For Patrick Carroll, serving as the executive director of the Delaware Humane Association (DHA) is akin to coming full circle since his days as an undergraduate student majoring in animal science in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).
Carroll started out as a pre-veterinary student before deciding that it just wasn’t for him and transitioned into a career more focused on 4-H and youth development. “I got a work study job with New Castle County 4-H and I kind of fell in love with 4-H and youth development and education, so I wanted to be a 4-H agent,” he said.
Carroll worked with Mark Manno, a Cooperative Extension specialist who he said “really helped me a lot — just gave me great experiences and mentored me, and I really owe my love for 4-H to him.”
Carroll noted how ironic it is that even though he spent a lot of time working with non-profit organizations and youth development, he still ended up doing what he initially went to college for — working with animals.
Of CANR in general, Carroll said that even though he didn’t end up becoming a vet, he felt that the college helped prepare him by giving him a combination of hands-on experience — working with animals ranging from cows to chickens — and a great classroom atmosphere.
“The thing I love most about CANR is that UD is a big university, so you have the big university feel, but then on the other hand, being in CANR was a more tight-knit and closer community. So I really do think that it’s the best of both worlds. I really enjoyed the faculty and the other students. I had a great experience.”
After graduating from UD, Carroll went to Penn State where he received a master’s degree in extension education. After a four-year stint in Ohio working with 4-H, Carroll decided to move back East and after working at a few different jobs he was informed about an opening for a development director at the Delaware Humane Association.
“I came here as the development director first in 2006 and I was the development director for four years,” said Carroll. “Then our executive director left and I became the acting director and applied to be the executive director, and so I’ve been the executive director for three years.”
As the executive director, Carroll said that his biggest duties include strategy and fundraising, especially now as DHA prepares to build a new facility. After looking for a new home, DHA decided that the best thing to do was stay where they were and upgrade.
Having raised enough money to do so, the organization plans to break ground on the new facility in the spring, which according to Carroll will be the first new animal shelter built in northern Delaware in a long time.
There are other aspects to Carroll’s job, as well. “We have about 30 employees so there’s a lot of facets — there’s a veterinary facet, there’s a facility, there’s fundraising, there’s animal care,” said Carroll.
As a no kill shelter, something that Carroll said is becoming more common in Delaware, a state which has a strong no-kill movement, DHA can house up to 40 dogs and 100 cats.
Carroll said that they do not like to exceed this number for health reasons. “We’re not huge — some of the other shelters are much bigger than us or they have more animals than they can really house — but we try to be very responsible about housing a number that we can manage for health reasons. If we had more animals than we really should, sickness tends to increase.”
By being a no-kill organization, however, Carroll said that medical costs are high. “That’s a big cost of ours. We’re all about adoption, moving animals forward; we’re not a sanctuary, we don’t want anyone to stay here for a long period of time and the first goal of our mission is to be a temporary shelter.”
As for his favorite part about the job, Carroll said there are many, but he especially loves getting to see all of the new dogs when they first arrive.
“We get dogs in two main ways. We have owner surrenders, which is when someone has to give up a dog for various reasons and we take them in. And the other way is we transfer them from other shelters, mainly from the Kent County SPCA,” explained Carroll.
“We usually bring about 7-8 dogs at a time, and so one of my favorite things is when they get back and we open the van doors and you see all these faces of new dogs. It’s just nice to see them get into our doors and we take good care of them and find them a good home.”
Carroll also said that he enjoys connecting people with a pet and creating a life-long connection that way.
“It isn’t even really in my ‘official’ job description but my favorite part is really linking people to pets. I spend a lot of time with people who are looking for a cat or a dog or they’re referred to me or are my friends or family or people I went to high school with or college or whatever. It has major dividends because it connects people to the organization, and if they have a great experience and they love this dog or this cat they adopted they end up being a supporter and coming to our events and they get it because they’ve experienced it firsthand,” said Carroll.
For more information on DHA, visit the website.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Danielle Quigley
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