For the first time in more than a year and half, St. Louis County Animal Care and Control [ACC] has a full-time leader. Dr. Vanessa M. R. Duris has been named the new Executive Director for the ACC in an announcement released on Nov. 21, 2019.
Duris started her new role on Nov. 18.
Duris looks to fill a leadership void that played a role in the increasing chorus of criticism that has been leveled at the ACC and St. Louis County officials. Although county leaders solicited the input of an outside vendor through an extensive audit of the animal shelter earlier this year, critics have continuously voiced concerns that implementing the recommended changes from the audit report has been too slow to come.
However, with the announcement of the hiring of Duris, St. Louis County has made several sweeping changes over the past few weeks alone. Those changes include a “rebooted” volunteer program, the hiring of a longtime local animal advocate and President of Missouri K9 Friends Mandy Ryan to serve as the ACC’s new population manager, and now the hiring of Duris as executive director.
“ACC has faced significant challenges in the last few years, including the implementation of the audit recommendations. Finding the right leader with proven knowledge and success in this role is a huge win for the animals, the community and the Department of Health,” Department of Health Acting Director Spring Schmidt said in a statement. “We are pleased that someone with the experience and leadership skills that Dr. Duris will bring to Animal Care and Control.”
Duris shared her own excitement for the opportunity with the St. Louis County.
“I am thrilled for the opportunity to positively impact the lives of both the animals and the community that this shelter serves,” Duris said.
Duris comes with prior experience in shelter operations, including previous work at the Iberville [Louisiana] Shelter and Animal Control.
An official press release stated that Duris implemented successful adoption, foster and volunteer programs that resulted in re-homing thousands of animals while collaborating successfully with local animal rights advocates and volunteers.
“I firmly believe together we can help the community realize the potential this shelter has by establishing high quality, high volume spay/neuter clinics, increasing adoption, implementing foster programs and working with a main portion of this culture, the volunteers,” Duris said. “It can be done.”