As the Flagler Humane Society goes into its second month without a paid director, board president Diane Voigt continues, with other board members, to keep the shelter up and running, working 10-hour days to improve services. “We have totally changed our adoption process,” Voigt said. “People can now come in and often take the animal home with them the same day, that’s been a big change.”
And a big plus. “We have not had to put down any animals for lack of space or time since February 2,” she said. “That’s what I am most proud of.”
Nicole Brose, a relatively new member to the board of directors, is enthusiastic about the changes and new community partnerships. “We had a team from Lowes paint the lobby. They had a painting party, and Sherwin Williams donated the paint,” Brose said.”Lowes is stepping up and wants to be a community partner.”
The shelter is reaching out to other shelters and rescues and working with Canine Warriors, an organization that pairs up veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with dogs. The organization took four dogs last week.
Voigt said the shelter has already begun working with rescue groups and she hopes to work with the Halifax Humane Society in Volusia County. “I would like us to partner with Halifax and maybe rent a store in the Volusia Mall and have a week long adopt-a-thon,” she says.
The Humane Society is going through a little post-traumatic stress of its own. In 2009 Joy Gournic, a Palm Coast resident, had formalized a bequest that would have yielded half a million dollars to the society upon her death. In January, the departure of several dedicated volunteers at the shelter and mistreatment of animals, Gournic cancelled the bequest.
“I feel that I can no longer support an organization that I believe is more concerned with their own personal agendas and egos and less concerned with the safety, health and placement of animals who are in their care and the loyal and dedicated volunteers who care for these animals,” she told the Flagler County Commission. Two weeks later, Jeff Hale, the society’s executive director of the since July 2010, was fired. (He’d resigned his previous post in a Texas animal service agency after getting a drunk-driving citation, though he wasn’t on the clock at the time.)
Tom Gemmola, another supervisor at the shelter, was fired last year when shelter officials discovered he had no valid driver’s license. The shelter also lost its veterinarian, Christine Glenn, who left in early February to move to Tampa. So another important partnership for the society is with the Flagler Veterinary Association. The plan is to work with veterinarians in the association to help with the spaying and neutering of the animals, eliminating the need for the shelter to have its own staff veterinarian.
Voigt says their extended outreach efforts have resulted in interest in the animals from around the state.
“We are still animal control and we are still an open shelter,” Voigt said. “No kill shelters can pick and choose the animals they accept, the ones they know they can adopt out.”
The shelter is one of 107 animal groups selected to participate in the 2012 ASPCA Rachel Ray Challenge. According to the ASPCA website, “The$100K Challenge is a national competition to inspire animal shelters—and those who support them—to go above and beyond to increase pet adoption, reunite lost pets with their families and save more animals’ lives.”
Voting is taking place online from April 5 to April 16. You can do your part: If the voting turnout is high the Flagler shelter could receive between $5,000 and $125,000. Voigt hopes that the community will log on and vote to help the Human Society. “It would enable us to do the things we are unable to do now,” she said. Her “things” ranged from adding special events, increasing staff and maybe even redesigning the shelter.
An active search is underway for a new director but Voigt expects to remain involved. “My comfortable retirement life is gone forever but with a new director I won’t be here 10 hours a day,” she says.
Brose is looking forward to what she calls the “ahh ha” moment, “when,” she says, “the entire community supports and appreciates the need for the shelter, embraces the humane society and is proud of our existence.”
“We are trying to get back the community support we once had, and the volunteers,” Voigt said.