The Cherryland Humane Society in Traverse City announced its new Executive Director on their Facebook page and it is Heidi Yates from the Humane Society & Animal Rescue (HSAR) of Muskegon County. Yates will start her new job in Traverse City in June and is an experienced director with animal shelter experience. She has been the Executive Director of the Humane Society in Muskegon since November of 2011 and before that she was with the Harbor Humane Society in Ottawa County for a total of 15 years. She also has a degree in Business Administration and Marketing. According to the CHS Board of Directors, Heidi is looking forward to returning to Traverse City where she was a graduate of Leadership Grand Traverse and participated as a Cherry Festival Ambassador.
In 2014, the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance recognized HSAR for taking their save rates up to 94.44% in 2014, up from 46.51% in 2012. They won the award for the most improved limited admission shelter. Deborah Shutt is the Chairwoman of the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance and the irony of Yates accepting the award from Shutt is not lost on me. I invited Shutt to come to the Cherryland Humane Society several years ago and she drove up to Traverse City to meet with me and the CHS Board of Directors. She outlined how her organization helps animal shelters to be no-kill and explained the successful programs that other animal shelters use such as foster homes and sterilizing every pet before it leaves the shelter. She offered the services of her organization for free however the offer was not taken and the advice given was not implemented by that current Board or Executive Director.
Looking at what Yates has done at the HSAR in Muskegon, I think that Traverse City can now hope for a brighter future for the homeless cats and dogs in Grand Traverse County. She has experience in programs that can be implemented at CHS which include volunteer and foster programs; offsite adoptions; Facebook networking; a commitment to spay/neuter and responsible pet ownership; building a cat room and more. A previous quote from Yates regarding the euthanization of pets at the HSAR shelter has her saying, “we are not going to euthanize any animal unless it is irreversibly ill, injured or aggressive. And that’s only after exhausting every possible alternative.” In regard to spaying and neutering, she has said, “Every pet that leaves HSAR is spayed or neutered to ensure there is not a next generation and next generation after that ending up on a shelter.”
It looks like change is in the air. Interim Director John Noonan has already made a positive difference in the social media presence of CHS by keeping their Facebook page updated with adoptable animals, photos of families who have adopted pets and event information. Now, we eagerly await Yates to take one more step in the networking of the animals on the website and Facebook page by providing bios of the pets. With an experienced, compassionate hands-on director who knows how to run a successful animal shelter with high save rates, she will no doubt be able to bring together an animal-loving community who has been hungry for change for a long time. There is an eager volunteer base in our county which has been apprehensive about committing to a shelter that hasn’t been willing to embrace accepted and popular policies used all over around the country such as those explained in Nathan Winograd’s No Kill Equation. This volunteer base has been waiting for the chance to step forward to help the shelter save more animals, raise more funds and do great things in our community.