MIAMI COUNTY — When she first came on as the director of the Miami County Animal Shelter in 2010, Marcia Doncaster knew she wanted to change the public perception of the shelter.
Now as she plans for her retirement this summer, Doncaster feels like she’s made positive changes for the shelter.
“The biggest thing was that I wanted to change the perception of the animal shelter — instead of the dog pound, become the animal shelter,” she said. “I started working with the public doing appearances, adopt-a-thons, that type of thing. Started just creating a better atmosphere for customers and working on getting adoptions up.”
Doncaster, a North Dayton native, moved to the county about 28 years ago. When she was hired as the director of the county’s animal shelter, the lifelong animal lover was able to combine her background in administrative work with her experience raising and training German Shepherds and Arabian horses in her work at the shelter.
In her eight years at the helm, Doncaster presided over the remodeling of the shelter, which was built in the 1970s. The updates included pens that let the dogs get out in the fresh air, as well as a fenced outdoor area where prospective adopters can take the dogs out to play.
“When I started, the adoption rate was right around 65 percent. At the end of 2013, our overall adoption or return to owner rate was 100 percent for the year,” she said.
Doncaster said she also worked to build a new relationship with the community, strengthening working relationships with local law enforcement, holding more adoption events and going on local radio shows.
“I wanted to change that perception. This is not a bad place for dogs. This is not where dogs go to die. This is where dogs go to find their forever home,” she stressed.
Doncaster noted that although many people would prefer county animal shelters to be no-kill shelters, she said that it’s not always possible. Sometimes animals that come to the shelter are too sick, injured or aggressive to be adopted, she said. The shelter also provides euthanasia services to residents who bring in their pets.
She also doesn’t want the community to see animal control officers as “dog catchers,” which she said makes her think of cartoonish villains.
“We do pick up strays, that is part of our job. But we either find that dog’s owner or we find a better home for it,” she said.
She also implemented a volunteer program, which she said has been very popular. People age 16 and up can sign up to work with the animals and help keep them socialized.
“The more socialized they are, the easier they are to adopt,” she said.
Doncaster will retire from the shelter in August and said she has no plans for her future free time.
“People ask, ‘What’s the first thing you’re going to do?’ I say, ‘Sleep in,’” she said. “But my husband and I like to travel, so we’ll pack the dogs up and off we go.”
Doncaster doesn’t show horses anymore, but said she’ll always have dogs, including one adopted from the Miami County Animal Shelter.
“I adopted one from here, duh,” she said, adding that everyone who works at the shelter has “at least one from here.”
Reach Cecilia Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.