EBR animal shelter director resigns

The Companion Animal Alliance, a nonprofit that took control of East Baton Rouge Parish’s animal shelter last year, lost its third executive director on Tuesday after only seven months at the helm.

Kimberly Sherlaw, who was selected for the CAA via a national search, resigned at about 1 p.m., CAA Board Chair Christel Slaughter said.

Slaughter initially said the decision was “mutual,” but later acknowledged that the board initiated the conversation. She said Sherlaw had implemented several improvements but was not meeting all of the board’s expectations.

“We feel very good about the fact that we’ve had people who have been able to improve the shelter,” Slaughter said. “We’re going to get it right, and we’ve learned a lot along the way.”

Sherlaw could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Paula Schoen, a CAA board member and the president of Friends of the Animals adoption group, will step in temporarily to lead the agency while it searches for permanent leadership, Slaughter said.

Slaughter said one lesson the agency learned is that it needs two people in leadership positions — an executive director to focus on fundraising and adoptions, and an operations manager to oversee the shelter. She said the board has not yet set a deadline for hiring new leaders for the agency.

Sherlaw’s departure comes on the heels of highly publicized complaints made by former employees who alleged in a public letter and in front of the Metro Council that Sherlaw was a poor manager who allowed violations of state laws and veterinary regulations on her watch.

Sherlaw was investigated by the East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control and Enforcement director, who described her management style to the Metro Council last month as “dictatorial.”

The agency’s veterinary practices are also being investigated by the state Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Slaughter said the allegations by employees “put pressure on the situation,” but stopped short of saying that Sherlaw’s resignation was directly related.

“It’s hard to say. There was so much polarization and hearsay. It’s hard to know where reality is,” she said. “We’re not perfect, but what we see are opportunities for the future, and some of those are related to the leader in place.”

Debbie Pearson, the agency’s second director who was fired in September, was one of the former employees who spoke out against Sherlaw.

“I’m happy for the animals of our community and for all the people who worked so hard for their benefit,” Pearson said in response to the news of Sherlaw’s departure. “I hope this means that saner minds have prevailed.”

The Companion Animal Alliance has had trouble securing a leader since it took control of animal shelter services in August 2011 in the hopes of becoming a no-kill shelter.

The agency’s first director Laura Hinze resigned after two months and was replaced by Pearson, who served as an interim director until Sherlaw was hired.

Pearson stayed on in other roles with the agency until she was fired in September.

Slaughter acknowledged that the high turnover for the position may leave the community with a negative perception of the CAA.

“But keeping somebody so we’ll be able to say we’re not turning over the position is not a good idea,” she said. “We don’t have any qualms about saying we know what we want based on the mission of this organization and we’re going to find leaders that agree with that mission.”