Loves her job. . . and loves her pet friends

As the communicator for the Humane Society, Angela Speed of Port Washington gets the word out about the organization that cares for animals dear to her heart
Ozaukee Press staff

Angela Speed of Port Washington has had 20 jobs since high school.

She hopes she never has another one.

The Cedarburg native loves working as vice president of communications at the Wisconsin Humane Society, so much that she had to focus on her work-life balance to avoid looking like a workaholic in the eyes of her five-member staff.

While there is no typical day for Speed — “Thank goodness,” she said — she usually works a normal Monday-to-Friday week, occasionally on weekends and responds to emergencies such as hoarding cases.

The society is a natural fit for Speed, who grew up in a family that fostered kittens for the old Humane Society building on Highway W. Speed’s introduction to pets was as varied as her workplaces since high school. She had a pet rabbit named Shadow, a dog, parakeet, hermit crabs and a gerbil named Katie.

Speed grew up wanting to be a photographer and writer for National Geographic.

“I sort of have that job now. Every single animal comes to us with a story. It’s a privilege to be able to tell their stories,” she said.

She earned a degree in art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as an admissions counselor for the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, where she met her husband, a professor at the school.

Speed ended up going back to school and earned a master’s in journalism from Marquette University.

“I’ve always had a lot of curiosity about the world,” she said.

She got a job as a grant writer for the Medical College of Wisconsin, and her writing background helped land a spot at the Humane Society as a public relations specialist in 2006. Speed worked her way up to her current role.

Speed’s team is in charge of all communication from the organization’s five shelters in Saukville, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay and Racine. Three members work at the Milwaukee shelter and one each at the  Sturgeon Bay and Green Bay shelters. Speed has offices in Milwaukee and Saukville.

“We’ve gotten really good at Skype meetings and teleconferencing,” she said.

Using print, website, social media and other media help engage the public in what services and programs the organization offers as well as builds support for a $10 million annual budget.

“We have to inspire that,” Speed said.

She is pleasantly surprised by the regular support of the community, whenever an animal is in need.

“It floors me when we have 5-year-olds accepting donations for cats instead of birthday presents,” she said.

While Speed loves animals, they aren’t what have kept her at the organization the last 12 years. It’s her coworkers and company culture.

“You come to work for a Humane Society for the animals and you stay because of the people. There’s a person behind every single animal,” she said.

“I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”

The culture, she said, is one of change and professional development.

“There’s such a security in knowing you can take a risk,” she said.

Some of the society’s biggest initiatives have paid off. In 2016, it removed breeds from its dog profiles. The science, Speed said, shows that 1% of a dog’s genes determines what it looks like and “we were wrong most of the time,” she said.

That move made for a different approach in adoptions.

“It really opened up better communications and helped us make better matches,” Speed said.

A few other big changes involved removing barriers. The foster program was expanded to include neonatal kittens that five years ago would have been euthanized since the society doesn’t have the resources to care for them.

“Although we lose some, we’re saving a lot more than we used to,” she said.

Hundreds of foster families care for 3,500 animals, “which is like having another shelter.”

Those totals have doubled in the past two years since the shelter made it easier to become a foster family. Applicants just watch a video, fill out an application and get put on a list. They get to choose what kind of pets they foster.

Adoptions have been made easier as well. Housing checks aren’t done anymore, and people in need of pet food may pick up supplies without question. The organization doesn’t ask to see proof of financial hardship.

Work can be difficult, seeing animals in dire situations. And saying goodbye when they’re adopted is never easy.

“You certainly get attached, but it’s never a bad day when they walk out that door,” she said.

Speed said the organization annually serves 8,000 children through several programs, and it handles 40,000 animals. Dogs remain on the adoption floor for an average of 1.5 days. For cats, it’s three days.

 She remembers several, including a grey puffball kitten that was thrown out of a car and brought to a shelter. She received email inquires from interested parties for weeks. On the day it went up for adoption, a man and his daughter arrived at 3 a.m. and waited nine hours in the parking lot to be first in line to take it home.

Speed said she still receives email updates about Buffy the 15-pound cat.

Speed said hoarding cases have increased, including one case a decade ago in which 120 cats were found at a house a couple of blocks from where she grew up.

“We were able to save almost all of the cats,” she said, adding the society can mobilize a team in 30 minutes to respond to emergencies.

With five shelters, the organization has the ability to move animals around as space is needed.

The society has also tried to keep the pet population in check. While spay/neuter rates are higher in middle class and affluent areas, the society went door-to-door in a low-income area of Milwaukee offering the services for free. The rate went from 9% to 54%.

Outside of work, Speed spends time with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, and the family’s 130-pound Great Pyrenees Olaf and black lab-boxer mix Sweety Pie, and cats Trivet and Gizzard.

The family likes to go boating, swimming and traveling, and continues to explore Port after moving from Milwaukee three years ago.

Speed likes Port as a great place to raise children and walk dogs, and praises the community’s dog owners for picking up after their furry friends.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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