The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 17, 2014

'A very happy place'

New director takes over county animal shelter

The Commercial-News

---- — Getting the word out to Vermilion County residents this year is the first goal of the new director for the Department of Animal Regulation.

Paige Brown of Rossville took over as head of the county department in mid-November and said she has already set her sights on “marketing, marketing, marketing.”

“Sometimes down here, sometimes this gets forgotten about,” she said of the facility along Catlin-Tilton Road. “We’re out here all by ourselves and that’s the one thing I noticed.”

Brown said she’s already working to get the word out through the department’s website and Facebook page and is planning an open house in the spring to show county residents a number of improvements made at the facility.

She wants the county’s Department of Animal Regulation to be the first option for people when it comes to getting a pet.

“You have to get that in people’s minds that when they’re looking for a pet that we’re down here,” she said. “That’s what I want to do — some community outreach things and some education things explaining why we do what we do.”

Taking on this job is a new opportunity for Brown, who has a degree in education and taught preschool for a number of years. She also worked for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension as the 4-H coordinator before moving on three years ago and opening the Rossville Farmer’s Market with her husband and some partners.

But the business burned in May, giving Brown the chance at this animal regulation director’s position when it opened up.

“It’s a good challenge for me,” she said. “It’s a good fit for me because I love animals, I want to work hard to get them all homes. And I have some management skills that I bring to the table here.”

Since taking over the position, Brown has worked on a number of improvements for the Animal Regulation building, including painting as well as the installation of a new air filtration system for the building. The system helps with smell created by the housed animals.

In the long term, she said the county will consider improvements to the outside play yard to make it more user-friendly for people to come and visit pets. Eventually, Brown said she would have to have a free-roaming cat room where people can sit and watch the cats play together.

In addition to physical improvements, Brown is working to debunk a stigma surrounding the animal regulation department.

“It’s surprising to me some of the ways people look at the shelter — everyone thinks it’s a sad place,” she said. “And it can be sad, but for the most part it’s a very happy place. You’re never going to find someone more willing to talk to you than the dogs and the cats in the shelter.”

Brown said she walks through the animal areas as many as five times each day to interact with the dogs and cats.

“They just love you,” she said. “That’s unconditional love. No matter what, they always love you.”

Brown said she and staff members become connected with the pets very quickly, a benefit that prompts the staff to work even harder to get the animals adopted.