Good Shepherd Humane Society’s Cole Wakefield is a new member of The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement—yet already he’s distinguished himself as a thoughtful leader who asks important questions, sees the big picture, and helped lower his agency’s LOS from years to a month.
Name: Cole Wakefield
Member of The Association For Animal Welfare Advancement since: 2020
Organization: Good Shepherd Humane Society
Title: Director of Animal Services
Q&A with Cole Wakefield
The Association: What do you want other members to know about your organization?
Cole Wakefield: We are a small, rural organization in the Arkansas Ozarks. Despite being the central animal welfare organization for our county, we receive no public funding. We operate an Adoption Center with a shelter, and our primary source of funding is our two thrift stores. Our goals are to eliminate pet overpopulation and suffering in our area.
The Association: What do you think is the most important part of your job?
CW: I feel that the most important part of my job is to ensure the health and safety of the animals in my custody while implementing new policies to reduce the number of animals in need. We know that sheltering is not enough, nor can we transport our way out of the problems facing our communities. We must develop proactive solutions. Working on ways to address these needs in my community, and other rural areas, is one of the most important things I am currently doing, or have ever done.
The Association: What’s the biggest challenge your organization is facing right now?
CW: Uncertainty. Which I think is probably big on everyone’s list presently. Things are upside down, and we are not sure how they are going to shake out. It is tempting to want to just hold off on big changes and wait and see what happens, but the can just keeps on getting kicked down the road. We have to remind ourselves, our board, and our community that the longer we wait, the worse the problems get.
The Association: Share a success you and your team have had this year.
CW: Oh gosh….the team here has done so many good things. I came in as part of a leadership change, and we instituted some quick and broad changes. One of the figures I am most proud of is that we have reduced the average length of stay here from years to a month.
The Association: What is keeping you healthy and resilient these days?
CW: I have to make myself take a break…to go see family, sleep in, do chores, something. I have to set some limits with myself. As long as I do that, I stay pretty good.
The Association: What’s one thing—industry-related or not—you learned in the past month?
CW: That I don’t like online expos or conferences. The teams putting these on are working hard and doing great jobs in a tough environment, but no matter how great they do, we just can’t replicate the accidental and informal networking aspect, which I feel is one of the most valuable parts of industry gatherings. I have benefited from some of these online offerings, but I can’t wait to be back in-person.
The Association: What’s your hidden talent?
The Association: If you could choose anyone as a mentor, who would you choose, and why?
CW: There are so many amazing leaders in our industry I can’t just pick one… I feel so privileged to already be able to tap the brains of some insanely smart people. Our industry is so open with knowledge, research and practices; it is awesome.
The Association: How have you benefited from your involvement with The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement?
CW: Through The Association’s Facebook groups, I’ve tossed out questions and concerns and have received responses and advice. Those same groups have connected me with some of the people I mentioned above. Having a non-public, independent forum to ask some of the hard questions is vital to our growth as a movement.
The Association: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to who you were ten years ago?
CW: In ten years you’ll be somewhere you never thought you would be doing something you never thought you would do…. and you’ll love it.
Top photo courtesy Carroll County Newspapers