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Rhodes out at Rock County Humane Society

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Catherine W. Idzerda
February 12, 2013

— The Rock County Humane Society is looking for a new director after the departure of Angela Rhodes.

Rhodes' last day at the agency was Monday, said Leslie Hulick, humane society board member.

Hulick did not elaborate on the circumstances of Rhodes' departure, saying only that Rhodes was "no longer employed by the humane society."

Hulick said the agency is looking forward to "bringing the attention back to the shelter and the animals that are still the No. 1 priority of our organization."

Rhodes' departure comes after more than a year of conflict between the humane society and local municipalities.

Rhodes changed the way contracts with towns worked, asked for increased fees from the cities and said the humane society no longer could afford—and didn't have the facilities—to provide certain services.

For example, Rock County towns previously could dictate what animals were covered in their contracts. Most towns covered costs for stray dogs but not stray cats, and officials feared a litter of kittens could break their budgets.

Rhodes advocated for contracts that covered all animals.

The humane society also asked cities for more money to cover more of the costs of caring for animals. Rhodes believed donors didn't want the humane society to be a place where stray animals came in, were kept for seven days and then were euthanized because it was too expensive to keep them.

Under Rhodes' leadership, the number of euthanized animals dropped dramatically.

Rhodes' discussions with officials and the debate of animal control and care often made headlines, but they also served to educate the public about the cost of such ventures.

Officials struggled with Rhodes' budget requests and often complained about working with her.

Beloit City Manager Larry Arft said his staff had numerous meetings with Rhodes, often with humane society board members present.

"We made it known that we were not happy with their change in direction, and the general difficulty of communicating with the staff there," Arft said.

A news release from the humane society Monday said the board and staff always have been committed to exceptional animal care. However, "other important factors such as customer service and donor relations have fallen short."

The board's primary goal going forward is to "repair" some of the relationships that have been damaged.

"The board is moving forward to create a more positive image in the community and to restore and strengthen our relationships with our past, current, and future donors," Hulick said in an e-mail interview. "The livelihood of our non-profit shelter relies solely on the generosity of our donors and the continued work within the community."

One of those relationships might be with Mounds Pet Food Warehouse in Janesville.

In January, the store announced it would no longer be a satellite adoption center for the humane society and would no longer contribute food, litter and other items to the shelter.

Mounds declined to give specifics for the decision. It now supports Friends of Noah, an Edgerton-based animal rescue organization.

When asked if Mound's decision had anything to do with Rhodes departure, Hulick responded by email that, "A variety of variables are at play in all decisions made by the board. No one single issue trumps another, but it is important to maintain, strengthen, and repair our relationships with all partners, donors, volunteers and communities."

At a press conference Monday, Hulick said she didn't know how long it would take to hire a new director. Until then, the board will be "getting more involved than it has ever been in the past."

Board members will seek to learn more about and participate in the day-to-day operations of the shelter "to make it a better place for animals and a better place to work," she said.

Along with hiring a director, another priority will be changing the name of the shelter. The current name leads many to incorrectly believe it is a governmental agency supported with tax dollars.

Hulick said there wasn't a "simple answer" to whether the board would continue with goals and directives that Rhodes put in place, or whether it would go in a new direction.

"We're going to evaluate every aspect of the whole operation," she said.



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