Animal Welfare Professionals

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Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

Sally Westerhoff

Sally Westerhoff10-16-2017 01:05 PM

Kim Domerofski

Kim Domerofski10-16-2017 04:09 PM

  • 1.  Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Maddie's Fund Staff
    Posted 07-12-2017 11:25 AM

    I'm curious. It seems that a lot of people who work in the Animal Welfare industry had 'past lives' in the corporate world doing something completely unrelated.

    • Did you start your career in animal welfare or somewhere else?
    • If somewhere else, what did you do?
    • And what skills were you able to transfer to your 'new' career in animal welfare? 


  • 2.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 10-16-2017 01:05 PM

    Registered Nurse!


  • 3.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 08-19-2017 11:50 AM

    This is a great question! So very important, because about 80% of the 500+ rescues in the Valley of the Sun, are run by people who wanted to save animals, but because the IRS makes it so easy to become a non-profit.  They do not understand the skills in managing/working with Volunteers, they don’t know the work of the administration of the business of non-profits, they don’t THINK of expenses like insurance, and medical bills, petfood, and cleaning poop, and city/county/state laws.

    I have one friend who lost everything (including her daughter) because she tried to run her kennels/non-profit out of her home (wrong zoning) and the neighborhood went to war on her.   There is another situation we are dealing with, here in the Valley of the Sun, of a non-profit single person rescuer who died and took some animals with her, because they starved to death when no one else checked on them. Of the number of people who get into hoarding situations because they took in animals that had problems, and them could not find anyone else to take them off their hands.  (Did you know there is an endorphin rush, “ohhhhhhh, I SAVED a LIFE!”, that people get addicted to?)

    I was 40 years doing safety health and disaster before the first of four strokes took me down.   I was a federal OSHA trainer, working at universities/colleges, for businesses, government, churches, and on-profts.  I was both volunteer and paid staff for non-profts including one of the best in the US – the Red Cross, especially in the heyday before Hurricane Katrina.

    I got into working with Animals because I watched dogs scrounge for food on the growing trash piles at San Juan, Puetro Rico after Hurricane Hugo for Red Cross Disaster Service.  After caring for first my Mom, then Dad who died from Cancer, I agreed to help found a pet food pantry with three other women who had $40 and 4 bags of pet food.  They did not understand how to run a non-profit and quit because it was too hard.  6 months after forming our non-profit. I had the first of four strokes.

    As the last founder standing, I had the choice of closing or going on as a senior with a broken body.  I changed the business model we were using, set professional/best practice standards, a a few years later, became a platinum member, a Greater Non-profit best of Agency, was invited to join the Leadership Council of the Alliance of Arizona Non-profits, and joined the (now) Governor Ducey’s Arizona State Citizen Corp Council, In our last IRS long 990, we gave $766,000 of donated pet food/items to 11 counties in Arizona,~ on $19.500 donated cash.

    Another factor is that npw I am modeling what one can do is spite of handicaps. (I can hardly walk, have other challenges from the strokes and old age. I am in the process of becoming a host for a radio program on “Finding Passions”  (featuring pets ,disasters and more). Did you know that according to the APPA pet owner statistics, 68% of US Households have at least one pet?    I have found that peoplewll do things for their pets that the would not do for them selves like disaster, health and safety!


     I was just also selected to be a national mentor of Medical Reserve Corps for FEMA/Homeland Security.


  • 4.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 01-22-2018 12:42 PM

    I actually fell into the line of work completely by happenstance. I had been working for several years in Sales Management for a national retail chain and was exceedingly disenchanted with my career. I felt as if I was being pushed to work longer hours with very little opportunity for advancement while constantly being pushed to advance the financial bottom line of a greedy corporation. Ultimately I had enough and walked away. While job hunting I ran across an ad for a kennel tech at my local animal shelter and decided to give it a try on the basis of "how hard could it be?"Little did I know what I was in store for. I had always carried an affinity for animals, but I never truly understood or appreciated the hard work and sacrifice that goes into working inside the shelter environment until I learned from firsthand experience. I've been working in this field now for 12 years since that fateful day and I can't imagine doing anything else. It truly has become my passion. 


  • 5.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 10-04-2017 08:31 AM

    I worked as Cognitive-Intervention Coordinator for Allen County Community Corrections and prior to that I was a corrections officer for a work release facility.  I taught various classes to felony and misdemeanor adults serving sentences on home detention, probation, or parole.  These courses included sex offender intervention, cognitive skills to make better choices, and anger management.  The office supervisor position opened up at Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control which I was awarded and maintained for 7 years before we restructured. I was then promoted to Deputy Director and finally Director in 2016.  We are a full access municipal shelter that falls under public safety.  My experience within the criminal justice system has allowed me to transition smoothly since we see much of the same clientele at the shelter. I have been able to utilize the skills I learned as a facilitator when dealing with customers and suspects in our cases involving crimes against animals.   


  • 6.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 07-16-2017 07:29 PM

    I did 12 years in retail management, but I started in retail at 15 years old. I began by being a part timer, and eventually ended up as a regional manager. I learned a lot about managing people and customer service, but the most important skill I gained was understanding the financial aspects of managing a business.


  • 7.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 03-28-2018 05:43 PM

    I started my career in marketing at a start-up in the Bay Area. Surprisingly, even though the start-up was focused on luxury consumer goods, the start-up culture really prepared me well for working at a non-profit. I learned quickly how to work with limited resources and try new things!


  • 8.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 03-23-2018 11:17 AM

    Prior to joining animal welfare, I worked in retail and as waitstaff in restaurants while putting myself through college, then as a toll collector and bartender for several years while volunteering for an after-school program and then a youth homeless shelter. Those experiences led me to realize that no matter what I did, I wanted to work in the nonprofit world. Shortly thereafter I stumbled into my career in animal welfare when I joined the staff of Animal Farm Foundation. My position there allowed me to work with hundreds of shelters and rescues over 6 years, on everything from operational issues to policy to marketing and eventually led me to my current work as Director of Operations for HeARTs Speak. 

    Years of customer service in my various previous jobs taught me so much that I've applied to my career in animal welfare, from how to better communicate with adopters and clients in shelters to how to deal with sticky situations where someone might be unhappy or feel unheard by our organizations. I'm grateful for those experiences every day!


  • 9.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 11-15-2017 12:04 PM

    Before joining the animal welfare world I worked in marketing for a large commercial real estate company in Texas.  One of the brokers I worked with encouraged me to start volunteering with a nonprofit dog rescue that he volunteered with. That lead to me joining their board of directors and fully submerging myself into the organization. As I would visit shelters around the state to pull dogs, I would see how cats were unfairly housed and treated and then typically euthanized due to their limited live outcome opportunities. I started volunteering at my local shelter to help the cats and when I moved to Jacksonville I found a cat sanctuary close to my office that desperately needed help. When my position was eliminated through corporate downsizing, my boss at the time told me this was a great opportunity to get a job working with animals since I was so passionate about them. Little did I know how true his words were and how fortunate I have been since to get paid to do what I love.

    Animal welfare is a lifesaving business and I feel that my corporate experience has definitely helped me approach it with a business mind.  Data analysis for example is key to figuring out where you are, assessing needs and determining if what you are doing is successful or not. I'm always amazed when animal welfare leaders ignore the data - I don't think they realize that every number represents an animal and you can't be successful if you're operating blind.


  • 10.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 10-10-2017 12:27 PM

    International airline pilot. Early retirement


  • 11.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 12-13-2017 05:41 PM

    Up until 5 years ago I was thoroughly consumed with furthering my Career in IBM as a Technical Manager. I have a PhD in Applied Physics and have had many jobs in my corporate life. I have managed over 200 people and handled tens of million dollar budget as well as specializing in program management and problem solving. I started in Rescue when I decided to take my team on a volunteer trip to All Breed Rescue for dog walking. Once I was there, I was hooked.


  • 12.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 10-25-2017 01:24 PM

    Excellent topic, Kim.

    • Did you start your career in animal welfare or somewhere else?
      Somewhere else.
    • If somewhere else, what did you do?
      I was a Montessori elementary teacher for 13 years, then spent a decade as a director with the YMCA. In 2010 I met the most amazing woman ever, who happened to work in the field of animal welfare. Shortly thereafter I was (of course) volunteering all over the place. One thing led to another, and I found myself running a small struggling shelter that needed a fiscal, procedural, and cultural overhaul. That went well, and I was invited to do the same thing at another. And then another. After that I married the aforementioned most amazing woman ever, and joined the Humane Network as a consultant.
    • And what skills were you able to transfer to your 'new' career in animal welfare? 
      Whole bunches of skills transferred effectively, most generally along the lines of helping individuals and communities to manifest their very best selves. This includes all the ground work necessary to success, like: planning and preparation and attention to detail and planning (worth saying twice); finding a true and compelling story for everyone to tell together; and attending to tasks with a glad heart, willing hands, and an open mind. I absolutely believe that a healthy and engaged community does the best job of caring for its animals, and both Montessori and the YMCA were all about community! That being said, I'm also a huge tech/data nerd, and continue to be happily engaged at the Humane Network, working to support animal welfare organizations large and small with strategic planning, board development, marketing & communication, social media, donor development, website design and integration, database management, brand alignment, and anything else found at the intersection of data/tech/animals/community.



  • 13.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 11-09-2017 08:02 PM

    Although I was towards the beginning of my career when I "took the dive" into animal welfare-I just went for it! I applied for a job that I was under-qualified for, but dedicated myself to learning the skills I needed to gain-grant writing, human resources, etc., since I already had the passion and drive in place it made for an awesome transition! 


  • 14.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 08-18-2017 08:35 AM
    • Did you start your career in animal welfare or somewhere else? I started my career as a guidance counselor for graduate students at a private university, focusing on entertainment arts
    • If somewhere else, what did you do? Monitored and worked extremely close with ~400 students as they progressed through their graduate degree programs
    • And what skills were you able to transfer to your 'new' career in animal welfare? Conflict resolution, transparent conversations, time management (knowing when to "turn off" your work brain), difficult conversations, active listening, mental health issues, and so much more!


  • 15.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 07-13-2017 08:05 AM

    Animal welfare found me after 15 years in healthcare related fundraising. The ability to work with boards and volunteers, to fearlessly share stories about the impact of the mission, and to weather a constantly changing environment (public perception and opinion, funding, regulation) were developed strengths that I have found particularly helpful.


  • 16.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 12-05-2017 09:30 AM

    I went to school to be a journalist but life didn't work out that way. I never had a corporate gig but I did, in between sheltering, work in oil refineries (true fact), can fish in Alaska to pay for college, did marketing for a cleaning company, worked at KONG, worked a domestic violence shelter and in a group home for troubled kids. I also did a lot of random writing gigs. 


  • 17.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 03-11-2018 06:28 AM

    I am (and still am) a Speech-Language Pathologist.  I run FLASh for free   Sadly, in Louisiana, very very few rescue organizations have paid staff.  The vast majority of us are volunteers, including directors, etc.  It's a labor of love.   


  • 18.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 08-22-2017 10:37 AM

    I was in an accounting field and ran into the President of my first shelter.  While chatting we of course talked about the shelter, it's expansion and new building, etc.  After a few weeks of chatting she offered me the E.D. position at the new shelter.  Never thought it would get in my blood the way it has.  I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly.  It took a lot of training and certifications for me to get where I am today.  Although I'm no longer physically running a shelter, I'm still very involved with many.


  • 19.  RE: Your Life Prior to Animal Welfare

    Posted 10-29-2017 04:57 PM

    I began my career as a Civil Engineer and a mom raising twins with a husband deployed most of the time to Afghanistan or Iraq.  When I got the kids in high school and my hubby retired from the Army, we moved to rural Tennessee to a farm we are turning into a nature preserve.  Then, I started looking for something to do that mattered in the world and my dogs reminded me that I saved them from the streets and their friends at the shelter could use my skills.  So, for 5 years I have been doing just that...saving lives.  It is better than any engineering I ever did in my past life!  My skills at networking and managing projects has made managing transports and volunteers much easier -- it helps to be a people person for sure!  I also have put my skills to work to eliminate drama and focus on facts and reality as drama doesn't save lives.  Being in the working world doing things for profit makes me appreciate doing this all-volunteer thing I love for nothing even more.