Archive for Thursday, June 16, 2011

Candidate for Humane Society director visits Lawrence

June 16, 2011


Lawrence Humane Society executive director Dori Villalon met with shelter volunteers and community members Wednesday, June 15, at The Oread.

Lawrence Humane Society executive director Dori Villalon met with shelter volunteers and community members Wednesday, June 15, at The Oread.

The frontrunner to take the helm at the Lawrence Humane Society met with shelter volunteers and community members Wednesday at The Oread, 1200 Oread Ave.

It was a chance for Dori Villalon, a seasoned veteran of animal shelters across the country, to offer her vision for an institution that was recently shaken by the suspension and subsequent resignation of its longtime director.

“She’s our top candidate at this point,” said Emily Peterson, president of the society’s board of directors, adding that Villalon’s personality makes her the “right fit” for Lawrence during a period of transition for the shelter.

Over drinks and hors d’oeuvres, volunteers pressed Villalon on her fundraising abilities and stance on putting down animals. Some expressed concern over space issues, a perceived lack of transparency and rates of euthanasia at the shelter.

Villalon said she always tries to “exhaust every possible resource before euthanizing an animal.”

“As an open-door shelter, it’s always a challenge because you don’t know what’s going to come in that door,” she said.

In an interview, she added, “The ultimate goal is we want to save as many lives as possible and always be increasing that number.”

The shelter, 1805 E. 19th St., is currently waiving all adoption fees for cats in an effort to relieve overcrowding. It takes in about 7,500 animals each year.

Villalon said the society can better use its website to get out the message that despite almost $300,000 in annual funding from the city and Douglas County, the shelter depends on contributions from the community.

“It can’t be one person, and it certainly can’t be just the board,” she said.

Major corporate gifts and long-term pledges are needed alongside the annual donations that many community members already make, she said.

Former city manager Mike Wildgen has been interim director since Midge Grinstead resigned in March in the wake of a controversy over employees’ overtime pay.

The board placed Grinstead on administrative leave for 28 days last fall for unspecified personnel reasons. In February, three months after she returned, the shelter announced it would give workers $10,000 in back pay.

On Wednesday and at the board’s meeting the previous night, Villalon sought to reassure volunteers and board members about the shelter’s direction. She met with staff at the shelter earlier Wednesday and said she was encouraged by what she saw.

“This is a new Humane Society,” she said. “It’s a new time at the Lawrence Humane Society, so let’s start fresh from there.”

Villalon was most recently vice president of animal protection at the American Humane Association. Before that, she directed shelters in San Francisco, Cleveland and Boulder, Colo. She earned a bachelor’s degree in animal welfare management from Sonoma State University in California.

Peterson said the board’s search committee picked one other finalist, but that candidate has not yet been invited to Lawrence. The board has not yet made an offer to Villalon.

As director, Grinstead was paid a salary of $50,000.


Danielle Brunin 6 years, 11 months ago

It sort of sounds like they've already made up their minds...

Marianne Reed 6 years, 11 months ago

I did some homework on this candidate and found something that raises some red flags with me.

In her previous job with the San Francisco SPCA, Dori Villalon was involved in abruptly shutting down the SF/SPCA program that rehabilitated shelter dogs into "hearing dogs" that assisted the deaf.

If you look online, you'll see the stories from San Francisco's local newspapers and blogs about the controvesy, including an article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

If you cut through all the rhetoric, the facts around this appear to be the following: 1. On April 20, 2008, the SF/SPCA held its 140th anniversary celebration, at which the hearing dogs performed for donors and guests.

  1. The next day, April 21, 2008, without any previous notice, the staff of the program were told that their program was being eliminated and that they were to leave immediately. The staff were escorted from the premises by Dori Villalon and the shelter's HR staff. The animals in training were immediately put up for adoption as pets.

  2. After a period of intense debate, the SF/SPCA released a statement on May 10, many days later, defending its actions because of financial necessity. (The former staff of the program eventually started The Hearing Dog Program ( to train dogs for the deaf, which is still in operation today. )

  3. According to the SF/SPCA website, two years later, in June, 2010, "Dori Villalon has decided to leave the SF/SPCA to pursue other interests." This happened at the same time that the former president of the board stepped down and a new president of the board took office.

What concerns me the most about all this is not just the way that the staff of the program were treated by the management of the SF/SPCA. Shelters rely on their staff and volunteers to keep the shelters running smoothly, so they need to be treated with respect and as an essential part of the shelter team.

What really throws up a red flag with me is the lack of political savvy involved in the closing of a program designed to serve the disabled. There appears to have been no attempt to garner public and staff support for the decision before it was carried out. Reasonable people can be brought to realize that programs that lose money and that are not part of the shelter's core mission can't be continued forever. They were not given that chance and the SF/SPCA suffered a firestorm of controversy as a result.

I'm not sure that Lawrence needs someone directing the Humane Society that doesn't understand that garnering public and staff support for decisions that affect a shelter funded by public money and private donations is an absolute necessity. I would encourage the board to bring in another candidate, one who is able to successfully communicate with shelter staff and the public.

Kontum1972 6 years, 11 months ago

mmmmmm see if MIke Wildgren will take the job....LoL..!

Kontum1972 6 years, 11 months ago

she looks like a hand-full......where's my dog collar..its in my toy box somewhere....

guess_again 6 years, 11 months ago

Sounds like an excellent candidate to me.

somedude20 6 years, 11 months ago

She gots some nice chompers in dat mout

Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 11 months ago

She certainly looks perky enough.

Let us hope she also understands basics of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act because if she is willing to shut down an entire program and terminate its staff with no notice, it is going to take federal regulation to keep her in line.

irvan moore 6 years, 11 months ago

drinks and hors d'oeuvres at the oread, sounds like we are going to be paying twice as much for this director.

Clovis Sangrail 6 years, 11 months ago

Good point. How much would it have cost to meet at the library and just bring in coffee and doughnuts?

gatekeeper 6 years, 11 months ago

It doesn't matter who they hire, they will just be told what to do by the current board. Most have no idea how messed up that place is because of the current board members. They lost many good board members who left because of Hack. They've also lost a lot of high dollar donations because of how this board behaves and even refused some donations because of who they are coming from (they should never turn down money to be used to fund keeping the animals alive). I still give a lot of supplies and monetary donations, but only with a written record that my money can only be used for the care of the animals and not for all the hefty legal fees the current board has piled up. Anyone interested should really check out how many animals they're putting down now. It's sickening. They do now kill for space and that's not how this shelter used to operate.

The best solution is to get rid of the board, but since the current board has changed many rules (including length of the terms they serve), there's not much to be done but to fight for the poor animals.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 11 months ago

I really honestly wish the LJW would do a Pitch type article on the entire Humane Society wheelings and dealings.

Something just doesn't pass the smell test. One, I believe we have worthy candidates right here, or near here.

Two, Dori Villalon sure has been around the barn a few times. Seems this job is one for an individual ready to put in some years, not job jump. unless.....

Three, ties in with two a bit. A job paying 50 K shouldn't be attracting applicants nationally. Unless they have some radical plans to further an aggressive career.

Beth Ann Bittlingmayer 6 years, 11 months ago

I was also wondering how the job could attract applicants nationally.

LHS56 6 years, 11 months ago

I believe the problem is the Board of Directors...not the staff or prior Director. We had a person that cared about the animals....the people...and worked many hours to help those in need and to raise funds for future needs. I would guess there is a story that hasn't been shared with the public. And good point beatnit....why the Oread??? Sounds like the Board is more concerned about there perks...not hiring the most qualified person. Please don't rush into a situation of hiring a person with a cloudly record.

Marianne Reed 6 years, 11 months ago

The job that she took after leaving SF/SPCA was at the American Humane Association. According to her LinkedIn profile, it ended in March after 9 months. She does not appear to be working with a shelter now.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 11 months ago

Yes, good one Multi.

maybe LJW could send some writers to heist a leg and see which way the winds blowing.

Seriously, something aint Kosher with all this.

ECM 6 years, 11 months ago

Wow, Google this woman. Why in the world would they consider this lady.

Villalon is no stranger to controversy and, according to volunteers who worked with her in Sonoma, her mouth was her worst enemy — she often made inappropriate statements to the press. During an interview for fetch The Paper, she said of killing healthy animals: “Euthanasia is necessary because of something that happens in the community. It’s one of the services we do for the community.” On the topic of Sonoma’s high euthanasia rate for pit bulls, Villalon said, “… pit bulls aren’t always good adoption candidates. There are also very few admirable people who say, ‘I’ll take on a pit bull.’ Still, pit bulls have become status symbols. You see them on rap videos and in movies.”

vicmoon 6 years, 11 months ago

Interesting she left one of the Shelters off her resume, Sonoma County Animal Shelter. Why isn't she mentioning that little fact? Yep, best leave it off the resume! Sorry for your Shelter Animals if she is hired. Even though the Press Democrat said it was the County's loss, she only had the Director's position one year. Those in Animal Welfare in Sonoma County were not sad to see her go. Just one more in a long line of dysfunction in Sonoma County. So now it's Lawrence's turn to hire her.

By the way, check out an interview she did this year on the radio where she made a laughable statement about every person in every household having to adopt an animal. You can find the quote pretty easy on the internet. The math was something like a billion animals, it was so lame for a person that is suppose to be an expert in this profession. Maybe Lawrence should broaden their search just a little more?

Marianne Reed 6 years, 11 months ago

I wonder where the money will come from for her salary: She earned $145,000 at the San Francisco SPCA.

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