for our public obedience classes, free helpline, and for all our work making behaviorally challenged animals more adoptable, was raised in Argentina. She earned the U.S. equivalent of a master’s degree in biology with an emphasis on animal behavior and studied polar bears in zoos.
How about the adoption counselors? Their backgrounds are as varied as our animals which, today, include a ball python, chinchilla, two white rats, a few hamsters, a guinea pig with Giants’ colors and Tim Lincecum hair, many red-eared slider turtles, a dozen or so rabbits, birds, and a few hundred dogs and cats. One of our staff matchmakers came from a doggie day care facility. And, a more recent hire made cupcakes before joining our staff. Can you imagine that, from making beautiful and sinfully delicious cupcakes to finding homes for puppies and kittens. From sweet to even sweeter work!
Of the Animal Rescue & Control Department staff you might see out in the community driving our vans and trucks, two are internal transfers from our adoption team, one was a delivery driver for Safeway who always loved animals. Two young women left this department and received a few hundred hours of extensive training to become our full-time cruelty investigators. Overall, our “field" staff includes more women than men and the average age is 25-26. Not exactly the image most people have of the dog catcher from the pound.
People often ask about vets. We have five, including three with more than 50 collective years’ experience and two recent grads from UC Davis vet school. The guy running our secondhand store worked for Oracle. Ok, maybe that isn’t a logical career move (and our stock options really blow compare to theirs!) but he’s found a home and our store is doing great business. Same with a former dietician who became our graphics person, a bartender and hair salon manager who joined our staff as a Humane Officer and our Customer Service Manager who went to school for sound engineering (and is one of two staff rock stars who play gigs). Our Humane Educator, the staffer who runs our animal camp, classroom presentation program and other offerings for kids and adults, previously worked for an animal shelter, she managed a wildlife rescue center and ran early childhood programs for the California Academy of Arts & Sciences.
And, that’s just a snapshot, less than one-third of the dedicated, talented employees who make our shelter and programs tick.