Reinstate Vanessa Cowie
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Our beloved Animal Services Director, Vanessa Cowie, has recently been suspended, pending her termination.
In a move that surprised many people, including shelter staff and Volunteers, Vanessa Cowie was escorted from her office at the Salina Animal Shelter on August 15. She is suspended from all of her duties, pending a hearing with Interim Salina City Manager Mike Schrage.
The animal shelter is under the umbrella of Salina Parks and Recreation (which is questionable). The department head Cowie reports to is Salina Parks and Recreation Director Chris Cotten.
According to witnesses and those involved, this is why we believe that an injustice has occurred:
Cotten claims that Cowie exceeded her authority by responding to the Saline County Sheriff's request for assistance when it seized scores of animals that appeared to be neglected. She was then accused of being "insubordinate" for insisting that Kansas Statutes provided a means for recovering the costs of boarding the seized animals, and offering to bring in outside attorneys experienced in animal welfare cases to shield the city from that liability. Instead of following Cowie's lead, the City of Salina got stuck with the bill. Shortly thereafter, Cotton, cut off all the shelter's spending authority, going as far as to cancel Cowie's city credit card. The Animal Shelter was briefly unable to buy animal food or pay for their spay/neuter surgeries. When Cowie received inquiries from a city commissioner, she as accused of violating the chain of command rule, even though she did not initiate the original contact. Cotten then audited all of Cowie's expenditures over the last 2-3 years. Nothing amiss was found.
We have received this statement from Schrage: "I am not able to respond to inquiries about personnel matters. The City of Salina’s Personnel Manual very deliberately and specifically spells out a process by which an employee’s privacy, employment and due process rights are considered. It would be inappropriate for me or any other City employee or official with duties related to a topic to respond to or engage in public conversations about personnel matters, in whatever forum that discussion might be taking place.”
Cowie first started at the animal shelter as a volunteer in 2011. She was hired as an animal control officer in 2012. She briefly left in 2013, but returned in 2014 as the shelter manager.
The recommendation, by Cotten, for her termination is questionable, considering her excellent track record of accomplishments and successes at the Salina Animal Services and in the community. Her list of accomplishments include (but are not limited to):
- Transitioning the facility from a high-kill shelter to a 'No Kill' Shelter, meaning that over 90% of all intakes results in live outcomes.
- Securing almost half a million dollars in grant funding
- Securing funding for, and overseeing the construction of Barkley Park, a community Dog Park.
- Negotiating live outcomes for Pit Bulls breeds, which prior to her management, were euthanized based on breed alone.
- Expanding the kitten foster program to eliminate the automatic euthanasia of underage kittens. Over 400 kittens are fostered annually by Salina citizens.
- Developing a farm cat program and TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) program to lower the amount of over-populated feral cats in the community
- Starting a relationship with Kansas State University which saves the shelter $50,000 annually, and lecturing to KSU students twice a month for the last three years on best practice animal sheltering.
Cowie has also been recognized, nationally, the last 2 consecutive years as one of the Top 35 Leaders in the industry by the Petco Foundation. All these accomplishments have been achieved in the very short 4 years that Cowie has been manager. Besides all the accomplishments listed above, is the endless list of things she does behind the scenes.
We are asking for your support in bringing attention to this matter, and bringing to light the things that are happening in the shadows at the City of Salina. If you support the Salina Animal Services and their amazing manager, Vanessa Cowie, please sign our petition.
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