By Joe Beck -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Stray and abandoned pets are Lavenda Denney's business. She's seeing more of them than ever before since taking over last week as director of the Humane Society of Warren County.
The job represents a change for Denney, 41, who held several leadership posts during the last nine years with the Laurel Center Intervention for Domestic and Sexual Violence in Winchester. Her most recent job was assistant director.
"I was ready to get out of victim's services, and always had a love of animals and felt this was a good fit for me here," she said.
Carol Goddard, humane society board chairwoman, said Denney "really shined over the other applicants we interviewed. She had some good fundraising ideas for what we can do later on."
Goodard said the agency is in "dire need" of more money for its shelter, which is straining under new demands related to the sour economy.
"We're taking in large numbers of dogs and cats because of people losing their homes and not being able to take care of them." she said.
Denney will oversee a paid staff of 11, mostly kennel attendants who help care for a list of animals that sometimes includes horses, pot-bellied pigs, donkeys and goats. The paid staff is supplemented by about 30 volunteers.
Denney said part of her job will involve developing new personnel policies and standard operating procedures to help in recruiting talented employees. The goal, she said, is not to replace the current employees, but to provide "good, clear policies that benefit staff."
"I'm here for stabilization, not to increase turnover," added Denney, who has a degree in psychology from Shenandoah University and a certificate in human resource management.
Ensuring the well-being of animals remains the focus of her job, a mission she takes home every night. A self-described cat lover, she keeps a cat she adopted as a stray 11 years ago and also adopted a dog recently.
"I've had pets all my life, everything from hunting dogs to lap dogs," Denney said. She describes her management philosophy as "hands-on," which has meant helping the staff clean kennels during her first week on the job.
"My philosophy is really simple," Denney said. "Always say 'please' and 'thank you,' and never ask somebody to do something you wouldn't do yourself."