EAGLE — Rich Molinari is thrilled to move to the valley as the new manager of Eagle County Animal Services.
His title of “manager” instead of “director” reflects another new aspect of the county’s organization — animal services is now under the leadership of Eagle County Public Health.
“This is part of the county’s 2012 realignment plan,” said Public Health Director Jennifer Ludwig.
The realignment effort is intended to streamline county leadership and services, grouping similar departments together.
“Animals are related to public health,” Ludwig said. “We work closely with animal services when we have dog bites and things like that, especially in the summer when people are having more contact with bats, which are associated with diseases like rabies.”
Molinari started July 17 after working more than six years as supervisor of the Las Vegas animal control agency.
“I’ve dealt with everything – rattlesnakes, cougars, you name it,” he said.
He recently had to deal with a couple of adult chimpanzees who escaped their cage in Vegas.
“We weren’t able to capture the 200-pound male alive,” he said. “The 175-pound female was tranquilized and then she escaped again. She bent the metal bars of her cage that were an inch in diameter. After the second time, she went to the house of a local magician who had a big cage for tigers and from there she went to a sanctuary for chimps in Bend, Ore.”
Molinari said it wasn’t clear why the female chimp suddenly became so unhappy in her original home after about 10 years.
“Chimps get ornery as they get older, so that might have had something to do with it,” he said.
Molinari said he is impressed by the Eagle County’s animal services program and its low euthanasia rate.
“Last year, we had a little more than 800 animals come into the shelter and only about 46 were euthanized, and most of those were animals who had health problems,” he said. “On a good year, the national average is almost half of the animals that come into a shelter are euthanized. In Las Vegas, about 19,000 animals were brought into us every year and about 8,000 of them were euthanized. I think Eagle County’s low euthanasia rate is a product of responsible pet owners.”
On the operations side, Molinari said the facility is very efficient for how small it is.
“The people here enjoy their jobs and take pride in their work,” he said. “As I was leaving my interview here, I was thinking, ‘I wish I could stay,’ and four days later they offered me the job, so I’m very happy to be here.”
Some goals Molinari has as the new animal services manager are to continue improving officer and shelter staff safety, and to reduce any liability that might come back to the county.
“Otherwise, I’m still learning how things are done around here,” he said.