New executive director Lindsay Ortega wants to increase Nuzzles & Co.’s pet rescue outreach
Nuzzles & Co.’s new executive director Lindsay Ortega is honored and ready to continue the pet-rescue nonprofit’s mission to rehabilitate and find homes for the hundreds of dogs and cats that come through its doors.
“I am excited for this opportunity to continue our work and expand our services,” said Ortega, who was appointed executive director last week. “Animals provide great comfort for people, and it’s a great honor and humbling experience for me and Nuzzles & Co. to be a stepping stone in that process.”
Ortega, who has worked in animal welfare for the past 12 years, is no stranger to Nuzzles & Co., having been first hired as its rescue ranch and operations director in 2014. During her first 18 months as ranch director, Nuzzles increased its life-saving and adoption rate by 58%.
“I was excited to come in and take this animal-rescue group, which was already doing wonderful work, from saving 800 animal lives to saving more than 1,400 lives,” she said. “We did a lot of program building to find and stick with the best practices to handle that type of intake increase.”
In addition Ortega worked closely with Dr. Alyssa Hughes, Nuzzles’ medical director, to establish additional feline programming that included the nonprofit’s low-cost spay and neuter clinic for Summit County’s feral and community cats, as well as Safe Kittens, which focus on kittens under the age of 8 weeks that have been abandoned by their mothers.
“We pick these kittens up from the Summit County animal shelter, because you have to bottle feed them every two hours,” Ortega said. “There are no resources at the shelter to accommodate that vulnerable population.”
Nuzzles staff examines and registers the kittens and then places them in foster care, according to Ortega.
“They remain in foster until they can eat on their own, and become healthy enough to go up for adoption,” she said. “Programs like these helped put us over the threshold for saving cat lives in Summit County.”
As executive director, Ortega plans to continue these programs and work with Summit County Animal Control to develop new projects, she said.
“Summit county is our home base, so that will always be our first priority, but we also want to continue to work with other shelters and partners in Utah,” she said.
The Ute Nations, and Navajo and Goshute reservations are three of those partners, Ortega said.
“We will continue to offer our low-cost clinics and rescue missions to help these communities with vulnerable pet populations that have no resources or other options,” she said. “We’re excited to look at how we do that over the next year, and I am honored and happy to work on these programs and take us to the next level.”
Ortega also plans to increase pet adoptions in order to keep up with the increase of pet lives saved.
“We are working to keep up the intake and life saving, by reaching out to the community for some additional fundraising in this difficult time,” she said. “For the next few months I would like to bolster that area so we can go above and beyond in our work.”
Ortega’s work with Homeless Pets Utah and the Utah Animal Adoption Center served as the basis of her love of animal rescue.
“When I would see the rough shape these animals were when they came in, I felt like it was my duty to protect them and find them the best homes possible,” she said. “That’s when I started to raise advocacy for these animals.”
Ortega acknowledged how the coronavirus has impacted Nuzzles & Co.’s mission.
“Nuzzles & Co., as with all other animal-welfare organizations, face the challenge of keeping our employees, volunteers and community safe, but continuing our work,” she said. “People are suffering a huge deal, and so are animals on the shoulders of that. And we want to continue changing the lives of animals and the lives of the people who provide loving homes.”
Since Nuzzles & Co.’s inception as Friends of Animals Utah in 1990, the nonprofit has found homes for more than 20,000 pets, and saved the lives of 1,519 animals in need in 2019, according to a press release.
Nuzzles Board President Tamra Gray issued a statement of support for Ortega.
“She consistently puts the needs of our animals and our mission first in all she does and is also highly respected within the animal rescue community,” she said in the statement. “We know that Lindsay will embrace her new responsibilities with the same high level of integrity and passion that she has always demonstrated as the Director of Operations.”
For information, visit nuzzlesandco.org.
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