Pet Tales: New Humane Society director brings enthusiasm to tough job


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There's a new executive director at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, and he's just brimming with enthusiasm.

"I have the best job in the world!" said David Janusek, 46, of Baldwin Borough.

Granted, he's only been on the job since Jan. 1.

I wasn't trying to rain on his parade when I pointed out that the society founded in 1874 operates "open-door" shelters on the North Side and Elizabeth Township that never turn away any animal. At WPHS, that means taking in more than 14,000 animals per year.

The society finds homes for about 80 percent of the dogs, 65 percent of cats and all of the rabbits. That, by the way, is a very good batting average for shelters that have to sometimes euthanize to make room for the never-ending wave of incoming animals.

"Yes, it's a tough mission," Mr. Janusek said, but he quickly went back to his upbeat mode.

"I have worked for nonprofits for over 20 years, and I have never worked with such an enthusiastic staff. Everyone here really cares about the animals," he said.

He also has high praise for the more than 700 volunteers who walk dogs and play with cats and rabbits. The 125 foster families who care for, train and socialize animals in their own homes "are absolute heroes," Mr. Janusek said.

He succeeds former WPHS executive director Lee Nesler, who left in October to become executive director of the Lemur Conservation Foundation in Myakka City, Fla.

Mr. Janusek describes himself as a "passionate" animal lover, but he has never worked for a shelter. He has a strong background in fundraising, according to the news release from the board of directors. His last job was seven years as executive director of the Western Pennsylvania chapter of the American Diabetes Association. His resume includes six years at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Mr. Janusek has made it his personal mission to find out exactly what all the shelter employees do by shadowing them as they do their work. He'll soon spend a day with one of the humane agents who investigate and prosecute reports of animal abuse and neglect. It's arguably one of the toughest shelter jobs.

One of his main goals is to work with the board of directors to acquire additional space to house pets, especially cats, recovering from minor illnesses. Other initiatives include adding more adoption venues and obedience training class sites and increasing spay/neuter options for pet owners.

Shelter workers and volunteers already hold a vast array of successful fundraising events and activities, but the society does not have "a signature event," Mr. Janusek said. "I'm talking about something big that could bring in $250,000." It's a goal that needs to be pursued with the board and staff, he said.

Mr. Janusek grew up in West Mifflin and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. He has a basset hound named Elvis and a beagle-bulldog mix named Buddy, who was adopted from a shelter. The dogs have their own Facebook pages, where they are known as Elvis Janusek (44 friends) and Buddy Janusek (46 friends).

If Mr. Janusek and his pets accept my Facebook friends requests, I'll have 284 friends. In the world of social networks, that's not an impressive total, but it's a lot more than the 20 friends I had in October. So thanks to the Pet Tales readers who "friended" me.

Most of these friends are people who love animals, especially dogs, cats, rabbits and horses. The friends include veterinarians, breeders and trainers, as well as rescue and shelter workers. I enjoy reading and sharing their pictures and posts, and many of you would enjoy them, too.

No one can ever have too many friends -- in real life or on Facebook -- so I'm always looking for more.

E-collars for big dogs

A soft, flexible "e-collar" or "cone" for post-surgical pets was featured in the Jan. 21 Pet Tales column. Cardinal Pet Care's See Cone was a hit with readers, but it only comes in small sizes, and some said they need soft collars for medium and large dogs.

Facebook friend Cyndi Cunico of Mesa, Ariz., said the All Four Paws Comfy Cone comes in all sizes. Her big dog Dimmer was even able to enter and exit his doggie door while wearing the soft e-collar, because it folded up when he went through the narrow door. The cones are sold at www.allfourpaws.com and at pet stores.

Penguins helping pets

The Pittsburgh Penguins are asking their fans to help homeless dogs, cats and rabbits at the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania in Larimer. Ticket holders who bring pet supplies to the Toronto game on Tuesday will be entered in a drawing for autographed Penguins memorabilia and will receive a Walgreens coupon.

The Penguins suggest canned cat food, dry kitten and puppy food, kitty litter, ceramic pet bowls, paper towels, pet shampoo, toys, and rawhide bones and other treats. Cash, of course, is always welcome. Bring donations to the Consol Energy Center before the game.

Don't have a ticket to the game? You can still drop off donations for the shelter animals, but the cool Penguins stuff will be handed out inside during an intermission.


Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? e-mail it to petpoints@post-gazette.com . It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. First Published January 28, 2012 5:00 AM


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