After several sources within Metro Government and animal welfare groups leaked to WFPL that the city had interviewed two candidates to take over Metro Animal Services permanently, Mayor Greg Fischer quickly announced his selection for a new permanent director Tuesday afternoon.
From the mayor’s office:
Justin Scally, of Washington D.C., currently is manger of the Puppy Mill Task Force for the Humane Society, where he supervises and manages the agency’s national effort to combat illegal animal operations. He conducts investigations in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies and deploys rescue teams to save dogs being bred in puppy mills. He also responds to national disasters, such as the recent tornado in Joplin, Missouri and the wildfires in Arizona, to help rescue pets and animals in danger.
He is the former director of the Wayne County Department of Animal Control in Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he helped construct a new $2 million animal adoption education center.
Earlier Tuesday, sources told WFPL two candidates were interviewed by a 6-member selection panel before turning their recommendation over to the mayor. Fischer personally interviewed the 25-year-old Scally and Beckey J. Reiter, Executive Director of Boone County Animal Control in northern Kentucky.
But the mayor’s office did not return repeated calls for confirmation until after it released its pick a few days ahead of schedule.
The embattled city department has been without a permanent director since December 2009, when former director Dr. Gilles Meloche resigned amid allegations of animal torture and sexual harassment. Since then, the agency has gone through a series of interim directors and continued controversy over mismanagement and animal treatment.
In January, Mayor Greg Fischer launched a national search for a new director and a review of the department, which resulted in a scathing report. After the city judged the field of candidates were inadequate, Fischer then moved to privatize animal services, however, only one bid was received and the administration rejected the proposal.
The mayor praised the Maryland native as a department leader who will bring change to the agency.
“Justin is the exact leader we need to transform Metro Animal Services to make it the best animal agency in America,” Fischer said in a statement. “He’s bright, he’s experienced and he’s compassionate—and passionate—about animals.”
But critics have already jumped on the selection and local animal welfare advocates blasted the decision due to Scally’s past affiliation with HSUS.
However, Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter says Scally will bring innovation and a new energy to the agency, adding critics should give him a chance
“Anyone who is criticizing him now they should hold their breath because the mayor made a very deliberate decision, he interviewed Mr. Scally. We did a lot of research into his background. We talked to his employers. Everyplace he’s gone, he has excelled and he’s gone on to the next level,” he says.
For Scally’s resume, go here.