The woman who worked her way from kennel cleaner to executive director is quitting the Spokane Humane Society.
After 16 years, Diane Rasmussen takes with her the organization’s public persona and some hard feelings.
“I came to a point where physically and emotionally I had reached the end of my rope,” said Rasmussen, who will step down Thursday. “The situation is not tolerable for me here.”
Rasmussen, who currently works as the Humane Society’s community relations director, wouldn’t provide specific reasons for her resignation. She said only that she has considered it for two years and that she felt the Humane Society “lacks direction.”
She also said she isn’t happy with the way the shelter management announced her departure. Kim West, the organization’s interim director, sent out a press release stating that Rasmussen is retiring.
Rasmussen said that’s disingenuous. “I’m not happy about leaving,” she said. “I see this as just so much whitewash.”
West said she chose the word “retiring” because she didn’t want Rasmussen’s departure to be seen as negative.
“She’s done so much. I was just trying to create a graceful exit for her,” West said. “That got screwed up royally.”
Rasmussen’s resignation and the flap over it are the latest blows to the nonprofit organization, which celebrated its 100-year anniversary last year.
In December, six workers quit the Humane Society to protest the firing of Susan Canterbury as executive director. The organization’s board of directors terminated Canterbury’s contract without giving her a reason.
That action came five months after Canterbury moved her family to Spokane from South Carolina so she could take the job.
West, who was appointed to replace Canterbury, said there are no immediate plans to replace the 52-year-old Rasmussen.
“She’s a role model for everyone here and a real hero for the animals’ cause,” West said. “She’ll be hard to replace.”
To many people, Rasmussen was the Humane Society. She worked her way through the ranks of the organization and served as executive director twice, the last time in 1996.
She made dozens of public appearances each year to promote spay-neuter programs and solicit money for the shelter on North Havana.
Rasmussen went on local television news programs to advertise stray puppies and kittens that needed homes.
She took dogs and cats to nursing homes and hospitals to cheer up people there.
“When I think of Diane Rasmussen, I think of the Humane Society,” said Nancy Sattin, the county’s animal control director. “She’s an institution.”
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