Dallas Animal Services has accomplished something remarkable in the past two years. Guided by manager Jody Jones, the shelter has remade itself from a house of shame into a source of pride for the city.
Working with a wide circle of animal advocates, Jones is on a mission to reduce the number of animals that are needlessly euthanized. That means getting more cats, dogs and other pets adopted, spayed and neutered.
Her methods are working. The shelter's monthly report for August 2013 shows new records being broken. Rates of adoption and transfer (to rescues and other animal groups) have doubled over the last two years.
Beyond the numbers, the shelter has forged positive partnerships with rescue groups who deploy their networking skills to find new homes for animals. The shelter has also created a strong and successful social media presence, using tools such as Facebook to promote pets.
"The goal is to reduce the number of healthy and treatable animals that are being euthanized because there are no homes," Jones says. "Animals matter. They help teach us from a young age about the value of caring for things and treating things well and the love you can get back."
Jones is a nationally recognized figure in animal welfare and a frequent speaker at animal conferences. As division manager for Richmond, Virginia's Animal Care and Control department, her programs to reduce euthanasia rates became a model for communities across the country. She also served as director for New York City's Animal Care and Control for six years.
Dallas' shelter was broken. It reached an all-time low in 2010 when former manager Tyrone McGill was charged with animal cruelty after a cat was trapped in a wall and died. (McGill was eventually found not guilty; he still works for the City of Dallas.)
Getting the shelter back on track was not exactly a glamorous gig.
"Did I think it was easy or something I needed to be doing? Not so much," she says. "But when I met with people in Dallas' animal welfare community and saw how committed and talented they were, and how hard they had been fighting, I knew they needed someone to help them on that journey. I couldn't say no."
Perseverance – my ability to see the big picture and stay focused.
I had to ask my daughter, but she came up with a good answer. She says it's a fully checked to-do list and a healthy family.
Being from New York, I'm an Italian food girl. I'm still trying to find my favorite Italian restaurant. I do love Bugatti’s; it's where we go when we want to treat ourselves. My favorite drink? I like cava, the Spanish version of Champagne.
That which is worthwhile is never easy. My other favorite: Well-behaved women rarely make history.
How bad would it be if I said Robin Williams? Comedians are my heroes in life because they help us get through the tough times with a little bit of humor.
Eleanor Roosevelt. She was just such a strong woman and at such an interesting time in history. I don't think it was just the things she accomplished. It was also the time when she did it.
Spending time by the water. I haven't done a lot of that since I've been in Dallas, because I work pretty long days. But I grew up on the water, boating and sailing. I'm a water baby.
I love the people. I've never met a group of people so committed to helping, whether it be animals, or the cause they're devoted to, or their community.
I've only been here two years so as a newcomer, I'm not sure it's right to talk about what I want to change. But what I greatly appreciate is the opportunity the community has given me to create huge change for animals and people.