Finding a good fit

SPCA shelter matches animals, families

Jessica Henry, photography by Ellie Bogue

Jessica Henry, photography by Ellie Bogue

If there’s one thing that’s absolutely clear about Jessica Henry, it’s that she loves animals.

It is a good attribute to have for her job: director of the Allen County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on Hanna Street.

Henry’s a natural in the position, and since her arrival the shelter has updated requirements for potential adopting families and for the animals it accepts.

“If we’re going to save as many lives as possible, … we have to be (more) confident in our adopters,” she said. “I believe people are more open to the concept of adoption than they used to be.”

The Allen County SPCA shelter differs from the Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control shelter in that it does not euthanize animals if at all possible. Henry describes her shelter as a “limited admission facility,” saying that “because we do not euthanize for space, we are only able to intake animals when we have room.” The city shelter must take every animal brought to its facility, and those that are not adopted are euthanized.

Since Henry’s arrival in September 2012, adoption rates have increased significantly, nearly tripling since 2011. She expected to have adopted out 1,200 animals by the end of 2013.

Henry is “the caboose” at the end of the 17-member Henry clan, and her brother is Mayor Tom Henry. She said there were always animals around the Henry house growing up, and her parents made it clear that the children were expected to give back to their community. Jessica Henry was working at her brother Jerry’s company, Midwest Pipe & Steel, when their father passed away. At his funeral, many people talked with her about her father’s legacy of giving to the community, and Jessica said she began to wonder what her own legacy would be.

“I knew that I wanted to do something meaningful and impactful with the rest of my life,” she said. “Nothing drives my mission more than to save healthy animals’ lives.”

She applied for the director’s position and was turned down, but when the person who was hired didn’t work out, she applied again and was hired. Now, the shelter offers a food bank for people who can’t afford pet food, adopts animals out daily and has 200 volunteers working to improve the lives of the animals that are turned over to the shelter.

First appeared in the February 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.

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