Nusbaum, Amelia

Nusbaum, Amelia

Shelter Manager at City of Houston - BARC

I have been in a leadership position for 13 years at BARC, the open-intake municipal animal shelter for the City of Houston, Texas. After completing my undergraduate degree in Biology, I knew I wanted to work with animals but wasn’t sure in what capacity. Discovering the vital role enrichment played in the welfare of animals inspired me to go back to school for my master’s degree in museum science, zoos are museums with living collections. The program offered opportunities to intern with leaders in our field and it was during this opportunity I had the privilege to intern with the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium where I gained in-depth education and experience in applying positive reinforcement-based training with marine mammals. From there, I went to work at the Houston Zoo. I spent 4 years developing knowledge and gaining experience using my skill set to work with a variety of species from birds and reptiles to mammals. I learned about a job opportunity at the local animal shelter and during my working interview I quickly realized that shelter animals were in great need of a higher quality of care and I have been working toward that goal ever since. I have developed many innovative programs benefiting my human team and the shelter animals they handle daily. Understanding that the animal caretaker team has a direct and nearly constant influence on the welfare of each animal, Nancy Kelly and I have developed our human-centered Shelter Behavior Program teaching standardized low-stress handling skills to the team that cares for the animals. We have begun to study the effects of the program. Anecdotal evidence about how quiet their kennels are and the calmness of BARC’s animals has led us to believe that the animals benefit most from a new standard of care encompassing physical provisions as well as psychological care from shelter caretakers who are their behavior team. The program was built with no extra funding and no extra staff, making it accessible for any shelter.