Maddie's Pet Project

Director of Washoe animal services shares vision about pets

By Bonney Brown

Bonney Brown

Shyanne Schull is the director of Washoe County Regional Animal Services. I had the opportunity to ask Shyanne about her work.

Bonney Brown: What led you to get into the field of animal services?

Shyanne Schull: I was that kid who wanted to save every baby bird that fell from the nest. My family had dogs, cats, birds, horses, and the occasional hamster or two. I immersed myself into FFA and worked at a veterinary clinic in high school. … In college, I majored in animal science. I loved animals and helping people, and I was determined to find my niche.

One of my first jobs was at a very high-intake shelter with bleak live release numbers. The conditions were far less than ideal; the grueling task of working in a shelter that took in over 20,000 animals each year had a deep impact on me. Seeing those countless, helpless faces behind cage bars ignited a fire inside of me to make change, however small. I worked through the ranks of various animal services jobs from dispatcher, animal control officer, manager, assistant director, then lastly, director. I have experienced both profound sadness and reward during my career.

BB: What do you like most about your job?

SS: We have implemented a variety of programs that directly benefit pets and people in our community. I especially appreciate hearing about how WCRAS staff and resources have assisted someone resolve an animal-related issue. My staff’s work is incredibly challenging, and when we do hear a “thank you,” it means a lot.

BB: Tell me about your first pet?

SS: My first pets were Sam, a collie, and Cody, a Siberian husky mix. My family lived in a rural area of Oregon so those dogs were my buddies. I took up some great one-sided conversations with my buddies, so I am told.

BB: What is the mission of WCRAS?

SS: WCRAS is a community-centered resource that aims to be proactive in support of a responsible, safe community for pets and people. Historically across the country, animal control was the “dog pound,” and the primary functions were limited to picking up animals and disposing of those unwanted animals. Thankfully, the paradigm shift in animal welfare has created a more collaborative approach. We are embracing preventative ways to keep animals at home where they are safe, to resolve issues at their roots and to improve the live outcomes for all shelter animals. We value our enforcement, investigation and public safety functions, as these are very important core responsibilities.

BB: What are your plans for WCRAS?

SS: My team holds a lot of responsibility to help ensure public safety, animal welfare, proactive programs, enforcement and emergency response, just to name a few. The focus currently is on providing the tools to consistently facilitate those tasks well. There are many opportunities to explore being an even better resource to Washoe County residents in the future.

BB: What is your vision for the animals of the community?

SS: My vision is quite simple – that pets are valued, by their people, as loved family members for their entire lives.

BB: What are the most pressing needs you see for animals in our community?

SS: Our community needs affordable veterinary care for low-income pet owners. We routinely hear that veterinary care is out of reach for many pet owners and, though they deeply love their pet, they are often faced with heart-wrenching decisions due to a lack of resources.

BB: How can people help the animals in our community?

SS: Animal shelters cannot tackle our community animal issues alone. Whether you are a pet owner or not, we need you to support the efforts of our animal shelters and rescue groups. Foster, adopt or volunteer – it will go a long way to providing a sustainable, pet-friendly community and, most importantly, you will be helping to save lives!

Bonney Brown is co-executive director of Maddie’s Pet Project in Nevada and president of Humane Network. You can reach Bonney at bbrown@humanenetwork.org. Shyanne Schull is the director of Washoe County Regional Animal Services, washoecounty.us/animal.

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