The Hawaiian Humane Society has announced that Martha C. Armstrong, a nationally recognized expert in the field of animal welfare, will serve as interim CEO of the organization while a national search for a new CEO continues.
Society Board Chairman Bob Armstrong (no relation) made the announcement Thursday in a letter to supporters, offering an update to the “period of transition” the nonprofit has been going through for the past few months.
In late March former society CEO and President Lisa Fowler resigned “for personal reasons” following protests from former employees regarding the euthanasia of animals and a hostile work environment. Fowler’s last day was Tuesday.
“The Board conducted both an internal survey and one-on-one interviews with current and former employees and concluded that we need to do much more to support our team,” said Bob Armstrong in the letter. “Many of our employees are required to not only do their own jobs, but also fill in for others because of the higher levels of turnover we have experienced in the last year. Our assessment also revealed that our organizational structure in some cases is not aligned as well as it could be with the needs of our organization.”
The society has hired several new staff members and is interviewing a few others to fill open positions, he said.
Additionally, Bob Armstrong said an outside team of nationally known animal shelter experts, including Martha Armstrong, assessed the society’s euthanasia and animal evaluation practices. Martha Armstrong formerly worked at the Humane Society of the U.S. and has more than 40 years of experience in shelter management.
Martha Armstrong and former Hawaiian Humane Society CEO Pamela Burns had worked on national programs together, he said.
The team submitted a report to the board after spending hours meeting and communicating with staff members and observing practices.
“The report found that the society’s euthanasia policies, procedures and protocols comply with accepted euthanasia policies, procedures, protocols and guidelines advocated by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV), and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS),” he said in the letter. “At the same time, the report found that a few areas of the Society’s policies and procedures should be updated or revised to ensure staff safety and that euthanasia of animals is being carried out in the most humane way possible.”
Some recommendations the team made included:
>> Expanding the group of staff members in medical and behavioral teams who assess incoming animals.
>> Expanding the Foster Home Program to aid in caring for newborns and animals that require more time to recover from a medical procedure or training prior to adoption.
>> Expanding interactions with staff from the behavior team to work with young or skittish/shy animals to improve their “social skills.”
Bob Armstrong said the board is reviewing every aspect of its operations and will make any necessary revisions to policies, staffing, hours of operation and more to meet the “best practices” established by industry organizations.
“All of us on the Board of Directors of the Hawaiian Humane Society and the members of staff at HHS are here because we care deeply for animals, so admitting that we can do better was a difficult but necessary process for us to undergo,” wrote Bob Armstrong. “However, we are all committed to embracing this opportunity to change the ways in which we operate to better align our actions with our mission and to do so in a transparent way.”
A Chicago-based firm specializing in nonprofits is conducting the national search for the society’s next CEO, Bob Armstrong told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The first round of interviews is expected to begin in July.
The society is searching for a CEO with strong shelter management experience, he said, and the people skills to oversee about 90 employees and 600 volunteers.
“They should also be a great leader and team builder,” he said. “Someone that is really going to build up the staff and make the Humane Society a great place to work. We’ve got such great people around here and want to make sure they’re respected and treated well.”