New leaders making changes at West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Services
Oct 30, 2019 04:25PM
By Carl Fauver
Maranda Weathermon, Erika Stoveken, Melanie Bennett and Kathy Schuster (L-R) are now the top four administrators at the West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Shelter. (wvcpets.com)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
A tumultuous several months at the West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Services Shelter (4522 W. 3500 South) appears to be finally settling into a steadier routine, with new leadership from a Wyoming transplant.
Yes, the controversial gas chamber is still there. And yes, Taylorsville pet advocates still hate it and want it removed. But the dialogue between shelter officials and those dog and cat owners appears to be softening.
Taylorsville City Planning Commission member Lynette Wendel has been one of the most outspoken animal welfare proponents through the shelter’s leadership transition. She likes what she sees, so far.
“We are so grateful to the mayor (Kristie Overson) and city council for hearing our concerns and supporting changes at the shelter,” Wendel said. “When the shelter director position came open, we asked them to include language in the job listing for applicants with animal welfare backgrounds. They did that, and we are appreciative of the new director’s background.”
The WVC-Taylorsville Animal Services director position came open following a legal scandal involving the previous director, David Moss. At the same time, last spring, Salt Lake County officials made a pitch to Taylorsville City leaders, asking the council to void its contract with West Valley and contract them for animal services.
In the midst of the upheaval, pet advocates — some 50 strong, including Wendel — came to a city council meeting, requesting improvements. Their complaints even prompted coverage from a Salt Lake television news crew.
It was against that made-for-TV swirl of drama that Rock Springs, Wyoming, resident Maranda Weathermon decided to uproot her husband and four children from the Cowboy State to try to right the animal services ship.
Director Weathermon made weekend visits to the shelter in May to get acquainted with the facility. Her first full day in the eye of the hurricane was June 1.
“We are basically starting from the beginning to reorganize Animal Services because the division has not had strong animal welfare leadership in the past,” Weathermon said. “It will take time, but people will see improvements. We plan to do considerably more community service. And eventually, if funding becomes available, we hope to increase our staff and remain open more hours each week.”
Currently, the animal shelter has 15 employees, and is open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with limited hours every other Saturday. When the shelter is closed, Unified Police officers respond to Taylorsville animal complaint calls.
“In the limited time frame [Weathermon has been on the job], I have seen positive results,” said Unified Police Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant. “One of the challenges they face is people want an enhanced level of service. That comes with a cost. If [Taylorsville taxpayers] want more service, [they] have to be willing to pay for it. But I am pleased with the trajectory of where the service is going.”
The top four WVC-Taylorsville Animal Services administrators — Weathermon and three managers — are all women. All but one is new to the facility this year.
New Field Services Manager Melanie Bennett was hired a month before Weathermon, while new Animal Care & Enrichment Manager Erika Stoveken was hired in mid-September.
Among the administrators, only Community Services Manager Kathy Schuster, an 8-year veteran of the facility, now with a new title and a few changes in duties, was employed at the shelter prior to this year.
Dr. Daniel Sims also remains the animal shelter’s part-time, contracted veterinarian. He no longer conducts animal surgeries but continues to operate pet vaccine clinics.
Weathermon accepted her $68,000 per year position at the shelter after working in animal care for 18 years, in several states. “I have cared for everything from reptiles to horses,” she said.
The shelter’s controversial animal gas chamber continues to receive rare use, most recently to euthanize two raccoons last summer.
“Having a gas chamber in the building does hold us back from getting citizen volunteers,” Weathermon said. “My supervisor wants it to remain as a last option. But my goal is to eventually stop using it altogether.”
Weathermon is now trying to fill one animal care technician (kennel) job and three of her seven allocated animal control officer posts. Additionally, she hopes to add a couple of positions in each of those areas to better serve the public and to expand shelter hours.
“As we progress and prove ourselves to the [West Valley] City Council, I hope to demonstrate our need for a full-time veterinarian, two additional animal control officers and four more animal care technicians,” she said. “We cannot make any budget change requests until next year. Right now, we are looking for cost-saving opportunities and working to show animal care improvement.”
Taylorsville City funds one-third of the WVC-Taylorsville Animal Services budget. It is also a part owner in the agency’s shelter.
“I have been really impressed with Maranda,” Overson said. “She seems very qualified and has been sending me weekly reports about the progress being made. She’s been a breath of fresh air. I am very optimistic.”