Anna Neubauer stepped into the role of president and CEO of Hawaiian Humane Society in October — and she’s been taking on just about anything and everything since.
At just 14 years old, Anna Neubauer began working in a veterinary hospital. So it should shock no one that she at one point even considered trying her hand at becoming a veterinarian.
But after discovering animal welfare, and then management and leadership, Neubauer began journeying down a different path that throughout the years has allowed her to combine a passion for both pets and people.
“I think what fills my heart is just being able to be in a position where I’m supporting the community and making a difference,” says the certified veterinary technician. “Animals are so important to all of us, and being able to help people keep their animals or provide different opportunities for people is fantastic, and I truly enjoy that.”
Today, Neubauer is doing exactly that as president and CEO of Hawaiian Humane Society — a role she only recently took on in October after moving to the islands from Denver, Colorado, where the certified animal welfare administrator served as vice president of operations at animal shelter Dumb Friends League.
“Getting to meet the team through interviews and getting to meet the board through interviews, I just really, really fell in love with everyone,” she says. “I talked to everyone I could while I was here doing interviews, all of my Lyft drivers and everything, just to get a sense for the local community.
“Everybody is so passionate about animals here, and I love that,” she continues. “I thought that was just so heartwarming to see and know, and that sort of helped solidify my decision.”
To be sure, her new gig has not been without its challenges. The current COVID-19 crisis aside (see accompanying story on page 17), Neubauer took the reins of an organization that within the last year has seen its share of hardships. Chief among those: losing roughly 95 percent of its staff.
“We have a lot of work to do, really, just to provide structure back to the organization and get those critical positions hired,” says Neubauer. “We focused heavily on that initially.”
Despite these setbacks, Neubauer continues to forge ahead, and has quite a number of ideas of what she’d like Hawaiian Humane Society to tackle once things return to normal. A big part of that entails strengthening and building relationships within the community to further its cause, while she also points to ongoing efforts to support human service organizations to ensure that all individuals have the basic necessities and know-how to properly care for their pets. She also is looking forward to the return of the organization’s Community Spay/Neuter Center, which debuted back in October 2018.
“As everybody’s aware, cats are on our landscape in a major way, and we want to really work collaboratively for a big-picture solution,” she says.
It may seem like a tall order of to-dos, but after taking on just about every possible job in organizations like the very one she now leads, Neubauer — who also has a master’s in public administration and nonprofit management — is poised to accomplish all that and more.
“You get to see how different things can work well in different communities,” she says of her past experience. “You have to kind of look at everything, and you may have to make little tweaks here and there, but really understanding and having a good appreciation for the scope of animal welfare, I think, is really important to this position.”
In the meantime, Neubauer and her family — which includes pets Atticus, a gray shorthaired feline, orange tabby Romeo and bulldog Douglas — are settling in to their new island home.
And there is one last thing she’d like to stress to Hawaiian Humane Society supporters: “We are looking at everything and we are changing. Some things are changing rapidly and others will take a bit of time, but please stay tuned.
“Please reach out if you have questions,” she adds. “We really want to work and engage the entire community in this.”
LEND A HELPING HAND
In response to COVID-19, Hawaiian Humane Society closed its doors to the public for the time being. And while the situation has proven challenging for a variety of reasons, president and CEO Anna Neubauer reports that the community has stepped up big time to ensure its animals have homes in the meantime.
“We’ve seen such an outpouring of support to help foster animals that we have over 350 animals out in foster care right now,” she says.
The next step, she says, is coming up with a way to connect those fostered animals with potential adopters. Other ways the community can support the organization include making donations, particularly food contributions.
“We definitely want to be there for people that need to support their animals,” Neubauer adds. “We want to keep pets in homes, and our pet food bank is a perfect way to do that.”
HHS advises that everyone stay connected online at hawaiianhumane.org.