New Animal Services director makes animals ‘top priority’
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photos by Greg Jones / Daily Commercial
New Animal Services Director
Cyndi Nason, the new director of the Lake County Animal Services Department, visits a malnourished horse on her first day on the job Monday.
Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 9:00 am
Greg Jones | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org | 0 comments
Cyndi Nason, the new director of the Lake County Animal Services Department, had a lot of things to do Monday on her first day on the job — but she made checking on the animals her top priority.
“It is sad you have to focus on getting him better, and helping him and finding a new home, so someone can take care of him,” she said while rubbing the head of a malnourished horse. “He is very weak but getting him to that healthy state is what we are about.”
Nason, 54, for the past two years has served as a consultant for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Prior to that, she was Adoption Centers director for the Humane Society of Missouri for eight years and, before that, was executive director of the Northeast Missouri Humane Society for two years.
She replaces Marjorie Boyd, who resigned as director in early April after two audits — one financial and one operational — found a host of problems with the department. The animal shelter also has come under fire from animal activists who say too many strays are being euthanized, not enough are being adopted, and fewer still are being spayed and neutered.
“Cyndi has successfully directed two animal-rescue and shelter operations, with demonstrated experience in increasing adoptions, improving animal care and managing a large number of staff,” County Manager David Heath said. “We are confident that she will serve as an effective administrator for this important function of our organization.”
Nason, who also spent her first day in orientation, in a staff meeting and introducing herself to employees, is well aware of the issues facing the department.
“When I was interviewing, I heard there were a number of challenges, and I hope I can make improvements,” she said. “Some of the improvements have already begun. “We would like this (shelter) to be as ‘low kill’ as possible. That is a wonderful goal, and we would like to work with other organizations and rescue groups. Sometimes you can take animals from one agency to another because they have some open space, and I would like to see if that is an option in this area.”
The financial audit said, among other things, that the department was missing out on a lot of revenue by not aggressively following up on the re-licensing of dogs and cats every year. The operational audit said record keeping was lax and shelter conditions need improvement.
Nason has seen the audits.
“There are a lot of things I’m looking at,” she said. “I’m going to be going through them item by item and making sure that if they (improvements) can be implemented, and it is the right thing, that we are going to get it going,” she said. “A lot of things they (employees) are doing is good. There is really a caring staff that works hard, so I just think we want to move things forward and continue to make things better. The county has already implemented some changes that were in the audits.”
Heath said Nason appears to be the right person for the job.
“I’m surprised we got someone of her caliber — seriously,” he said. “The fact that she has management experience and her work with the Humane Society gives her a nice balance… We had other candidates for this job that had experience in animal services, but not someone with management experience plus the Humane Society.
“When you work with management, it can become a conveyor belt, and it becomes interpersonal, but when you work and deal with these folks that are in rescue — the empathy and people side of it — you have to have a certain amount of sensitivity.”
Nason’s first day was busy, but full of expectations.
“We are going to try to get the volunteer program going again, because that is really important,” she said. “I want to listen to people who have concerns and ideas. I think we can learn from people and, sometimes, with the give and take, we can learn and make the agency better.
“I have a great feeling about the department. I’m passionate about animals. I know one person can’t do everything and everyone has to work together as team. I think the some restructuring on the staff will allow us to operate better.”
As for Nason’s first day on the job, there was no taking it easy because she was trying to get acclimated.
“I’m ready to get to work,” she said.