Sonoma Co Fires Director Who Implemented Lifesaving Changes at Shelter

Remember that one time we had good news about the Sonoma Co shelter in CA?  Well hold on to that memory like a clip-on koala stuffy because it may be all you get.

Brigid Wasson, the shelter’s director for the past 11 months, was fired without reason by Sonoma Co last week, one month prior to her probationary period being fulfilled.  She describes her termination meeting with the county:

My boss and her assistant came to my office at three in the afternoon, announced their decision, then watched me as I packed my personal belongings and was escorted off the property like a criminal. I was shocked and devastated.

Ms. Wasson, who says she moved to Sonoma Co for this job, is credited by the county with increased rescue placements, establishing social media marketing, improved record keeping and the robust return to owner program for lost pets I blogged about previously.  The bottom line:

The shelter’s live release rate is now at 85 percent, up from 59 percent in 2008, according to the county.

In fact, Ms. Wasson told me she had calculated the year-to-date live release rate at 88% just days before being terminated.  And that she was working on a number of other programs:

  • The community cat program which had already reduced cat euthanasia by 75%
  • The Sonoma County animal related ordinance revision which included bringing the ordinance up to state code (it currently isn’t), adding TNR/cat-friendly language, removing breed-specific language (restrictions to Pit Bull type dogs), and reducing pet limit restrictions
  • An expanded coalition including shelters in our county as well as in neighboring counties.

A Sonoma Co ACO will temporarily run the shelter while the county seeks a permanent director.  The ACO will be the third director in 14 months.  It’s unknown what will happen to the changes and protocols instituted by Ms. Wasson at the shelter.  But the county’s message seems clear enough:  saving the lives of pets at the shelter is not the direction the county wants to go.  What type of applicant will be attracted to the position knowing that the previous director increased lifesaving and was fired by the county?  What will happen to the lost and homeless pets in Sonoma Co going forward?

16 thoughts on “Sonoma Co Fires Director Who Implemented Lifesaving Changes at Shelter

  1. Sounds like the same-old, same-old 7th grade level social stratosphere bullcrap where *someone* was envious of the Director and set-out to take her down because *surprise surprise* (NOT!) she was actually implementing programs that saved lives and was ratcheting down the “convenience killing” that so many ‘shelters’ and ‘faux rescues’ do when they can’t be bothered to really work at finding good homes for animals, and acknowledge that every animal is *worthy* of living, and we owe it to these innocent dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens to at least try and secure them a good home.

    Do we always ‘get it right’? No, of course not, but at least the Director that was fired was putting her all into it and was saving a lot of lives, and for that, she should hold her head high and find another position where she will be valued and appreciated just as she valued and appreciated the animals under her watch..

  2. Damn. Probably some stupid personal politics or egos getting in the way of progress. Again.

    Why can’t these people be all “hey, I hired the new person who is GREAT – yay me!” rather than “the new person is doing things too well/differently/effectively and making all my prior decisions look bad – must get rid of her”.

    Why can’t people just get the hell over themselves and embrace change for the better?

  3. The only possible explanation is that something behind the scenes (ego, power, whatever) is more important to these morons that saving lives. Hope this woman finds a place that welcomes her positive changes. Wish we had her coming to our county AC rather than the guy from Florida who “supports” TNR, but only TNRd 5 cats at his previous post.

    1. Just wrote the “shelter” a note on their “contact us” page. Maybe if they hear from a lot more of us . . .

  4. What is even sadder is that there are several No Kill shelters quite close to this one AND the various agencies have banded together to support OTHER communities to expand the No Kill philosophy. Petaluma Animal Services has something like a 98% save rate, Sonoma Human Society (last I looked) was well above 90%. PAS now supports the Healdsburg/Windsor area. When someone called Sonoma Humane about a “friend” who wanted to get out of the dog breeding business and “has 15 or 20 dogs” it turned out the dogs were up by Redding (WELL out of Sonoma’s jurisdiction) and it was close to 60 dogs. Sonoma Humane didn’t leave the dogs, they contacted PAS and Brigid at Sonoma Co and saved them all. Brigid was doing really good things and she was a lovely woman the few times I spoke with her. I thought for sure she was going to be there for a while. My guess is this is politics, pure and simple, which makes it even worse.

  5. Brigid is a kind and loving animal
    Shelter manager, she was turning this dump around.
    One day the truth will come out and we
    Will find out the dirty political shameful

  6. Sounds like the “lab” who was getting “testing” animals prior to her hiring was upset they were not getting enough “guinea pigs” to “test” on. Just a thought. But, somehow, someone was not getting animals to do “whatever”, to, which would also include dog fighting. Her supporters need to keep a careful eye on her successor, if you get what I mean…..

  7. This isn’t the first time this has happened – as is noted in the long Press-Democrat article linked. In neither instance was a coherent reason given. The first time ’round, the ACC was under the Co. Dept of Agriculture; the shake-up following also resulted in the dismissal for cause of the Ag Commissioner, and the ACC was shifted from Ag to under the Dept of Health Services.

    Currently, the Dept of Health Services has been in the news for another reason: ‘Fired Sonoma County employee files whistleblower suit’ (28 Aug 2014) –

    There are similarities involved, in both the circumstances and the outcome, in all three cases, and in the two ACC cases … there’s another similarity not mentioned in the articles: both times, not long before the dismissals, there were articles in the paper on improvements at the ACC. This was also the case with the resignation in the middle – there was first a series of articles on improvements.

    I also find the timing and circumstances of Gunn’s complaints about the lack of AC at the kennels deeply troubling. Thing is, Gunn’s been involved in county animal welfare for a good long while, and was involved with the ACC in a big rescue – over 60 dogs, as I recall – not that long ago. She has to have known what the conditions there were, all the more as there have been no capital improvements in the last several years. For her to be shocked! shocked! at the lack of AC strikes me as false … and all the more so since she never bothered to ask Wasson about it directly. (On top of which, the photo illustrating the temperature recording involved shows an incorrect use of the type of remote-sensing thermometer used – it’d be reading the temp at the middle of the ceiling, not the kennels.)

  8. Then why is she accused of neglecting animals at new job ? HSNB ? And again blames others? Facts please . Ms. wasson must stay away from any position in charge of animal welfare. She thinks it’s easier to Euthanize than heal!

    1. I haven’t heard anything about what you are referring to. Can you provide any specific information such as the name/location of the shelter and a link to any local press reporting?

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