Today is my 60th day as the CEO at the Cheyenne Animal Shelter. As I write this, we are rebounding from a snow day and a flurry of activity surrounding the reality of an animal shelter that has run out of kennel space. Thankfully, that temporary state has passed – with no small amount of assistance from both the local community and several of our colleagues from the Northern Colorado Regional Animal Welfare Coalition and beyond.

Animal sheltering really is a community effort. When a shelter is welcoming to the community, responsive to its needs, responsible with its services and funding, and reliably communicates with transparency and trust –  its success becomes part of a cycle of reciprocity. We made the decision to temporarily waitlist dogs needing to be surrendered by their owners due to the fact that the dog population nearly tripled in a matter of days, leaving us with only a few empty kennels ahead of the winter storm. I am happy to say that our community’s response to our ask for adoptions, transfers, and stray reclaims has put us in a much better position within just a few days’ time. To our knowledge, no one needing to surrender a pet will have had to wait more than a few days, and anyone who could not wait was still accommodated. We will be able to resume normal operations on Monday and, as a result of this experience, we’ll be creating a high census protocol ensuring we have a practiced and proactive plan in place for the next time this happens.

I spent the first 30 days of my tenure deeply immersed in learning about the organization. During that time, we surveyed staff, volunteers, the board, donors, and various community stakeholders. It was my desire to learn about people’s perception and expectations. I also wished to learn what was functioning well within the organization, and where we needed to prioritize time and energy to improve. At the end of that first month, I presented my key priorities including:

  1. Board development, training, and strategic planning
  2. Identifying and placing the right people in leadership and providing the support, education, and institutional culture necessary for them to deliver on industry best practices; and
  3. Planning and mapping annual fundraising and marketing goals to ensure an integrated, planned, and strategic approach.

The Shelter is a complex and ever-changing ecosystem of pets, people, and community. In addition to working our way through action items related to these priority areas, we have also installed and put into operation our new crematorium, performed a situational analysis and identified a realignment approach to business building, hosted our first coordinated #GivingTuesday fundraiser and met two matching challenges for a total of more than $85,000.00 in new donations for the end of the year, participated in a nationwide Clear the Shelters event resulting in all but one adoptable dog being placed in a home before Christmas, managed a hoarding case of over 30 cats with extreme upper respiratory and dental disease, performed overdue maintenance and repair on all our shelter vehicles, de-cluttered and deep-cleaned several key areas within the shelter, hosted a staff retreat, hosted a holiday party, accepted a dozen dogs from a breeder confiscation (that case is still playing out), expanded our operating hours and, drum-roll, please – finally come to an agreement with the City of Cheyenne on our contractual services for fiscal year 2021. The contract was signed by all parties yesterday!

Are you dizzy yet? I know I am!

Accordingly I’ll pause here to catch my breath and be back next week with more details about how we’re working on those priorities and what you can expect from the Cheyenne Animal Shelter over the next few months.