A Champion of Compassionate Care

Dia DuVernet is Pasadena Humane’s seasoned CEO 
By Jordan Houston

Despite earning a degree in social work and spending years working to improve the quality of life for vulnerable communities in need, Dia DuVernet says switching to animal welfare was a natural transition. 

The president and CEO of Pasadena Humane explains that in order to successfully work with animals, one must also be proficient in connecting with humans. 

DuVernet, a licensed clinical social worker and certified fundraising executive, worked with organizations serving vulnerable children and families prior to entering her current field. 

“The sheltering world has been evolving more and more to provide those human-animal support services,” DuVernet says. “We’re trying to work with people to keep their pets rather than having the first option to be having pets come into shelters.” 

As head of Pasadena Humane since June 2019, DuVernet has not only worked tirelessly to continue the organizations legacy of spearheading animal support services but to also expand.  

The organization is a donor-supported nonprofit that provides animal care and services for homeless and owned animals in the greater Los Angeles area.

“It’s just such an amazing organization with a great reputation,” she says. “It’s one of the leading organizations in animal welfare in the country.

“I work with a really talented staff of about 130 employees and have over 1,500 volunteers. We are so fortunate to have the support of the community both with our volunteers and with our donors.” 

Geared toward helping keep companion animals in “loving homes,” the Humane in 2020 achieved a combined 91.5% live release rate for dogs, cats and critters.

It also saved 100% of “healthy and safe” animals, according to its website.

“Our mission is compassion and care and to make sure that companion animals live in loving homes,” DuVernet says.

“And to help the community peacefully coexist with wildlife. We do both companion animal work and wildlife rehabilitation work. People are more familiar, I think, with our adoptions, but we also care for injured, orphaned and sick wildlife animals.” 

In 2014, Pasadena Humane doubled in size with the opening of its Animal Care Center. The campus features a low-cost public spay and neuter clinic, behavior and training center, updated dog boarding kennels and an expanded retail store. 

The organization opened the Neely Cat Center and Critter House a year later, which offers cats, rabbits and other critters an “inviting, dedicated space of their own.”

Pasadena Humane has since honed in on program development, DuVernet explains, including progressive sheltering practices focused on increasing adoptions, saving the lives of more animals and helping guardians keep their pets.

“We have just a beautiful campus that has evolved over the years that is a wonderful shelter for the animals who are in need of shelter,” DuVernet says. 

“The programs have grown and evolved as animal welfare has evolved, and we have a robust veterinary clinic and are able to treat animals with medical needs.” 

The president and CEO says she is extremely proud of the nonprofit’s outreach programs. 

The education programs are tailored toward informing the public about compassionate care for wildlife and companion animals alike. 

“Our outreach into the community is really important in terms of having our wildlife education in the community,” DuVernet explains, citing the Humane’s youth education and mobile wagon, which showcases animals up for adoption throughout different areas of the community. 

Boasting a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University and a master’s degree in social work from Smith College, DuVernet was raised in Albany, Georgia. The youngest of five girls, she recalls loving animals from her early days — citing her family’s German shepherd mix named Moses, a Pekingese called Missy, and Puff the cat.

Before moving to Pasadena, DuVernet lived in Virginia, where she was the president and CEO of the Virginia Beach SPCA. She also previously worked as vice president at The Up Center, a Virginia nonprofit organization improving the quality of life for children and families.

“I love working for a mission-driven organization that makes lives better both for the animals and the people who love them,” DuVernet shares. “Especially during challenging times like this.”

Throughout the pandemic, DuVernet says the sheltering world has seen a shift in people’s desires to adopt pets — for the better. 

More and more people are looking to care for animal companions to keep them company during times of social isolation, she says. 

“What we saw during the pandemic was a real increase in people’s interest in adopting pets,” DuVernet says. “We had a huge outpouring of support from volunteers, and it’s really changed the face of sheltering.”

As far as next steps, Duvernet says the Pasadena Humane is looking to incorporate adoptions by appointments only, as well as allowing fewer visitors into the shelter at a time. 

“The animals benefited because it was quieter,” DuVernet explains. “They were able to sleep more and were less stressed, and healthier.

“We’re trying to take what we’ve learned from the animals and take into what we hope to be a post-pandemic world by doing service appointments.” 

DuVernet is proud of her position. 

“Whenever people hear you work with the Humane, you can see joy in their eyes,” DuVernet says. “They want to show you pictures of their pets. It’s a very happy place. The people who are involved are so dedicated and engaged and talented. I’ve really enjoyed the switch.” 

Pasadena Humane

361 S. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena

626-792-7151, pasadenahumane.org

Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run

Nonprofit fundraiser for the animals returns
By Pasadena Weekly Staff

Pasadena Humane’s 23rd Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run is set for Sunday, September 19, at Brookside Park at the Rose Bowl.

The organization hopes to raise $250,000 to help save the lives of thousands of animals with programs like foster care, kitten nursery, animal ICU and a pet food bank. 

This family- and canine-friendly community fundraiser features in-person activities including a 1-mile or 5K walk or run around the Rose Bowl, a vendor village with goodies and giveaways for pets and people, a doggy costume contest and agility course. Attendees do not need a dog to join the fun — just a desire to help animals.  

“We are thrilled that the Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run will return to Brookside Park at the Rose Bowl for its 23rd year,” says Dia DuVernet, the organization’s president and CEO. “I’m looking forward to celebrating this day with our supporters and their beloved canine friends, while raising money to support the lifesaving work of Pasadena Humane.” 

Animal lovers are encouraged to fundraise for the animals by registering as an individual or as part of a team on the Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run website and asking family, friends and coworkers for donations. Participants can win prizes and compete to take home the title of top fundraiser, top donor or top fundraising team. 

For the first time, registrants can choose to attend the in-person event or participate virtually. General and virtual registration is $50 through noon Friday, September 17. 

On-site registration will be $65. All registered participants will receive a limited-edition Wiggle Waggle Walk & Run T-shirt, bandana, bib and medal. 

On the day, event check-in and the vendor village open at 8 a.m. at Brookside Park. The walk and run begins at 9 a.m. and festivities, including contests, vendor booths, team photos, food trucks and music, will continue until 11 a.m. Brookside Park is located at 360 N. Arroyo Boulevard in Pasadena. City of Pasadena COVID-19 protocols will be strictly enforced.

For more information and to register, visit wigglewagglewalk.org. 

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