A lifelong love for Pomeranians led Kandi Hillyer to step away from her health care training and eventually into her new role as director of the Humane Society of Central Texas. She is the third person in four years to hold the title.
Hillyer grew up in South Florida and worked for Concentra, a national healthcare chain, for 12 years. She began volunteering in a Pomeranian rescue, and when she and her husband moved to Iowa, she joined the Des Moines County Humane Society as a volunteer. She served on the board of directors there, then worked as a director for seven years.
“We were really struggling to find someone with experience, so I took the full-time manager position and stayed,” Hillyer said.
She started at the Humane Society chapter in Waco two weeks ago, replacing interim director Jordan Cervantez. Cervantez stepped into the interim role after the board fired Paula Rivadeneira in August, shortly after she filed a lawsuit against then-board chairman Tom Lupfer. Rivadeneira replaced Don Bland, who served as director until 2019 when the board fired him, saying he was not focusing enough on fundraising.
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“We were looking for a combination of good business and management skills, fundraising skills and preferably an animal shelter or animal welfare background,” local council chair Christie said. Acosta. “It’s especially hard to find that combination, and we feel like with Kandi we’ve found that.”
Hillyer said during her time volunteering at an Atlanta shelter with a high admission rate and then as director of the Humane Society in Des Moines, she learned just how bad social media activity can be. important for a shelter, as well as the races stigmatized against them and how to help. they find homes anyway. She is planning a St. Patrick’s Day event specifically for adopting pit bulls later this month.
“You can go through phases where you’re not so full, you have a lot of kennel space, and within a week that can completely change,” Hillyer said. “You never know what awaits you.”
The City of Waco owns and operates the Waco Animal Shelter, and the Humane Society runs the city’s adoptions and rescue program.
Hillyer said she also hopes to expand the list of animal rescues, both local and in other states, including breed-specific rescues. The city shelter regularly works with 5-10 others. She said that shelters in the densely populated southern cities in which she is used to working generally have more stray dogs to manage than shelters in less populated states, and that shelters in the Pacific Northwest take in often animals from busier shelters.
“It’s hard work to find a rescue group that has space because they’re like us,” she said. “Sometimes the kennels fill up.”
Hillyer said her other goals include networking to increase community donations and polishing The Humane Society’s customer service. The shelter is always in need of more donations of food, treats, harnesses, leashes and other pet supplies, and relies on donations for its funding.
Acosta said the nonprofit organization has struggled to plan events in advance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It looks like we might be planning something and then we’ll go through another cycle, people will isolate themselves again and that will make planning difficult because we don’t want to be on the wrong side of that cycle,” Acosta said.
Hillyer said the Humane Society is planning a gala for October and wants to host a fundraising evening in the future.
For now, the shelter’s nine full-time staff have their hands full. Baylor University students who volunteer there are away for spring break, and the shelter was home to about 190 dogs Thursday, with another 130 in foster homes. Some of them are puppies too young to be spayed or neutered and adopted, but 60 to 70 need a home.
Adoption fees will be waived Saturday at a Clear the Shelter event, and shelter staff hope to adopt 50 to 75 dogs. Hillyer said the shelter gets a relatively small number of cats each month compared to dogs, so it’s easier to place them in foster homes.
Acosta said it has been difficult in recent years to predict when shelter occupancy will increase.
“In a normal year it would be the start of a busier season, the start of puppy and kitten season,” she said. “But honestly, I don’t feel like we’ve had any downtime in a while, so I don’t know what to predict at this point.”