It’s easy to forget some items in a move. But what Stephanie Achille has seen recently seems to be without excuse.
“Some landlord went to ... check on a tenant, and the apartment was empty. But they left their four dogs,” the executive director of the Humane Society of the Flint Hills said Wednesday.
That discovery this week added to a current surplus of dogs at the Emporia Animal Shelter. It already was “beyond full,” Achille said, because of what she calls a “hoarding” case where 15 dogs were rescued from a vacant home.
“We’re getting them all vetted,” Achille said of those 15. “Almost all of them will be up for adoption very soon.” In fact, one dog named Tuck already has been adopted.
Those stresses have meant a baptism by fire for Achille’s staff. A “completely new” staff, she noted.
“The longest staff member that’s in here has been here about six weeks,” Achille said.
COVID-19 led to a loss of personnel. But so did Achille’s decision after arriving in Aug. 2020 to update the society’s organizational structure. That led to friction with what Achille describes as “rigid personalities” on the staff.
“We knew that some changes were needed and we’ve had some meetings through this year,” she said. “Some people were on board. Some people really weren’t.”
The realignment announced late last week includes a new “Cat Coordinator” and “Dog Coordinator.”
“We did not lead astray on those,” Achille said. Probably with no pun intended.
The two people have other duties. Emporia State University graduate Bailey Estes is over customer service as well as cats. Elita Baldridge is the shelter enrichment coordinator, when she’s not focused on dogs.
A larger goal of the restructuring is to bring the Humane Society and Animal Shelter closer together. The Humane Society oversees the shelter under a contract with the city of Emporia.
“But we have the same financial account,” Achille said. “So we really are one and united. That was a huge push for us... to have a team mentality.” She believes spreading out duties will make the shelter and its animal care better.
Achille hopes to expand the team concept beyond her own staff. She’s invited other animal organizations in the Emporia area to gather for quarterly meetings.
“So far, everybody has shown up,” Achille said. That could lead to a newsletter for area pet owners.
The Humane Society isn’t doing that badly right now. Achille learned Monday night that the shelter passed its state inspection. And she’s looking forward to a “grand reopening” early next year, to mark the society’s “50 plus one” anniversary.
“Just an overall U-Haul of the shelter,” Achille said with a laugh.
One way residents can help with that is through the Emporia Community Foundation Match Day on Monday, Nov. 15. The Humane Society will be part of that for the first time.
Achille said animal adoption rates at the shelter this year have been consistent with past years. A few people who accepted animals last year to cope with the pandemic have returned them this year.
But when someone leaves a crate filled with 16 cats in the Humane Society parking lot, which Achille says happened in recent weeks, she might wonders if everyone understands the shelter’s purpose.
“We’re not able to be a sanctuary or a hotel,” Achille said. “We give them the best care that we can. We try to match them up like we’re an adoption counselor.”