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Shelter Manager Suspended, Pending Termination

Todd PittengerAugust 16, 2018

Salina’s Animal Services Manager has been placed on paid administrative leave pending recommended termination.

In a move that surprised many people, including shelter staff, Vanessa Cowie was escorted from her office at the Salina Animal Shelter on Wednesday afternoon. She is suspended from all of her duties, pending a hearing with Interim Salina City Manager Mike Schrage.

The City of Salina’s Personnel Policy provides that when a supervisor or department head recommends a disciplinary action that exceeds a reprimand or five day suspension, city manager approval is required.

The animal shelter is under the umbrella of Salina Parks and Recreation. The department head Cowie reports to is Salina Parks and Recreation Director Chris Cotton.

The city’s standard procedure in cases like this is for the employee to be placed on paid administrative leave until they are given an opportunity for a hearing with the City Manager and a decision is made.

KSAL News reached out to both Cowie and the City of Salina.

Cowie said “It’s against policy for me to elaborate and I respect the process. It is upsetting. I hope a fast resolution can be determined, so that I can return to my role.”

Interim Salina City Manager Mike Schrage said in a statement ““I am not able to respond to inquiries about personnel matters.  The City of Salina’s Personnel Manual very deliberately and specifically spells out a process by which an employee’s privacy, employment and due process rights are considered.  It would be inappropriate for me or any other City employee or official with duties related to a topic to respond to or engage in public conversations about personnel matters, in whatever forum that discussion might be taking place.”

Cowie first started at the animal shelter as a volunteer in 2011. She was hired as an animal control officer in 2012. She briefly left in 2013, but returned in 2014 as the shelter manager.

Cowie has made many positive contributions, and secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money during her time as manager. Some of her accomplishments include:

  • Transitioning the facility to a no-kill shelter, meaning that over 90 percent of the animals it receives are saved.
  • Securing almost half a million dollars in grant funding to remodel the aging facility and start a low cost spay / neuter program.
  • Securing funding for Barkley Park.
  • Negotiating live outcomes for pit bulls instead of euthanasia.
  • Expanding the kitten foster program to eliminate the automatic euthanasia of underage kittens. Over 400 kittens are fostered annually by Salina citizens.
  • Developing a farm cat program and trap/neuter/return program to eliminate the automatic euthanasia of un-socialized cats.
  • Starting relationship with Kansas State University which saves the shelter $50,000 annually,  and lecturing to KSU students twice a month for the last three years on best practice animal sheltering.

Cowie has been recognized the last 2 years consecutively as one of the top 35 leaders in the industry by the Petco Foundation.


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