SW Michigan Humane Society temporarily shuts down after nearly entire staff resign

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 7:07 PM EST
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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WNDU) - Starting Wednesday, the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan will begin its one week temporary shutdown.

It comes after its executive director, Jill Svoboda, and nearly her entire staff unexpectedly resigned over the weekend. Svoboda told 16 News Now on Tuesday leaving her dream job after 13 years was difficult, but a decision she had to make.

In a statement, Svoboda say in part, “I did write a letter of resignation, I did not leave abruptly. I hope the community continues to ask questions of the board! And please remind the community that it is their shelter, they built it and should ask questions and demand answers!”

Svoboda says the only staff members that remain are kennel team members she asked to stay to help take care of the animals.

The news came as a surprise to many residents, including Shannon White, who says she adopted four dogs from the shelter since Svoboda became the executive director.

“It would be really nice to know what’s what’s actually going on. Why did the did the executive director after 13 years feel that her only option was to walk out and her team leave with her,” White says.

Many residents, like White, going to social media with their concerns regarding the new changes including former Humane Society Vice President Rob Orlaske, who commented on White’s Facebook post about the shelter’s temporary shut down.

Orlaske comment says in part,” I can tell you that if they resigned, it was because of power tripping board politics with the current board.”

The bottom of Orlaske’s comment also asking the shelter’s Board Chair, Ron Klemm, to resign. White echoing the same request saying, “Ron Klemm and anyone who supports him, resign from the Board of Directors.”

When 16 News Now reached out to the Humane Society over the phone about its current state, Klemm picked up and declined to comment.

Instead, Klemm provided 16 News Now with two statements they had released to the public. The first, announcing its one week shut down, and the second, the shelter’s future plans as it searches for a new director.

When 16 News Now attempted to reach out to the Humane Society in person regarding some of their statements, a volunteer appeared outside with the same two statements Klemm provided.

“You probably already have these. Here are our two statements,” the volunteer said.

The male volunteer, who claimed to be helping his wife who is one of the Board of Directors, also had a response to some online rumors.

“There is no truth to the rumor that we are going out of business, that animals are going to be euthanized, or anything like that,” the volunteer said.

However, like Klemm, the volunteer refused to answer any questions.

“Would you guys be willing to comment on this current situation right now?” 16 News Now reporter Ibrahim Samra asked.

“It’s all there,” the volunteer replied.

“So, no? We’re going to run the story with or without someone speaking from the Humane Society so I just wanted to give you guys a chance now to answer the questions that maybe...,” Samra continued.

“In due time,” the volunteer answered.

Keep in mind, both statements that were released by the Humane Society Board of Directors did not mention the resignations of any additional team members besides their executive director Jill Svoboda.

However, the Board of Directors say they will remain shut down until March 9th are as they currently are in the process of finding someone to fill her position.

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