Q&A with the new animal shelter director

In the summer of 2019, the Orcas Animal Protection Society announced the hiring of its new director, Kristina Snyder. Below is a Q&A with her about her first nine months on the job.

Due to COVID-19, the shelter is closed to the public at this time, however, staff members are still caring for the animals and the community. Call the shelter at 360-376-6777 to release a pet into their care, or to claim a pet that may have been brought into the shelter as a stray. If you are looking to add a new member to your family, view their adoptable pets on the website and complete an adoption request.

Sounder: What is your background in shelter work?

KS: Prior to coming to Orcas Animal Protection Society, I was the executive director at PAWS of Grays Harbor, a high-volume animal shelter in Aberdeen, Washington.

With the help of a dedicated team of employees and volunteers, we transformed the shelter from a high-kill facility to a no-kill facility while also educating the public on the importance of responsible pet ownership. During this time, I supervised and completed a large expansion and remodel that more than doubled the size of the facility. The original building was donated to the organization in the early 1980s and often housed as many as 80 cats and 15 dogs. The remodel vastly improved the lives of the animals by providing larger kennels, creating an inviting atmosphere to the public, and adding a much-needed air filtration system that reduced the spread of disease in the animal population and reduced offensive odors for the visiting public.

As part of a continuing effort to create a “no-kill” Washington state I was able to build a network of Washington State shelters that we worked with regularly, transferring animals from highly populated shelters into areas more in need of adoptable animals.

Sounder: What drew you to this work?

KS: I had been employed in the software industry for more than 20 years as a usability designer and front-end developer before getting involved in animal rescue. Towards the end of that career, I became an independent contractor working from my home office. One day, I realized I was spending too much time in front of my computer and rarely leaving my house, so I began volunteering as a dog walker at the local animal shelter. I found that I loved working with the animals and soon realized how vital the non-profit sector is within a community. So, I retired from the software industry and put all my focus into this labor of love.

I love seeing the positive impact we as people can make on the lives of animals in need. Watching an animal learn to trust again and finding that perfect family that can commit to loving and caring for it the rest of its life is truly a beautiful gift.

Sounder: How did you hear about the Orcas job?

KS: I learned about the job at Orcas APS though Suzanne Lyons at Orcas Arts and Gifts. In May of last year, my husband Cameron and I were visiting the island to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We met Suzanne and her family at their shop, where I mentioned in conversation that I managed an animal shelter. She let me know that Orcas APS was looking to hire a new director and sent me over to meet Marsha Waunch. Marsha gave me a tour of the shelter and allowed me to see what a truly special place Orcas Animal Protection Society is. I knew that day that this was where I wanted to be.

Sounder: How have the first nine months been going?

KS: It has definitely been an adjustment. Getting settled into a new home, integrating into a new community and building new relationships can be daunting, but I feel blessed to be doing it in such a wonderful place as Orcas Island. I have been able to meet and work with some remarkable people and I appreciate how welcoming everyone has been.

Sounder: What goals do you have for the organization?

KS: My goals for Orcas APS:

1. To provide a safe place for stray animals while they wait to be reunited with their owner.

2. To provide a safe place for pets when owners are no longer able to care for them for whatever reason.

3. To place shelter animals in permanent homes that can best meet the need of each individual pet.

4. To provide low-cost spay and neutering for dogs and cats in our community to reduce the number of unwanted pets and undesirable behaviors.

5. To transfer in dogs and cats from high volume shelters in Washington State to help reduce the overall euthanasia numbers in our state and provide adoptable animals to our community.

6. To educate the community on responsible pet care through workshops and classes.

7. To educate the youth in our community about being good pet stewards through our youth volunteer program.

8. To provide a welcoming space for both the community and visitors to come together enjoying the shelter pets.

9. To listen to our community about how the shelter can best serve them. If you have ideas on what we can do better or how we can better serve our community, please reach out. I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me by email at kristina@orcaspets.org.

Sounder: What do you do for fun?

KS: I am a Pacific Northwest girl through and through. I enjoy exploring in the woods, fishing with family, beachcombing, and just hanging out with Cameron and the dogs.

Sounder: What pets do you have at home?

KS: We have two dogs. Niko is a 15-year-old Black Lab mix, and Loki Lou is a 7-year-old Belgian Shepherd. Both are rescues. Loki was brought to PAWS of Grays Harbor as a stray at six months old. He was born feral and had been running the railroad tracks in a nearby town where people had been trying to catch him for quite some time. When he arrived at the shelter, he was so scared he would not let anyone touch him. I made the decision to take him home and work with him until he was ready to be adopted. Our other dog Niko, who normally doesn’t like other animals, took to him almost immediately and they became inseparable. Niko instinctively ended up doing most of the training and Loki eventually learned to trust us. He has been part of our family ever since.