Cat Town Founder to Lead Oakland Animal Services

Ann Dunn, who founded Oakland's Cat Town rescue center and cafe, takes the helm at Oakland Animal Services next month.  (Courtesy of The Community Cats Podcast)

Oakland Animal Services, the city's municipal animal shelter, is getting a new executive director — one who started as a shelter volunteer and went on to help start one of the country's most successful animal rescue organizations.

In 2011, Ann Dunn founded Cat Town to find homes for cats who didn't do well in shelter environments because they were older, in poor health or shyer and less human-oriented. Three years later, Dunn and Adam Myatt opened the nation's first cat rescue center and cafe — the latter called RAWR Coffee Bar — located in Oakland's Uptown neighborhood. It draws more than 10,000 visitors a year and has helped reduce the cat euthanization rate at the city shelter from 42% in 2011, to less than 10% today, according to the center.

Dunn takes the helm at OAS on Feb. 18.

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Dunn says her first task at OAS is to hire a full-time veterinarian, a position that's in the city budget but has been difficult to fill. She said she also wants to find ways to make the shelter work more effectively for the people and animals it serves.

“Just wanting it to be as highly functioning as it can be,” she said. “I'm not walking in with a lot of ideas about changes, so much as I really want to hear from the people who are working at OAS — just how can we provide better customer service, how can we be more accessible, how can we do more for people in the community that really need it?”

A major challenge for all of the Bay Area's rescue organizations, including OAS, is the lack of resources for spaying and neutering animals, Dunn said. “We're seeing at OAS, intake numbers for cats going up by over 20%, and that's largely because kittens are being born all year round.”

She noted, however, that she's encouraged by Gov. Gavin Newsom's recent commitment to allocate funding to make California a “no kill” state for shelter animals.

Dunn will be replaced at Cat Town by Andrew Dorman, a current member of the nonprofit's leadership team. He said he hopes to expand Cat Town's work with other rescue centers around the country, many of whom have come to Oakland to see how the cafe and network of foster homes operate.

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