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Shelter training program nearly unique

Special to the Post Independent

The high burnout rate animal shelter managers experience may be getting some relief soon, as a result of a new certification offered by Colorado Mountain College’s Veterinary Technology faculty.

“There is a high burnout among shelter managers because people don’t know what to expect,” said CMC animal shelter management instructor Laura Van Dyne, who created and teaches part of the new program. “We not only provide students with realistic expectations of the problems they’ll be facing, we teach them how to solve those problems, which usually have very little to do with animals.”

The 19 credit hour program certifies people as animal shelter managers and is one of only two in the United States. CMC’s program is taught from a veterinary medicine perspective. The only other program is offered by the Humane Society of the United States and is taught from an animal handler/police code enforcement officer perspective.

CMC’s Vet Tech students can add the certificate to their credential by taking extra classes.

Van Dyne said she saw a need for trained shelter managers after Colorado Animal Rescue opened a badly needed animal shelter on the college’s Vet Tech property at its Spring Valley Center campus near Glenwood Springs.

“I saw shelter management as a logical alternative career avenue for our veterinary technician students.

“When I looked around to see what training was available for shelter managers, I found there wasn’t anything geared toward veterinary technicians. The only way for a technician to be employed in the shelter industry was to come in cold, and then they would have to learn all of the shelter stuff on their own.

“Veterinary technicians have the technical skills necessary to operate a shelter, but may not have the business and political skills needed in shelters.

“The employment level we want our students to obtain is as mid-manager in a large shelter, or a top manager in a small shelter,” said Van Dyne.

In addition to classes like veterinary clinical management, animal handling and restraint and shelter management, students are taking accounting, human resources management, leadership development, computer technology and public speaking.

“We don’t expect our graduates to go out and do the accounting for a shelter,” said Van Dyne. “They’ll hire an accountant to do the accounting. But the manager needs to know how to read reports and know if there are inconsistencies.

“Human resources is working with people. In an animal shelter, you’re working with people all of the time. With the animal control aspect of shelter management, you’re dealing with people really under stress … angry people … ready to shoot because you’re holding their pet in `prison,'” Van Dyne said.

Leslie Rockey is co-director of Colorado Animal Rescue’s Shelter at CMC. She is one of those vet techs who got into shelter management and had to learn the ropes on her own.

Rockey says she soon found out that working with animals is the easy part of shelter management. Now she is one of the first students signed up for the new certification program.

She has already taken a few pilot animal shelter management classes and says she regularly applies all of what she learned.

“I hate accounting. I hate anything that has to do with math. But I also know how important it is,” said Rockey.

“I never liked public speaking, but now I do it all the time,” explained Rockey. “I’m on cable TV and public radio once a month, I speak to Rotary, teach kitty care class and present funding requests all the time.

“I love being a vet tech and I love working in a shelter and being on the front line with these animals’ lives. We’re their voices. We’re their advocates. We’re here for them.

“But to be the best advocate, we need administrative skills as well as veterinary skills,” Rockey said.

The new certificate program is open to anyone. Previous vet tech classes are not required.


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