Defending McKamey Animal Center

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On Friday a series of articles were published that portrayed McKamey Animal Center and its staff in a very negative light. I have personally worked with McKamey as a volunteer since its founding and have seen the shelter expand and improve under the leadership of Karen Walsh. The staff of McKamey is an amazing group of people who sacrifice family time, undergo financial hardship, and, recently, undergo intense media scrutiny in order to fight for the right of the animals they care for so dearly. 

McKamey had a rocky start due to an intense lack of leadership and a clear vision. Its first executive director was a wonderful woman who was not supported by the board on several issues and felt forced to discontinue her work. From my understanding, Karen Walsh was then selected by the board to take over leadership of the shelter because of her extensive experience in the veterinary field as well as her impeccable ability to take a vision and turn it into reality.

From talking to the staff during my work with McKamey, I have come to see a level of respect and awe that has never before been seen by me in the workplace. Those who work for Karen Walsh stand in awe of her ability to balance her time as a loving wife and mother and a dedicated advocate for animal welfare in not only the Chattanooga community but also the state of Tennessee as a whole. This same staff were in attendance last year during the Chattanooga Woman of Distinction ceremony in which Mrs. Walsh was nominated for the award by the city of Chattanooga and its residents.

Something that the articles failed to mention was Mrs. Walsh's work with the Tennessee state legislature. I would recommend that the people who have stated that she merely runs an animal shelter with no experience in this field do a little more research on Mrs. Walsh's current resume and past experience as an executive director for other shelters.  

Also, to address Herb Montgomery's statement : "In fact, it makes me wonder exactly what you do to deserve that salary, not to mention bonuses every year." I know for a fact that Mrs. Walsh travels to many veterinary conferences in order to present information about McKamey's success as well as to discuss ways to improve struggling shelters around the nation. At these conferences, Mrs. Walsh not only helps others but also learns ways to improve shelter policy through building upon her knowledge base. These conferences are funded by grants that Mrs. Walsh has sought out and earned for McKamey in order to allow herself and staff members to travel and build upon their skill set.  

Additionally, to those who question her qualifications as a mere "veterinary technician," allow me to bring to your attention the fact that Mrs. Walsh has served as a professor of imaging in the Veterinary Program at Chattanooga State Community College for many years. She is a valued member of their highly selective teaching staff and is an asset to their teaching program.  

In regard to her salary, the amount paid to Karen Walsh is determined by the Board of Directors based on her extensive knowledge, qualification, and her performance given the unending hours that she works because of the nature of the business. It is my understanding that Mrs. Walsh is incredibly grateful for the salary she earns and I have never heard her complaining nor advertising her salary like these articles have taken the liberty to do. So, to those who question her salary, Mrs. Walsh is not paid for the degree that she earned, but for the job she does and the extensive work she does outside of the shelter to promote both the shelter and responsible pet ownership all in the name of animal welfare.

In regard to the comment by Ms. Keith that "adoption can take well over an hour," McKamey's adoption process is very in depth as the shelter works to ensure that all animals go to a responsible, loving forever home. This process works to reduce the population of abandoned animals that the shelter was created to correct. McKamey wants to ensure that every animal adopted remains with their family and is not forced to return to a shelter environment because of the stress inflicted upon and the psychological well being of the animal. This process also ensures that shelter funds can be used to help future animals when the ones adopted remain in permanent, stable homes.  

I would like to refer to Ms. Hearte's article which states that she and many other Chattanoogans have found "wonderful, healthy animals" at the shelter and were able to work with a "wonderful staff" during the adoption process. I wish more articles like those of Ms. Hearte were published in amongst these uninformed, biased opinions that shed a negative light on the shelter and the unwavering dedication of Mrs. Walsh.

In regard to the comments connecting Mrs. Walsh with the expulsion of Carol Goodman from the board, it should be mentioned that she does not hold a position on the board. She is simply a liaison between the Board of Directors and McKamey. Any decision regarding board members and their continuation was not made or influenced by Mrs. Walsh. These decisions are at the boards discretion and have little to do with Mrs. Walsh. 

In conclusion, I believe that many of the articles that I am writing in response to convey inaccurate information and extreme unprofessionalism. Mrs. Walsh and the staff that she represents are extreme assets to the animal community here in Chattanooga. They also serve as an inspiration to shelters nationwide. The allegations brought against both Mrs. Walsh and her staff are unfounded and inaccurate. Mrs. Walsh strives constantly to advocate for animal welfare and has dedicated her life to this cause. Her position as executive director is one that she has chosen to keep despite the adversity she has faced. Mrs. Walsh chooses to face articles and media attacks such as the ones I am responding to because of the passion she feels towards helping the animals. Honestly, articles like this are a waste of media resources and do not benefit the community as it merely tarnishes the reputation of hardworking, dedicated individuals such as Mrs. Walsh and all of the staff at McKamey Animal Center.

Page Williams


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