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New director at pet shelter

April 14, 2001

New director at pet shelter



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

This is an exciting time of change for the animal welfare field, says Maria Procopio, the new executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County.

Animal shelters have traditionally been seen by some as a place where stray animals are held and sometimes euthanized, she said. But animal welfare groups are rejecting that image.

Shelters are offering communities ways to spay and neuter pets. They are also offering adoption programs, she said.

Procopio wants the county Humane Society to continue offering and publicizing those programs.

Procopio fills the vacancy left by Shelly Moore, who resigned in February. Keller Haden, the county's animal control supervisor, was the interim director.

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Procopio, who started Monday, moved in the last two weeks from Skaneateles, N.Y. She has two dogs and three cats at home.

For the last 18 months she was doing freelance work, including graphic design, in New York. Prior to that she was executive director of the Finger Lakes, N.Y., Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for 14 months.

While freelancing after the Finger Lakes job, she did volunteer work for local animal welfare groups.

Procopio's husband told her it was time to choose freelance work or animal welfare work. She chose to return to paid animal welfare work, where she felt she could have a positive impact, she said.

She saw the Washington County job advertised and applied. She applied for similar positions in California and Vermont.

The main reason she chose the Washington County job offer is the Humane Society board members are "so together, so progressive," she said.

Another attraction to the job is the animal shelter under construction. She was unsure when the shelter will open.

The 14,000-square-foot building is being built next to the existing 4,000-square-foot facility on Maugansville Road.

There is not much room to work with at the existing facility, she said. There are problems keeping areas disinfected, and there is no place for public gatherings.

Those problems will be fixed with the new shelter. It will be a "calmer, more pleasant atmosphere," she said.

She declined to discuss changes she would like to make as executive director until after her first formal meeting with the board next week.

She said she has been asked to develop a five-year strategic plan for the organization.

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