Animal shelter under new leadership
Veterinarian Laura DePalma has been the executive director of Roice-Hurst Humane Society for the past two weeks, and her to-do list keeps growing.
DePalma, 36, who hails from North Carolina and graduated from St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine in GrEnada, West Indies, barely had time to set down her bags before she set to work.
DePalma takes the reins as workers at the shelter at 3320 D 1/2 Road hope for a rosier future.
The previous leadership threatened to close the shelter if funding for the nonprofit organization didn’t materialize. An ensuing crush of community support produced about $200,000 in two weeks, and the publicity since has placed the shelter prominently in the public’s eye.
As new staff members and a new volunteer board of directors joined the organization, the shelter underwent a host of improvements, including an open cat room, additional space for dog pens and new electrical wiring.
DePalma said it largely was the improvement program that attracted her to the site. DePalma, a self-described “cat person,” was immediately drawn to the new cat room, which lets the felines mingle and bask in the sunlight from large windows instead of being locked in cages.
It’s a feature not often found among shelters, she said.
She also was drawn by the shelter’s mantra of being a no-kill shelter.
“I came to this shelter because they are willing to change and learn,” she said. “My goal is to educate, and honestly, the staff, the public and even the board really wants that.”
Her goal is to offer spay and neuter clinics twice a month. She already has helped create an isolation room for animals with contagious diseases.
DePalma worked for 12 years in veterinary clinics and shelters in New York City and North Carolina, but her heart has always been in working in a shelter environment.
“I remember when I was 16, I said to somebody, ‘I want to own my own animal shelter.’ Being the director, this has been a dream,” she said.