Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FixAustin Endorses Jefferson, Smith, & Hinze for New Shelter Director, Rates Two Others "Unacceptable"

AUSTIN, TX – November 10, 2010 – On Monday, four of five finalists vying to become the new director of Town Lake Animal Center interviewed with City officials, stakeholders, and the public. Today, Austin’s No Kill advocacy organization,, gave its seal of approval to three of those candidates: Dr. Ellen Jefferson of Austin Pets Alive, Abigail Smith of the Tompkins County SPCA, and Laura Hinze of PAWS Chicago.

“Jefferson, Smith, and Hinze were the clear leaders among the shelter finalists. Because we believe Austin’s animals would be in good hands with each of them, we publicly endorse all three of their candidacies,” said Austin appellate attorney and national No Kill advocate Ryan Clinton, founder of
Dr. Ellen Jefferson, the only local candidate with direct insight into the shelter’s operations, founded and led low-cost spay/neuter provider EmanciPet, which recently celebrated its 100,000th low-cost or free spay/neuter in Austin. Dr. Jefferson currently serves as the Executive Director of Austin Pets Alive, a non-profit adoptions group that has saved over 5,000 from Town Lake Animal Center’s “kill list” in just two years.

Abigail Smith is the Executive Director of the Tompkins County SPCA in Ithaca, New York. Her shelter boasts the highest save rate—96%—of any open-admission shelter in the United States, and she is a sought-after national speaker on No Kill programs and policies. Before joining the Tompkins County SPCA, she was the Director of Development and Marketing at the New Hampshire SPCA.

Laura Hinze is the Operations Director at PAWS Chicago, where she manages the shelter’s spay/neuter program, shelter-medicine program, and humane-education program. She manages a paid staff of 15 and an army of volunteers. Among her most innovative programs is one in which persons who might not otherwise be able to spay or neuter their pets can earn free surgeries by providing volunteer hours to PAWS Chicago.
While Jefferson, Smith, and Hinze were endorsed by, the organization deemed the two other candidates—Linda Haller and Julie Seal—“unacceptable” for the position.

“Linda Haller and Julie Seal seem like fine human beings whose hearts are absolutely in the right place, but we believe they are both very poor fits for the Austin animal-welfare community and its drive to achieve No Kill success,” said Clinton. “In fact, both candidates distanced themselves from No Kill as a community goal, and both said they do not even like the words ‘No Kill,’” Clinton added. “This obviously won’t work for a community aiming towards achieving No Kill.”

The group also pointed to what they say are Haller and Seal’s poor records of performance, and lack of qualifications for the position. Linda Haller, for example, has been a shelter director in three communities but has never achieved a save rate of more than 53%. Austin’s save rate was 72% during the last fiscal year, and the City Council mandated that the shelter achieve a 90% save rate within 18 months.

Julie Seal also has underwhelming credentials for the position, the group said. She has held and left multiple positions in a short period, including spending nine months or less at two shelter-fundraising positions in Arizona and California. She more recently was a fundraiser for an autism-related non-profit, but her position was eliminated. “There is no doubt that Seal is a smart and caring person, but neither her background or animal-welfare interests match Austin’s commitment to No Kill. She has never worked at a No Kill shelter, she expressed no interest in the No Kill movement in America, and she said she didn’t even like the words ‘No Kill.’ She’s far out of line with Austin’s goals or beliefs regarding companion animals.”

The group noted that Abigail Smith, one of their preferred candidates, was unable to participate in the interviews this week due to a serious family emergency. They have urged the City to offer Smith an opportunity to make up the missed interview sessions. “When the shelter director with the highest save rate in America is considering working for you, you’ve got to figure out how to give her a chance. We would be making a huge mistake not to give Smith a chance to interview for the position,” said Clinton.