The new director of Louisville Metro Animal Services started Monday as the city attempts to turn around the troubled agency.
Hired by Mayor Greg Fischer at a $90,000 annual salary, 26-year-old Justin Scally is taking over as the head of Metro Government’s animal department after a series of mismanagement scandals. But Scally told WFPL his nead leadership team is preparing to review the policies and procedures, and will address a number of other problems from filling vacant positions and improving media relations to addressing backlogs with animal control.
The agency had been without permanent director since December 2009, when former Director Dr. Gilles Meloche resigned amid controversy. Over the past two and a half years, the city went through three interim directors and considered privatizing part of the agency’s functions before hiring Scally in late July.
And while Fischer has defended the decision, critics quickly voiced concern about Scally’s previous employment with the Humane Society of the United States and his relative inexperience.
But Scally says he hopes residents give him a chance despite their misgivings about his age. He plans to meet with staff members individually, review partnerships and improve relationships with animal welfare groups.
“I hope that they will look beyond that and realize that we’re all working for a common mission and that’s the voiceless animals that are in our community. And I don’t think the animals would care how old I am as long as I’m successful for them,” he says.
Animal welfare advocates have also raised concerns about the kill rate Scally oversaw as the former director of the Wayne County Department of Animal Control in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
The mayor’s office has defended Scally, however, arguing he will bring innovation and a new energy to the agency. One of the first ideas he hopes to launch is a pet retention project to help residents who have fallen on hard times keep their animals out of the shelter.
Among the myriad problems observers expect Scally will have to address is the recent top-to-bottom review of department, which found it had outdated facilities, a high euthanasia rate and employees who are fearful of management.
Scally says improving the agency will require everyone working together, but he’s ready for the challenge.
“This is a very passionate community and that’s part of the reason I came here. I want to be able to engage that compassion so that we can work together and make this happen,” he says. “The only way we’re going to be able to be successful here at Louisville Metro Animal Services is by having a teamwork mentality not only with the staff and volunteers, but also with the community and the news media.”