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Q and A with David Miller

by Mark Peres

March 8,2009

David L. Miller is the Executive Director of the Humane Society of Charlotte.  With over 11 years experience in animal welfare, he previously led the Humane Society of Treasure Coast (Fla.) and was with the Humane Society of Broward County in Ft. Lauderdale. He has spoken on various topics on animal welfare at numerous national conferences.  He is a graduate of King’s College (PA) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.  David and his family have two dogs: Stogie, an English Bulldog, and Kasey, a boxer.

The Humane Society of Charlotte received media attention a few years ago for underperforming. What is the status of the organization today?

We are on the cusp of a lot of wonderful things. Our organization is sound and the future is bright. Over the last two years, we have made significant internal changes, concentrating on leadership, infrastructure, policies, personnel, partnership and mission. We’ve dramatically increased our internal efficiencies. We’re fulfilling our mission of bringing love and hope to all animals by ensuring the humane treatment of companion animals through adoption, spay/neuter and education. In 2004, we placed 468 adoptions. In 2008, we placed 1876 animals in forever homes, and touched the lives of over 11,000 people. Where once animals averaged 30-40 days in our shelter before adoption, they are now averaging only 5-10 days. We performed over 9000 spay/neuter surgeries in our own clinic at well below market costs, meeting the demand for low cost surgeries. Our organization is very different than it was five years ago. Over 500 active volunteers assisted us in 2008. We’re working hard to meet the needs of the community, and we invite people to see the changes and join in our efforts.

What is your vision for the organization?

My vision is to create an organization for animals that is a model for the nation. We want to become the place known for the very best practices – from what we do as an organization to modeling how citizens interact with animals. We want to become a destination for animals and people to come and experience responsible pet ownership and where families can strengthen the human-animal bond.

How is the economic downturn affecting the Humane Society of Charlotte?

There is a definite trickle-down effect on animals. Monetary donations are down and animal surrenders are up. Many families are choosing to surrender their pet in the face of home foreclosure and difficulty paying for food. We’ve had a dramatic 40% increase in intake between January ’08 and January ’09. Fortunately, we’ve had a corresponding increase in adoptions. With a great deal of work we’ve been able to match animals with homes that are right for the animals and right for the adopting families. The downturn is placing considerable stress on the community, on animals and on us.

What is the Humane Society of Charlotte’s connection to Animal Care & Control and rescue organizations?

We are very fortunate to have such a great collaboration with Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control, as well as other rescue organizations as we partner to help animals in need. All of us are managing a marked increase in animals needing care, shelter and homes and we’re working together to fill each other’s gaps, sharing networks of approved adopters for certain breeds and providing facilities when we can. In particular, we visit Animal Care & Control each week to see what adoptable animals need homes to lessen their load and give those animals a second chance at finding a forever home.

What are your thoughts about enhanced legal rights for animals?

We favor any legislation that will enhance animal welfare as a whole in addition to stronger laws against animal cruelty and neglect. On a personal note, animals are dependent upon us. We speak for them and act on their behalf because they cannot speak and act for themselves. In that regard, they are like children that require our protection and advocacy on their behalf. The pet industry is a billion dollar market that often exploits these animals. Of course, the devil is in the details, but I support laws that recognize animals as sentient beings.

How can citizens help?

We do not receive any federal, state or local government funding and we rely entirely on the generosity of individuals to achieve our mission. Citizens can help us by making financial contributions to our shelter or donating goods and services for which we may be in need. Anyone interested in donating to us should visit our website at www.humanesocietyofcharlotte.org and click on the “donate” section. There they will find all the ways they can give to help animals in need.

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