A year ago the Wake County Animal Center was euthanizing every dog that came down with signs of a cold in an effort to stop the spread of disease.
The policy was suspended after public outrage and a WRAL investigation, but leadership at the animal shelter remained in flux until now.
Jennifer Federico is the first director of the Wake County Animal Center who is also a veterinarian. She was hired in May after a national search.
Federico says her experience as a veterinarian helps in her job, and she’s eager to take on the challenges. The furry faces of the animals in her care remind her that the goal is to find each one of them a home. Her own two dogs have made themselves at home in her office.
“Everything in this building has to do with animal health,” she said. “The way we clean, the way we move the animals, the animals we take in.”
One major change at the shelter is the addition of a surgeon on staff who can do more than just spay and neuter. Specialized surgeries, including amputations and cosmetic eye surgeries, are performed right in the shelter.
“So now we’ve just added that whole segment of animals we previously would have had to euthanize, unless rescues stepped up to another segment that we can get out of here,” she said.
A pup named Pumpkin Patch is an example. She has a fractured right leg that will be amputated – then she will be ready for adoption.
“And she’ll be happy as a clam,” Federico said, petting the pooch.
Federico says shelter workers are treating dogs with upper respiratory infections, instead of euthanizing them, as long as there is space.
They've euthanized 25 percent fewer animals this past summer than the same time a year ago, while boosting the number of animals in foster care by 25 percent.
Federico says she wants to expand that foster and rescue network.
“We’re trying to get more national organizations,” she said. “We have volunteers willing to transport animals to different parts of the state, out of state.”
It's all part of a new mindset, says the new director.
This month, the shelter will also undergo an independent evaluation to look at all aspects of operations and recommend how things can work better.
County leaders hope to have those recommendations within six months.
“We’re trying to work with what we have and make it the best we can for the health of the animals,” Federico said.