Jean Weber, MSPCA Director of Animal Protection Division
November 1, 2011

1. What is your day like working for the MSPCA?

I oversee and manage the departments within the Animal Protection Division, which include the Adoption Centers, Law Enforcement Department, and Advocacy Department.

2. How long have you been working for the MSPCA?

I’ve been working with the MSPCA for 20 years. (Yikes! that’s a long time!)  Before my current position, I managed 3 of the Adoption Centers—5 years in Boston, 3 years in Brockton and 6 ½ years in Methuen.

3. Have you always wanted to do this type of work?

I really didn’t get “addicted” to this type of work until I was in college and started volunteering at my local Humane Society in Wisconsin.  I fell in love with the work almost immediately. Volunteering turned into a part time animal care position, and when the Education Coordinator position became available I was offered…and accepted… it. It was in this position that I realized how much work there was to do for animals…and people… and knew it would become a career for me.    

 

4. How have your duties and responsibilities changed going from working at a single shelter to overseeing all of the shelters?
I’m not involved as much in the daily operations of an individual shelter.  I’m more responsible for developing and evaluating short and long range plans and goals for the Animal Protection Division, and I manage programs, budget, and personnel for the division. 

5. What changes have you seen at the MSPCA since you began working there? 

The most significant change over the past 20 years has been the number of animals that our Shelters have taken in and our adoption rates.  In the early 90s, the MSPCA was taking in approximately 38,000 animals, and our overall adoption rate was 35- 40%.  In 2009, we took in about 18,000 animals, and our adoption rate has increased to 72%.  This is a result of a lot of community outreach, education, development of wonderful volunteer and foster care programs and implementation of affordable spay/neuter programs.  A lot of people worked extremely hard over those years to make these changes happen.  Even though we work on behalf of animals, this is really more about changing people’s attitude toward them….the need for responsible care and helping them to understand just how precious and special animals are in our lives.  

6. In such a high leadership position, do you still get to interact with the animals at the shelters or is your work more about interacting with people?

My job definitely has become more administrative and definitely working more with people than when I managed a Shelter, but I make a point to regularly spend time in the shelters, working with staff and animals. It’s important for me to stay engaged in the “hands on” work to some degree.  It is incredibly rewarding.

7. What’s the hardest part of your job? 
We see a lot of sad things in our work…unwanted, neglected and abused animals…and it’s easy to get angry and frustrated with people.  One of the hardest things for me both managing a shelter and in my current position is continuously keeping staff positive and constructive in dealing with people.  If we can’t work well with people, we can’t work well for animals. 

8. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?  

The fact that we’re creating real change for animals…on all levels…every single day.  Sometimes it’s as simple as pulling a warm blanket out of the dryer and giving it to a scared cat that just came into the shelter…or seeing an elderly dog that’s been in the adoption room for months finally walk out the door heading to his new home.

Sometimes it’s harder and takes longer… like working with others to find the resources to implement new programs that will benefit animals, but every day, we’re making a difference in an animal’s life….and that is genuinely rewarding.

9. How has the downturn of the economy affected the shelters?

The MSPCA had to close 3 of our Adoption Centers in the past year because of the poor economy.  That was extremely difficult, but there is some good news.  We worked very hard with people in those communities that were affected and helped them to develop new local non-profit organizations that now have taken over those shelters’ operations. They are still using the MSPCA buildings so animals continue to be helped and people continue to have a resource in those communities.

10. What kind of special education or training do people need to do what you do?   

A bachelor degree in Science, Education, Business or related field is recommended  Strong management, development, and organizational skills are important…and necessary, but I think the most important quality needed to work in animal welfare is interpersonal skills…genuinely wanting to work with people in order to help animals.

 

11. Do you have any pets? 
I have an extremely cute yellow lab mix that came into the Boston Shelter as a stray several years ago.  Her name is Dandy and she is about 8 years old. I also have 3 cats.  Tim and Smudge were adopted from the Methuen Shelter many years ago. They are older, but healthy and happy.  Avery was adopted from the Boston Shelter about 6 years ago. He’s 13 and is a tad overweight…he’s constantly on a diet!

12. What do you think about pit bulls wearing fashionable pink sweaters (ie. Comet of Comet’s Corner)?

I think fashionable sweaters are awesome for pit bulls, however, I do believe there are far more appropriate colors than pink.  I think if Comet had all the colors in the world to choose from she’d go with a warm pastel sea green or a robin’s egg blue….or perhaps even a candy apple red!