Image: Montgomery County Animal Shelter Advisory Board member Robbie Benson with her friend Valentine.
Conroe, August 10 – After several months of delays, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court finally cleaned up the membership of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter (“MCAS”) Advisory Board. In addition to other changes to the Board, the Commissioners Court appointed renowned animal shelter operations expert Robbie Benson who moved to Montgomery County two years ago after working at animal shelters all over the United States.
Benson is well known as an activist for the “no kill” movement, which is a controversial effort to bring animal shelters to the point where they euthanize no animals other than those which are very sick or in untreatable pain. Benson is a close associate of Nathan Winograd, the animal rights activist and attorney who is one of the founders of the “no kill” movement. Winograd has provided advice to MCAS in the past.
Woodlands conservative political activist Lynn O’Sullivan spoke to the Commissioners Court and recommended Benson highly for the MCAS Advisory Board. Benson worked in business and industry for 35 years. Specifically, her animal shelter background includes:
- Benson volunteered 1 year at the Open Door Animal Sanctuary, St. Louis, Missouri.
- She volunteered 5 years at Operation Greyhound – San Diego, a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Dog Rescue
- She volunteered for three-and-a-half years at Escondido Humane Society where she up-started and ran programs there with great successes:
- Adult Dog Foster Program – Got behaviorally challenged dogs out of the stressful shelter environment and into foster homes where they could decompress and have attention and training they had never received in their initial homes
- Organized the Behavior Department and upstarted several programs within which included:
- Dog Massage Program – Taught volunteers simple massage techniques that had a dramatic positive effect on incarcerated shelter dogs.
- Dog Aromatherapy Program – Taught volunteers how to administrate throughout the dog kennels so as to introduce relaxation in a very stressful kennel environment.
- Because of nutritional deficiencies in commercial dog food, Benson launched an in-depth study and formed a homemade dog food corporation named Rover’s Ration, where she offered highly nutritious food for dogs made from human grade ingredients purchased at health food and grocery stores. To this day she still makes homemade dog food for her dogs and shares her dog food making guide with all who want or need it.
- She has attended two No Kill Seminars held at George Washington School of Law in Washington DC. These seminars had both shelter and legal tracks with presenters being some of the country’s leading animal law attorneys, most successful shelter directors, animal control directors and various political figures. Attendees came from over 40 states and over 10 different countries, as far away as Australia.
- Benson is connected to a broad network of industry leaders throughout the country such as trainers, attorneys, shelter directors and animal advocates who are responsible for helping change conditions and legislation for animals.
- She initiated an effort and worked with Escondido, California, Councilperson Olga Diaz to raise the dog limit in Escondido.
- Benson is the Founder of San Diego AWOL (Animals Worthy of Life), a 501(c)3 Non-Profit operated as a no kill dog rescue for 2.5 years.
- She developed a training program and led a team for three years that trained every single law enforcement agency in San Diego County in Safe Dog Encounters (how to keep everyone safe….officers, dogs and innocent bystanders).
- Currently Benson runs the Behavior Enrichment/Modification Department at MCAS.
Benson told The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, “I love animals and I love our Animal Shelter here in Montgomery County. I’m very excited to work with Director Aaron Johnson to help him to be a greater success and to make our community a great place for our animals.”
The Commissioners Court finally removed from the MCAS Advisory Board two vestiges of horrible eras for Montgomery County and its Animal Shelter, Todd “Boss” Hayden and Aubrey Ross.
The embattled “Boss” Hayden was the Director of MCAS from March 25, 2016, to December 12, 2016. The State Board of Veterinary Medicine had disciplined Hayden for animal abuse just before his appointment. The Commissioners Court didn’t seem to care as long as they found a warm body to fill the position. Hayden ran a beer joint on Rayford Road full time while he pretended to direct MCAS and earned a salary of $150,000 per year from the County. Hayden attended one meeting of the Advisory Board after the Commissioners Court replaced him.
Euthanasias skyrocketed during Hayden’s tenure. MCAS was one of the filthiest, most disease-infested animal shelters in the United States while Hayden supposedly oversaw its operations. As he was incapable of running the shelter himself, which such shelter he described as a “hellhole,” Hayden ensured that he and his angry staff would chase away volunteers who actually cared about animal welfare.
Dr. Ross had purchased the MCAS operations from a previous owner who had contracted with the County to provide oversight of the animal shelter. The Ross era was also a disaster during which many volunteers, fosters, and rescue groups observed appalling animal cruelty.
The Commissioners Court kept Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Clark, Kathy Joslyn, and Stephanie Gaytor as members of the Advisory Board, while replacing Dr. Ross and the “Boss” with Dr. Jordan Gentry, a veterinarian who currently works full-time as a County employee at the Shelter. Johnson serves as an ex-officio member of the Advisory Board as well.