Darin Landrum brings 12 years of experience running animal shelters – including a couple of the larger shelters in the country – to his position as executive director of the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri. His first order of business since taking the reins March 1: tackle the shelter’s $240,000 debt load. A former canine officer in the Air Force, Landrum comes to town from an executive position at a shelter in McAllen, Texas.

Turnaround Specialist
“I’ve run shelters of all sizes – everything from a no-kill [shelter] to two of the largest single intake facilities in the country. I’ve dealt with as many as 50,000 animals, down to as few as 1,000 per year. Mainly what I’ve done in the past (is work at) shelters that have been in trouble, shelters where staff is lacking in training or shelters that have a deficit that they just can’t figure out. With 50,000, probably the largest animal intake facility in the country is the Animal Foundation in Las Vegas. It actually had been shut down, and I went in there and revamped the operation. The second largest was probably 20 minutes from the Mexican border at Palm Valley Animal Center, with 40,000 animals per year.”

Finding a Home
“My wife was tired of moving. She’s ready to graduate in May – she goes to Texas A&M in Kingsville – and we were looking for a good place to raise a family. I’m into hunting and fishing, and that played a part in it. … I have quite a few friends in (the Humane Society of the United States). I told them what I was looking for and they gave me a list of shelters to look through that had positions open. … Usually when I went into a job, I saw it as the next project in building my career. Now that I’m a little bit older – I have three kids – it is time to really call one place home.”

Seatbelt Sign
“I was a canine officer in the U.S. Air Force. When I got out of the military, I was looking for something that would keep me occupied for a while until I figured out what I wanted to do. I put in for an adoption counselor job at the Gulf Coast Humane Society. It’s a funny story. I went in there and saw 50 or 60 people filling out applications for the one position. I said, ‘I’m not going to do this.’ I went back, got in my truck. My mom had just passed away, and I was in my truck and thinking, ‘There are just too many people.’ At that moment, my seatbelt popped off. I took that as a sign. I went in there and filled out the application and was hired the next day. To me, I’m meant to do what I do. I moved up fairly fast. I soaked up everything like a sponge. I spent time as an adoption counselor, then a kennel supervisor, then a shelter supervisor and then director of operations within six months. I’ve been moving forward ever since.”

Community Burden
“We get in about 4,500 animals per year. We adopt out a little more than half of those. (The rest) will go to rescues, some will go to foster homes and, unfortunately, because of aggressive, sickness or behaviors, the rest are euthanized. A lot of people look negatively at shelters that euthanize, but it is not the shelter’s fault. It is not Animal Control’s fault – it’s the community’s fault. Pet overpopulation is a community problem, and we’re here to help with that. And the only way it is going to get fixed is through a community solution. We’re never going to adopt our way out of this problem. There aren’t enough homes for the pets that come into our shelter, so long-term solutions need to be looked at.”

Business Approach
“In my first year, I want to erase our $240,000 deficit. While we are an animal shelter, we are a business, too. … On May 1, with owner surrenders … there will be a fee associated with that. There’s no fee now; we ask for a donation. If somebody picks up a stray out of the kindness of their heart, we will always help with that, but with owner surrenders, it’s different. They are asking us to take on their responsibility. … With every adoption, we lose money. With this being a business, we have to take in money so that we can continue to do great things and have great programs.”