Leaders with the Humane Society of Forsyth County are hoping some behind-the-scenes changes will mean a better future for animals in Forsyth County and the surrounding area.
In recent months, the leadership of the group has been overhauled: Debbie Bertsch became the Humane Society's new executive director, in August, and Scot Rucker, who has been on the organization’s board since 2015 and previously served as vice president, was selected as the new president.
For more than 40 years, the Humane Society had operated under board members, but Bertsch, who operated the group’s thrift store for eight years before moving to the shelter, said the new leadership structure will enable the organization to form a more long-term plan than in previous years.
“The Humane Society has pretty much ran year-to-year, and they’ve done that successfully for over 40 years, but we want to come up with more of a vision, a long-term plan, a strategic plan for the Humane Society and make sure that we’re providing what the company really needs,” she said.
Bertsch, who has an accounting background, said she wanted to “grow and continue to do the right thing for Forsyth County and other communities that we help” but wanted to make those decisions based on numbers and finances.
“[An executive director has] the ability to make a decision based on what is going on. A board member isn’t here on a daily basis,” she said. “They’re not present at the shelter, so they were making decisions based on what they were hearing from staff or emotional decisions [rather] than thinking about the overall picture. They were looking at the little pieces of the pie … they looked at segments, not the big picture.”
The Humane Society helps about 1,500 animals find forever homes each year and offers a host of services including medical and dental, vaccinations and a food pantry for pets.
Bertsch said the new model will allow leaders to decide what needs seem to be met in the community – she said there are lots of local options for spaying and neutering, for example – versus what can be built on, such as expanding offerings of affordable vaccinations.
Rucker said the group is also looking into expanding their facility.
“Our facility is very small compared to most facilities around, so our next goal is to update our facility, possibly look at finding a new property or expanding on the property that we’re on to build a better facility,” he said. “We’re working on a new strategic plan for the next five years to see where we can take that.”
Rucker said the new leadership is working to create new relationships in the community and reestablish others, including with the Forsyth County Animal Shelter. Bertsch said the public often confuses the two organizations.
Rucker said he had worked with the shelter as part of “Pups with Purpose,” a program where inmates at the Forsyth County Jail train dogs that will later be adopted.
“Forsyth County Animal Shelter and the humane society, in the past there’s been a big disconnect between the two,” Rucker said. “With [Shelter Manager Cindy Iacopella] at the shelter, we’ve been trying to build that relationship and work together more so than in the past.”