Interim Cheyenne Animal Shelter CEO Sue Casteneda

Interim Cheyenne Animal Shelter CEO Sue Casteneda comforts a cat at the shelter. 

Sue Casteneda became the Cheyenne Animal Shelter’s fourth CEO in 13 months last Friday.  Her official title is Interim CEO, and she said all options are on the table as far as applying to become the permanent CEO.

The turmoil at the top began in September last year, when a Shelter employee was bitten by a dog. The incident was traumatic to the employee, and the next day, then-CEO Bob Fecht took to the dog outside and used pepper spray on it in what he said was a “training exercise” for shelter staff.  The dog was euthanized 24 hours later.

The incident sparked outrage in the community and led to protests, including calls for Fecht’s resignation by Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr.  He resigned a few weeks later, and was replaced by Phil Kiner. Kiner served on the Shelter’s Board of Directors, and was the president of the Cheyenne Animal Shelter Foundation at the time.  The Board then conducted a nationwide search, and wound up promoting Animal Control Office Don Kremer to Animal Shelter CEO.

Kremer stepped down last week, and is resuming his former position with Animal Control. “I thought I had the ability to do it all, but I didn’t,” said Kremer according to published reports.

“Don loved doing missionary work, but this job would not let him go to Africa for three weeks at a time,” said Casteneda.  

Castenada led the capital campaign that raised the money to build the shelter, and served as its CEO from August 2004 to 2006.  Most recently, she has been working with the Cheyenne Animal Shelter Foundation.  “I’m kind of the natural person to go into this, at least for now,” she said. “I know the donors. I know the shelter. I know the employees,” she added.

The Shelter is still working on repairing its reputation and relationship with the community and civic leaders. A consultant was brought in to examine the shelter’s operations, and most of the consultant’s recommendations have been put into place. One example was shutting down the drop off boxes. Previously, residents could drop their animals off after hours. The consultant recommended ending that practice, and the shelter shut down the drop off area. Now, residents have to make an appointment and fill out some paperwork before they can turn animals over to the shelter.

“It was less convenient for the public, but in the long run, we’re here for the animals and it’s better for the animals,” said Marketing Director Haylee Chenchar.

The paperwork that people fill out includes information such as animal allergies or behavioral issues, which means staff will be able to provide better care.

The Shelter is trying to move past the pepper spray incident, but Casteneda admits that it’s an ongoing process. “I think we’ll always work on it as long as people remember it,” she said.

“We’re so grateful for the public support and people recognizing that we’re trying to really make a difference here and going beyond what happened here last year,” added Chenchar.