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Kimberly Laska, executive director of Heritage Humane Society, always had cats growing up, but this summer she adopted her first dog, a Morkie named Lexi.
“I love that she gets excited when I come home from work,” Laska said. “She’s amazing. She’s become a part of our family, and goes wherever we go. I love how she has that unconditional love. It was meant to be.”
It’s that kind of feeling she hopes all individuals experience when visiting Heritage Humane Society to find the perfect pet.
Laska has been at the helm at Heritage Humane Society since 2012, following previous work at Busch Gardens and Avalon.
“I heard about the job opening and felt that I could make an impact and a difference,” Laska said. “When I came here, I fell in love and could see myself being here for a long time.”
As executive director, Laska oversees all aspects of the shelter, from fundraising and marketing to hiring team members and certifying that operations comply with state regulations.
“I also work to ensure every animal here is cared for in a responsible, caring, compassionate way,” Laska said. “I want to ensure that we are running a program that we all can be proud of.”
While Heritage Humane Society houses mostly dogs and cats, other animals also take up residence there from time to time, including hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, birds, fish, and pigs.
“Last year, we had a rooster,” Laska said. “That was interesting. We adapt to whatever animal we have — as long as it is considered a companion animal or is brought in by Animal Control officers.”
More than 1,000 pets were adopted from Heritage Humane Society last year, while more than 200 were returned to their owners or transferred to other shelters.
“We are fortunate enough that our adoption rates are so high,” she said. “I love seeing animals get a second chance. I love seeing the connection between the people who come in here and the animals. It’s like matchmaking.”
Animals brought to the shelter are usually strays or have been surrendered by owners who can no longer keep their pet for numerous reasons. One of Laska’s goals is to assist individuals who may be struggling with pet care needs so that they can keep their pet at home.
Heritage Humane Society has a program called Kibble Kitchen, which helps needy pet owners by providing pet food, supplies, and resources. In addition, the shelter partners with PETA, which offers spaying and neutering and shots for the animals on a monthly basis.
A staff of 21 employees and more than 200 volunteers works at Heritage Humane Society, helping to clean out cat cages, walk the dogs, and care for animals.
“We have a dedicated group of people here,” said Laska. “We have an awesome team. They are all some of the most passionate and compassionate people I’ve ever had an opportunity to work with. It’s a gift.”
It’s that kind of devotion that helped Heritage Humane Society earn an award as Outstanding Non-Profit of the Year from The Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance in 2015.
“That was a very cool honor,” Laska said. “I think it had a lot to do with our increased awareness and community partnerships.”
Autumn is a busy time for Heritage Humane Society with some of their biggest community fundraisers planned for September. Drool in the Pool at Chickahominy Riverfront Park was held last weekend, while Make Par for Pets Golf Classic will be held on Sept. 19 at Colonial Heritage Golf Club. Heritage Humane Society’s popular Christmas Bazaar, meanwhile, is slated for Dec. 10 at Bruton Parish.
“Community outreach education is a big part of who I am,” Laska said. “I would like for us to have more presence, and to provide more education about what we do for the animals as well as more resources for families. I really think we are contributing to the greater good of our community by being here.”
Read more profiles of local residents in WYDaily’s new section In Our Hometown.