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Rebuilding trust

The new leaders of the Healdsburg Animal Shelter want to overcome the turmoil and discord of the past few months and focus on the $3.5 million facility that sits empty and bare, but tantalizingly close to completion.

On a tour of the new animal shelter Thursday, they showed off the front rooms where people can visit with a dog they may want to adopt, as opposed to seeing the animal in an old-style, chain-link kennel.

But also apparent to the eye are thin cracks that have appeared on the foundation floor, symbolic of the controversies that have undermined support for the shelter board.

Healdsburg Animal Shelter

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"We're trying to endeavor to get to the bottom of the issue," Bill Anderson, the new board co-chairman, said of the "disconcerting" floor cracks throughout the building.

Anderson, who's been on the shelter board only a few weeks and just took over the reins along with co-chairwoman Sandra Versteegh, said he realizes directors have their work cut out to restore trust in the nonprofit organization.

The shelter has been wracked by high leadership turnover, fundraising failures, complaints of a lack of transparency and a high-profile controversy over animal adoptions.

"It's been mistake after mistake," he said, adding "things weren't thought through" and the timing of some decisions was poor.

But he expressed confidence that the money will be secured from donors to finish the interior of the 7,500-square-foot facility before the end of the year, and that it won't sit much longer as a white-elephant reminder of failed expectations.

"We want to bring people back in the fold," he said, "We want to turn the page. Let's focus on the mission. This really is meant to be a jewel for the community."

He said that despite the setbacks, the shelter continues to fulfill its mission, employ a dedicated staff and maintain an enthusiastic corps of volunteers.


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