Conway Area Humane Society

Operations Director Weighs in on 2020

Someone has to be in charge of every animal who comes through our doors. The Operations Director role orchestrates the grand symphony of pet arrivals and departures, determining how these animals will arrive, how they will be taken care of once they get here, and how to ensure the best forever home for each resident. Coordinating the destiny of hundreds of animals is no easy feat. A pandemic certainly doesn’t make it easier.

To say the shelter is lucky to have Lauren Richard is a bit of an understatement. Lauren has been leading operations at CAHS since 2018, and came to us at that time with a lifetime of experience under her belt. At roughly the same time as young Lauren was learning the alphabet, she was granted a tour of her local humane society after helping her mother turn in a homeless kitten. A love for shelters was born, and the rest is history. Lauren has dedicated her entire career to helping animals in need. She now leads a passionate team of animal care staff and adoption counselors who stand at the frontlines of this important work. In a year that has been extremely arduous, Lauren is perhaps the best person to ask how the shelter weathered this storm.

“It was an uncertain three months,” Lauren relates, referring to the onset of the pandemic and March stay at home orders. Many community members are unfamiliar with the large amount of animals we transport into CAHS from areas of extreme need, such as overcrowded southeastern shelters. Such animals face euthanization, and a transport to us allows them a golden ticket opportunity to avert death. Lauren explains that transports were entirely shut down during stay at home orders. As a result, she reached out to community partners on a daily basis to see what could be done locally to protect animals. During this time, our shelter count dwindled to 20-25 animals. Despite a lower animal count, the work of cleaning and caring for animals never ends.

The pendulum swings, sometimes wildly. From June-December, transports resumed, and CAHS averaged 60 adoptions a month. Such a swift acceleration was even more of a challenge with a smaller crew and call outs due to possible illness. “There is a reason we were and continue to be running by appointment only,” Lauren explained. “Someone has to take care of all of these animals, and it is impossible for one person to do it all.”

Looking towards 2021, Lauren sees a couple of challenges that need to be addressed. Pets LLC, a major animal transport company, closed its doors in December. CAHS has a long history working with them to save animals’ lives. This speaks to a need for CAHS to be more creative with long distance transport situations moving into 2021. In trying times, Lauren stresses the need for community patience and support. “Understanding our ‘by appointment only’ policy is a great example of this,” she notes. This rule is meant to protect our animal staff and keep them healthy to care for our residents. “Imagine one person trying to clean the entire shelter. Again, that’s not possible.” Lauren also promotes patience with the adoption process. For example, there have been instances of several people interested in one particular animal this passing year. “The demand for adoption is higher with people now working from home. There are many animals here looking to be loved and find their home.”

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