James Bias has been at the Connecticut Humane Society for 1 month now….or 7 in dog months! Here, he shares his animal welfare experience, including some of the pets he rescued as a kid!
How did you know you wanted to work with animals?
When I grew up in Arizona, there was irrigation for agriculture, and when ditches with water dry up, fish get trapped. I remember going around and rescuing fish and throwing them to the other side where there was water. Or if it was just bugs that got stuck on the front grill of a car, I’d take them off! If it was a baby bird who fell out of the tree, I was usually the one feeding it.
I thought about going to veterinary school. I went to a vet tech program to figure out what I wanted to do. Classes were held at local nonprofit animal groups, so I had the opportunity to see different animals in different degrees of medical need. Soon after graduating, I had the opportunity to manage a volunteer foster-based rescue called Citizens for Animal Protection to open their first shelter.
What pets did you have as a kid?
Our first pet was a beagle my dad had adopted from a shelter. His name was Paco. Then my dad got another beagle named Traveler…he was named after what Paco used to do!
Who are your pets today?
Two dogs: Luke and Baron; several cats: Polly, Ophelia, Turbo, Stanley, MJ and Reggie; chickens: Baby, Scary, Posh, Ginger, Sporty, Ethel and Lucas; and two tortoises: Tortuga and Little Man.
What was your first job in animal welfare?
Working as a reserve officer targeting animal cruelty. I was connected with a law enforcement agency as a reserve and had law enforcement powers, but I was a volunteer. So at age 20, I was commissioned to go after people fighting dogs and roosters, starving animals and performing other acts of cruelty.
What were the biggest things you accomplished while in Texas?
I opened several storefront shelters for Citizens for Animal Protection in the 80s. And we were breaking down barriers to make adoption affordable, while being open 7 days a week.
When I was working in San Antonio, we launched a new shelter project—they previously only had 20 kennels and five parking spaces. When I left, they had a new property and a new facility. It was really just elevating the level of care, but also making adoption an experience.
In Dallas, we expanded our medical services program. Building out the brick and mortar, and taking it on the road with mobile clinics, and the idea do surge spay/neuter in a very underserved and high poverty area.
You brought pets to TV in Texas for Pet of the Week segments….what’s your favorite on-air moment?
When the dogs and cats go off script and give kisses and hugs on air. Or when a 100-lb. dog decides to climb in your lap in the middle of the interview!
What are your hopes and dreams for CHS?
My hope would be that we don’t lose any of the momentum that Gordon Willard and the team and board here have been initiating. Supporting all of our facilities and the communities we serve. For me, getting a sense of through my eyes of what I might be able to add to the team, because what we did in Dallas is not going to be the same as what we are going to do here. But I hope my different perspective will be beneficial.
Are you ready to have a pet in your office at CHS?
Yes I am—a cat or dog works for me.
Red Sox or Yankees?
I’m going to give myself a year to decide.
Giants or Pats?
Do you have a favorite pet memory from over the years?
Watching dogs who’ve been raised/trained by inmates within the prison or juvenile justice systems. It’s amazing to see the transformation to a better adoption status for the dogs. I recall a 15-year-old boy named Kevin who was assigned a shelter dog named Ripley for a 12-week training period. When Ripley “graduated” from his training, Kevin’s aunt shared that it was the first time Kevin had performed an act of service for someone else, and Kevin in turn received unconditional love back from Ripley.
Any advice for kids or young people starting out if they want a career with animals?
Consider volunteering within one of your career choices to see if it is for you.