Dr. Gene Mueller: Lean supporter, employee advocate, animal lover
With the success of ensuring nearly 9 out 10 cats and dogs find a loving home and lowering the euthanasia rate to an all-time low of 12 percent, people are wondering what’s next for Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC). For this reason KC employees reached out to RASKC Manager Gene Mueller to learn what their secret is and the future direction of the agency.
Originally from Illinois and a longtime licensed veterinary practitioner, since 2012 he has worked with King County to build on the work being done and further the executive directive to serve the needs of residents in maintaining a customer-service approach to animal services.
“When the program was almost shut down, there was an executive decision to do it right,” said Gene. “This empowered staff, and unfettered them to think creatively about what was possible to help animals.”
Gene credits this resolution to make animal services a priority for both animals and customers as one of the reasons for success. He also emphasized the need for Lean principles in coordination with these efforts.
“It’s all continuous improvement to look at the work being done and see how to make it better. There are no mistakes,” he said. “We celebrate successes and experiments where the outcome wasn’t as expected, but we learned something from it.”
While some admire his leadership in helping get RASKC to the top, Gene admits he is merely one part of the larger effort to achieving innovative animal rehabilitation.
“I’m just the coach,” he said. “I provide the support and safety needed for these measures so that staff aren’t wasting time and get what they need.”
It’s this honest approach and matched passion for animals that prompt Gene to consistently work toward the benefit of his staff so that they can accomplish their goals and feel fulfilled in their mission.
“I help give them the resources and latitude to make changes, and flexibility in these changes,” he said. “I celebrate their successes, ask for their help and communicate their needs and accomplishments.”
Gene connects this collaborative effort to go above and beyond as motivation for staff to seek new alternatives and opportunities for RASKC to succeed. This has resulted in several noteworthy partnerships with businesses and non-profits, including the Petco store in Kirkland, The Whole Cat and Kaboodle in Redmond, and the new Seattle Meowtropolitan Café in Wallingford.
“Staff is always trying to make the customer experience better and to make our services available to as many people as possible,” he said. “It’s part of ‘no wrong door’ in that we’re always looking at ways to identify resources and partner with organizations to cultivate relationships with others.”
One of the next few priorities for RASKC is to translate the Animal Services website into additional languages and continue coordinating efforts with inventive collaborations, even if it means taking a backseat for an animal’s well-being.
“We may have identified another organization that specializes in a particular item and so we will provide that background support,” he said. “Then these organizations have the full gamut of resources and all the medical information needed to find the animal a home.”
It is this dedication to the ultimate safety and concern for every individual animal that has helped RASKC become a model of compassionate, humane animal services..
“’Who can help us help animals;’ that’s the mentality of the staff,” Gene said. “They’re always thinking of how to make the animals adoptable and make it so that everyone can rally around the fantastic cause of saving animal lives.”
Gene himself has two animals from RASKC – two large Siamese cat mixes. They are his reminder that the work being done at RASKC is important and essential to validating the need for creative animal placement programs.
“They [cats] are the reality that animals are in the shelter because of changes in human lives, not because of their own defects,” he said. “It’s not intended to be that way.” Well, RASKC can help!
Dr. Gene Mueller was recently awarded the 2016 Extra Mile Award by Puget Sound Working Cats for his positive work rescuing and re-homing feral cats. Read more about it on the RASKC blog.