Saturday October 13, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Megan Padgett has taken the lead as the new director of the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter.

A former animal enforcement officer for the Animal Services department of Grand Prairie, Texas, Padgett was hired over the summer as part of a reorganization process that will continue this fall.

Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter board chairman Larry Hazzard said the change came about as the result of former volunteer services manager Michelle Scully taking a new job at a shelter in Vermont. At that point, both the board and staff decided to implement a vertical leadership model.

Last fall, the shelter staff consisted of animal care manager Lynda Demke, adoption program manager Tricia DeHart, and Scully as volunteer services manager.

Current staff includes full-time members Padgett, under the new title of director, and DeHart continuing as adoption program manager. Former volunteers Amanda Rock and Danielle LaPointe assist the shelter as part-time employees.

"For us, in finding a dir ector, it was critical to find someone with a strong animal care back ground, which is certainly Megan. Inter personal skills and be ing good with the public was also important, and Meg an naturally has that southern charm," Hazzard said.

The shelter also has a five-member board of directors.


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Hazzard said he hopes to increase the number of board members to seven this fall.

Both he and Padgett said the shelter's goals include re-engaging with the community by doing more outreach and education.

"If we really want to get to the heart of the problem with caring for these animals, we really want to help make good pet owners.

"Once they adopt a pet and go home with them, we want pet owners to actively call us back as a resource," Haz zard said.

The shelter is already seeing signs of success with its new initiatives. Last Saturday, the Sonsini shelter held an open house with a push for adopting cats. The staff found homes for 12 adult cats and four kittens.

"This place is unique. The volunteers are extremely dedicated and the staff has devoted many overtime hours to help our animals," Padgett said.

The new director formerly worked in a shelter that had a maximum capacity for 400 animals.

The Sonsini shelter has 16 dog kennels, with two typically left vacant for any new canines. The Sonsini shelter also has the capacity for about 16 cats.

"We have a very small staff, so our daily operations depend on volunteers," she said.

At the hands of volunteers, the shelter was able to renovate its indoor kennels, paint outdoor dog houses, create a mural on the storage shed by the backyard outdoor kennels, and create a new indoor visiting area where potential adopting families can meet with an animal.

The shelter has also emphasized using new research in its behavior training programs for dogs and expediting the adoption process to allow for same-day pet adoptions.

Padgett said that in addition to continuing to improve the Sonsini shelter facilities, she hopes to work more with other area animal rescue and care agencies to promote the overall industry which she has grown to love.

As a child, Padgett grew up helping her family care for farm and domestic animals, and she began volunteering at animal shelters as a high school student. From there she worked as a veterinary technician and in veterinary management, before working in the animal enforcement field.

She said she is also the proud owner of a German shepherd and two cats, one of which comes from the Sonsini shelter.