Opening Up the Shelter

Opening Up the Shelter

Animal Shelter director unlocks program ideas.

From the places he has been, Pete Cimini knows two rumors are not true: circus animals are abused and animal shelters are the last place for animals to go.

The 25-year circus retiree started with the Department of Animal Care and Control in December, two months before Timothy "Tim" Crum took over as director of the department. Cimini considers himself and Crum to be "basically the two newest kids on the block."

Cimini, who lives in West Virginia, retired two years ago from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and started working for an area law firm. His fellow staffers covered for him when he came rushing over to Loudoun late last year to interview for a shelter staff position and possibly return to working with animals.

During the interview, Cimini was asked if he knew what a feral cat was, and he said no, then explained that he knows how to work with lions, tigers and big cats as a veterinarian technician.

"These animals are going in the right direction," said Cimini, pointing toward the smaller, more adoptable cats and dogs waiting in cages. "Tim has worked to get the animals in homes. This is not the last place."

Crum has a few plans, programs and ideas to keep the shelter from becoming just that: last. He recently served as the executive director of the Humane Society of Harford County in Fallston, Md. The public did not positively view the Humane Society there when he started in 2001 and, in turn, it had "dismally low adoptions," he said.

Crum began promoting the Humane Society’s programs, created new programs, added volunteer opportunities and in turn saw dog adoptions increase by 107 percent and cat adoptions by 75 percent. Likewise, he wants to promote the programs and services of the Loudoun animal shelter. "I’m not suggesting any of that happened here. Rob [Montgomery] did a great job."

Crum said shelters can be viewed as "dark, dreary places," but the Loudoun animal shelter is clean, modern and accessible. "This is one of the nicest places I’ve seen," he said.

CRUM WANTS Loudoun residents and others to know about the local animal shelter in Waterford. He believes if they hear about the shelter, they are more likely to come in and adopt animals, resulting in higher adoption and lower euthanasia rates.

Crum plans to promote the shelter by holding monthly events, starting with Project Homeward Bound on Saturday, May 3. The event will be similar to Pet Adoptathon 2003, an event started in 1995 by the North Shore Animal League, by aiming to adopt out every adoptable animal at the shelter and to continue promoting pet adoptions from the shelter throughout the year. The animals will be presented on a stage with their qualities spotlighted in personal ad style.

In June, Crum plans to hold an activity focused on National Adopt-a-Cat Month and in July, a pet palooza, a type of pet festival involving animal care vendors and animal-related activities. In August, he is planning a candlelight vigil similar to that sponsored by the International Society of Animal Rights and in September, an alumni picnic for owners of animals adopted out of the animal shelter.

"It gives the public a better view of the shelter," said Becky Crowe, customer service dispatcher and a Hamilton resident. "It gives them a better impression of how we work with the animals and try to get them adopted."

"We try to keep adoptable animals on the floor until they’re adopted. I think that’s what Tim is trying to get everyone to know," said Katie Faulk, also a customer service dispatcher. "If people come out here, they would see how wonderful and clean the facility is, and it would change their perception of shelters in general. I like what Tim is doing to get people out here."

Crum plans to start a weekly summertime storytelling event to bring together children and animals and in the fall, a singles dog-walking group similar to the one he started at the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania. He served as director of development and public relations at the Pittsburgh rescue league from 1998 to 2001. While he was single, he encouraged other singles to get together every so often to take dogs from the shelter on three to five-mile walks. Since he is now married, he is seeking another single to lead a similar group in Loudoun.

"It was a win-win situation. It got the dogs out," Crum said, adding that the singles had "an ice-breaker" to start talking to one another. "We got so much publicity from that."

Crum plans to evaluate the shelter’s temperament testing policy and to consider aspects of other tests to improve Loudoun’s policy. "We want something that’s going to work well for this community," Crum said.

THE STAFF, which includes 25 staff members with five open positions, will serve on various committees to organize the programs and events Crum is planning for the facility. Crum wants to involve the staff and increase the volunteer presence at the shelter to assist staff, to interact with the animals on a regular basis, walk the dogs and provide basic obedience lessons. Currently, the shelter has 250 volunteers, some who work on a one-time basis and a core of 25 to 50 volunteers.

"My goal here is to promote the shelter, the people who work here and the shelter’s programs and services," Crum said.

"Everything [Crum] talks about is in regard to adoptions," said Janette Reever, field supervisor for animal control officers and the 2002 Animal Control Officer of the Year, as named by the Virginia Animal Control Association. "He’s 100 percent for the animals. The money didn’t bring him here. He saw the opportunity to bring the shelter to the next level. … He’s always thinking of new ideas and creative ways to get the public in here."

The events are expected to carry no cost and in some cases minimal costs for incidentals, Crum said.