A large crowd gathered Monday afternoon to support embattled Salina Animal Services Manager Vanessa Cowie.
Over 50 people gathered at the Salina City County Building at 3:30 in the afternoon prior to the regularly scheduled Salina City Commission Meeting displaying signs and chanting in support of the suspended manager of the Salina Animal Shelter.
Cowie was abruptly placed on paid administrative leave last week and suspended from all of her duties, pending a hearing with Interim Salina City Manager Mike Schrage which could end with her being fired.
As the 4:00 meeting time neared, the crowd which had grown even larger, went inside. It was standing room only, with supporters flowing out into the hall. Many of them spoke.
Among the multiple people who spoke were Kansas State Senator Randal Hardy. Hardy told KSAL News he was speaking out in support of Cowie as a state senator, a former Salina City Commissioner, and a concerned citizen.
Dr. Brad Crauer from Kansas State University spoke. Crauer, who developed and oversees the KSU Shelter Medicine Program, said he works with shelters from across the country. He said Salina has one of the best he works with because of Cowie, and her leadership.
Maggie Gillam, a long-time shelter volunteer spoke about Cowie’s selfless dedication to the shelter, its mission, and the animals.
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.
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.
Supporters of embattled Salina Animal Services Manager Vanessa Cowie have gathered at the Salina City County Building. Many plan on speaking at the Salina City Commission Meetimg at 4:00.
Posted by Newsradio 1150 KSAL on Monday, August 20, 2018