Whitman County Humane Society undergoes renovations, resignations

WCHS resurfaced concrete exterior, it expects to officially reopen in October

Whitman+County+Humane+Society+held+a+board+meeting+to+discuss+renovation+updates%2C+Sept.+20.+

DEX ALTAVILLA

Whitman County Humane Society held a board meeting to discuss renovation updates, Sept. 20.

SHANA HUANG, Evergreen reporter

Whitman County Humane Society is undergoing a variety of changes this year, from completing final renovations this month to dealing with the fallout of employee resignations.

The shelter has been manned completely by board members, said John Musselwhite, WCHS board of directors president. This change came after former board members, Elizabeth Siler and Gabriela Mazur, resigned from their positions on July 25 along with five other staff members. 

Siler said she has not been engaged with the shelter since her resignation but notes that the shelter was and is currently closed. 

The board is aiming for the shelter to be fully open and fully staffed by Oct. 1, Musselwhite said.

The shelter has hired two managers, who will begin work within the next two weeks, said Jeff DeBoer, the vice president of WCHS board of directors. The board is also prioritizing hiring staff under the managers to fill in time gaps for coverage. 

“In reality, we haven’t fully closed. It’s just we’ve been taking cats in, we’ve been adopting cats out, we’ve been adopting dogs out, we’ve been taking dogs in,” DeBoer said. “We are trying to limit the amount of traffic we get since we don’t have enough people here to accommodate a large amount of people coming in.”

After staff resigned this summer, Mazur said the shelter was previously not accepting other animals from private entities, and its goal for the WCHS was to empty the shelter, which impacted the animals.

“From that point forward, they, the staff, were not accepting animals into Animal Haven except for City of Pullman impounds,” Mazur said. “If the City of Pullman picked up a stray dog or cat and took them up there, they would accept those.”

By Aug. 8, there were no staff members left at Animal Haven, and the shelter was closed, hosting only one animal, Mazur said. 

Siler said on the night of the staff resignation, those working at WCHS, including former director Annie Lindsey and Zoe Skiadopoulou, former director of Training and Enrichment, and their crews, found a placement for every animal that was in the shelter at the time and did not take any new animals aside from impounds.

“When the community heard about the resignations, there was a lot of support from the community of ‘what can we do to help the animals up there,’” Mazur said. “There was some major donations happening to sponsor the adoption fees for the animals.”

Because adoption fees were sponsored by public donations, the animals at the shelter were quickly placed in homes, Mazur said. 

For the past few weeks, the shelter has been trying to finish its last few paint jobs and has completed 95% of the shelter’s new changes, Musselwhite said. 

“[The paint colors] are fear-free colors. They’re supposed to be calming for animals and people both actually,” DeBoer said.

The shelter has a few small projects listed for the future, and the concrete outside of the building was resurfaced due to safety concerns, he said. They have also finished building a new break room because staff previously did not have a place to rest during breaks.

“We wanted to give them a personal space, so they had a place to put their personal belongings and isolate themselves from the work environment while they’re on break,” DeBoer said.

Siler said she resigned because of the increasing amount of work she faced as a WCHS board member.

“I’m a full-time employee of WSU, that is my job,” Siler said. “At the point that I resigned, I was doing 50 hours a month of volunteer work for the society.”

During her time doing volunteer work, Siler said she had little assistance from other members of the board, except for Mazur and Kellie Klein, another former board member. 

The catalyst for Mazur’s resignation was when some board members responded to her email regarding a diseased cat colony in the town of Albion by deciding not to take action, she said. 

Siler said the board’s latest reports seem to be “all about these renovations” that are occurring at the WCHS.

The shelter has been remodeling with the animals on site, but Musselwhite said they move the pets so as not to impact them. WCHS has been working with the Humane Society of the Palouse, Benewah Humane Society and Lewis Clark Animal Shelter.

“We’ve been in contact with many other shelters in the area, and they’ve been a great help to us with advice, with help, physical help, food … everything that we could ask for,” Musselwhite said. We built relationships with those shelters as well.  I think [it] will come to benefit the Whitman County Humane Society for years to come.”