Canyon animal shelter director resigns; board president says decision was mutual

krodine@idahostatesman.comJanuary 15, 2014 

Barbara Hutchinson, who 27 months ago transformed the Canyon County Animal Shelter from a sheriff-run operation to a private nonprofit with dramatically reduced kill rates, has resigned effective immediately.

Hutchinson submitted her resignation Tuesday night during a shelter board meeting but said Wednesday her abrupt departure was not prompted by any pressure from the board.

Board President Brenda Cameron said the subject came up during discussion of budget and other operating issues.

“Let’s just say it was a mutual decision,” Cameron said. “We really appreciate everything Barb did. It was just a point that she wants to pursue other opportunities and the board ... is looking at ways to increase the efficiency of the shelter, increase donations and sustainability .”

The board also wants to improve conditions for the animals it shelters, possibly limiting each cage to one animal instead of two, she said. Hutchinson recently implemented a policy to stop accepting owner-surrendered animals, which sparked some complaints. Cameron said the board is studying the issue.

Hutchinson said it is time for a change, and “I wish the best for the shelter.”

“It was just getting to be a lot of hours,” she said. “I’ve got some other opportunities I just didn’t have time for.”

High on the list of those opportunities is working with the prison dog-training program at Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, Ore., said Hutchinson, who lives in Payette County.

After turning the shelter into a nonprofit in October 2011, Hutchinson drew praise from county officials and animal welfare advocates for changing the focus and operating model of the shelter, instituting frequent promotions to increase adoptions and keep the shelter population manageable. In the past two years, the shelter has won more than $80,000 from the Rachel Ray ASPCA $100K Challenge.

“I think amazing things have been done out there,” said Hutchinson, who came to the Caldwell shelter from McPaws in McCall. “We cut the euthanasia rate from about 50 percent to 5 percent.”

But raising enough money to support the massive, county-owned shelter proved difficult. Last summer, the shelter laid off nearly half of its employees, and Hutchinson said two more were laid off in December.

“It’s really hard, laying off people,” she said.

The shelter’s budget for this fiscal year is about $780,000, Hutchinson said, down about $100,000 from the previous year. Canyon County voters overwhelmingly approved a $1.9 million bond issue in 2000 to build the 17,644-square foot shelter.

Cameron said the four-member shelter board will look for a new executive director. No interim director has been appointed, she said.

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