Thursday, July 2, 2020
Mountain Humane’s New Director Has Experience Caring for All Sorts
Annie McCauley noted that Mountain Humane had recently facilitated the adoption of a blind kitten. The kitten now loves laying by the fireplace in its new home. “She runs into furniture but she’s perceptive, too.”
Monday, January 13, 2020


Mountain Humane’s new executive director can find a common thread running through each of the causes she’s headed up over the years.

That includes a girls’ summer camp in Maine, a nursing home that would have gone out of business if not for her leadership and, now, Mountain Humane’s nearly year-old animal welfare campus.

“I’ve come to realize that my passion is taking care of things,” said Annie McCauley. “I loved taking care of kids and I loved helping people take care of the elderly in their lives. Now I’m taking care of dogs and cats. And I realize there’s nothing in life that’s more meaningful than giving a living thing a home, whether a human or dog.”

Annie and Brian McCauley love to explore backroads and go rock crawling in their modified Jeep.

McCauley took hold of the leash of Mountain Humane, which recently opened a $16 million state-of-the-art facility west of Hailey, this week following the resignation of Eecutive Director and Medical Director Jo-Anne Dixon.

Veterinarian Dr. Jack Amen is now heading up the medical clinic with the help of Director of Animal Care Operations Katie Millonzi. Rounding out the management team is Nadia Novik, Kelly Mitchell and Bekka Mongeau, who oversee the organization’s outreach, programming, marketing and adoption of animals.

Mountain Humane’s 10-member Board of Directors spent the past two months restructuring operations  to ensure its sustainability. Seven employee positions were cut and proposed positions are not being filled.

The organization, which once had at least 47 employees, now has between 35 and 40—including part-time kennel workers and janitors.

Annie McCauley checks on a cat whose leg was amputated after being hit by a car.

“We moved in here this past year from a falling-down building across the street that was founded in 1972. And what Jo-Anne Dixon did after taking over 13 years ago is really remarkable,” said McCauley. “But, after almost a year in our new facility, we are now truly understanding what it will take to sustainably operate this incredible resource, and what’s needed now is different. My job is to make sure everything is in place so we can care for the animals 24 hours a day seven days a week. I need to make sure the lights are on and the heat is on–every little detail needed to run a 30,000-square-foot building.”

Mountain Humane Board President Sally Onetto concurred: “When the capital campaign for the new building reached its goal, our fantastic donors felt we were done. And you can imagine the organization was like a ship slowly moving away from port. Joanne decided to step down. She said, ‘You need to find someone who can take this to the next level, someone with more experience in running a facility like this.’ I worked with Annie as she organized last year’s Dog Days of Summer benefit, and she’s so capable. Why would anyone look elsewhere when you can promote from within?!”

McCauley and her husband Brian McCauley recently moved to the Wood River Valley after vacationing here for 40 years. Brian’s brother Kevin McCauley was instrumental in founding the Sun Valley Repertory Theater, which lay the foundation for what became the Argyros Performing Arts Center. And Brian’s sister Megan lives here, as well.

Annie McCauley grew up in Boston, the daughter of an old New England family—her father just passed away at 96. She met Brian at Principia College in St. Louis, where she studied business administration.  Following college they moved to Seattle—Brian’s hometown—for 15 years where they raised two  daughters Sara and Hannah. Both girls now live in St. Louis, where the family returned so Brian could get a Ph.D. in education, after which he became a college professor.

One of the resident cats keeps an eye on Annie McCauley as she makes her rounds.

Annie and Brian decided to head to Sun Valley where they had envisioned retiring once the girls headed off to college. Brian now works for the nonprofit E3 (Elevating Education Everywhere)--in fact Annie put him on a plane bound for Kenya on Saturday where he will spend three to five weeks building schools.

Annie found her niche at Mountain Humane—first, as development director, then as associate director when Brooke Bonner left to pursue another philanthropic endeavor.

It seemed to be a natural progression, Annie said, from nine years as head of the summer girls camp in Harrison, Maine, where she had attended camp herself and as head of a nursing home facility.

“Running the camp was like being the mayor of a little city,” she said. “I had to look out for 120 kids, 80 staff, bathrooms, showers… I turned my attention to the nursing home when a friend told me, ‘They’re going out of business and they shouldn’t—they need you.’ I didn’t know a thing about nursing homes—but I got my license.”

Joining Mountain Humane led to Annie and her husband adopting their first dog—a terrier mix they claimed as their own a week after the New England Patriots won the 2019 Super Bowl. They named it Eddie after the Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman, the Bowl’s Most Valuable Player.

They adopted a second terrier mix who came into the shelter just two weeks ago and named it Betty.

“My mother, who has Alzheimer’s, was living with us until recently and Eddie was so caring and thoughtful with her. They looked in one another’s eyes and made a connection,” said Annie. “Betty is the opposite—she wants to wrestle, play, check out the neighborhood—there’s no down time for Eddie, anymore.”

McCauley’s new role involves morning briefings regarding new animals. She never lets a day go by without making rounds of the 70-some resident cats, dogs and bunnies housed at Mountain Humane to remind her why she’s doing what she’s doing.

She pointed to a 10-year-old golden retriever being walked by a volunteer.

“I never see that dog that he doesn’t look at me with an expression that says, ‘Please take me home,’ ” she said. “Being with a group of animals, I’ve come to realize they’re just like people, all with different personalities. We just to have to give each a chance to share its story.”

Just this week, McCauley said, a couple dropped off a cat that had been hit by a car. Since Amen was off for the weekend, a veterinarian at Sawtooth Animal Center stabilized the cat until Amen could amputate its leg when he returned on Monday.

“Every animal deserves what we can do to give it quality of life. And, with each passing moment, that cat indicated that she wanted to live. You could see it in her eyes,” McCauley said, as she checked out the cat currently recuperating in Mountain Humane’s medical facility. “We save animals, but not just animals. We save people, too, through their connection with animals.”


While most tasks were placed on hold during February and March as animals and staff settled into their new digs, Mountain Humane staff still managed to perform 1,360 surgeries last year and took in 1,040 animals, ending with a save rate of more than 97 percent. Of those, 341 were strays; 185 were reunited with their owners. Staff facilitated 754 adoptions. Only 37 animals—or 4.17 percent--were returned.

The organization’s 110 volunteers contributed 22,172 hours, and a total of 9,310 people visited the facility, including 722 students.

In the coming months McCauley hopes Mountain Humane can be an advocate for different issues in the valley, including that of providing transitional house for pets when they need a temporary home for a couple weeks while their owners move. She’d also like to help renters and landlords reach common ground regarding pets.

“Owning an animal can be a powerful thing,” she said.

She’s exploring the idea of bringing a Purina ProPlan Performance Team to town and, perhaps, creating a fun run for families. She also hopes to offer more puppy training and advanced classes, along with how-to videos for the website. And the Mountain Humane plans to continue to lead the way to make Idaho a no-kill state.

“We just got a grant from Best Friends for a statewide adoption day. All the shelters will waive their adoption fees that day.”

She’s looking forward to soliciting more wedding parties for Mountain Humane’s Penny’s Barn—it is a place, after all, where dogs can be included in the wedding. And she’s looking forward to partnering with Wood River Land Trust to create new trails in the new preserve the Land Trust just acquired between Draper Preserve and Mountain Humane.

She also wants to continue Mountain Humane’s efforts to teach children compassion through interaction with animals.

“I love to see middle schoolers drop by after school to read to cats—what’s sweeter than a 13-year-old with a cat on her lap sharing her skills?! And I love it when Moms bring their toddlers and grab a cup of coffee while they let their children play with the cats,” she said.

 “We have a hundred volunteers. But, if someone finds themselves with a free afternoon and they want to do something to help out, we’ll be glad to hand them a leash. This is a lovely drop-in center. It doesn’t have to just be about adoptions.”

McCauley said everything that staff and board members have envisioned is taking place—in particular, the care and adoption of animals.

Onetto agreed:

“We get pets that are dropped off by the police, left at the front door, surrendered by an elderly person going into the nursing home. Yesterday, someone brought in a 9-month-old dog found near a Fairfield ranch that had never been indoors in its life. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and we can find a home for this animal. Animals are deeply loved here.”


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