Was youngest & longest-serving Seattle animal control chief
Donald Edward Jordan, 49, Seattle Animal Shelter director since 1996, on October 19, 2016 died in his sleep at his home in Snohomish, Washington.
Jordan was succeeded by Seattle Animal Shelter acting director and manager of field services Ann Graves.
Graves was on October 7, 2016 named the 2016 Outstanding Animal Care and Control Employee of the Year at the National Animal Care & Control Association annual training conference, held in Seattle.
Don Jordan, believed to have been the longest-serving Seattle animal control director in the 162-year history of the city, and the youngest when appointed, left behind his wife of 27 years, Jenny, their four children Micheal Miller (Jaclyn), Amanda, Alyssa, and Donald, and a Lhasa Apso dog named Mickey.
“Can remember as a kid being chased by packs”
Growing up in Seattle and Lake Forest Park, a northern Seattle suburb, Jordan told Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Kery Murakami in January 2007, “I can remember packs of 10 to 15 dogs in Northeast Seattle, in Wedgwood. I can remember as a kid being chased by packs of dogs, around Northeast 88th and 28th Northeast.”
Earning a bachelor of science degree in zoology from Washington State University, Jordan joined the Seattle Animal Shelter law enforcement division in 1990. Starting as a humane officer, Jordan rose rapidly to head Enforcement and Field Services before his promotion to executive director.
Jordan assumed leadership of Seattle Animal Shelter just as new ideas were beginning to transform the animal care and control field.
Cut shelter killing by 75%-plus
The Seattle Animal Shelter building, for example, opened in 1972, had been designed to handle about 25,000 dogs and cats per year, with an average stay of about five days before being reclaimed, rehomed, sold for biomedical research, or killed. The latter was the fate of more than 90%.
“Ten years later, the city began offering low-cost neutering, and the number of animals going through the shelter dropped to about 7,000 a year,” Murakami wrote. But Seattle was still killing more than a dozen impounded dogs and cats per 1,000 human residents when Jordan was appointed.
Borrowing ideas from successful shelters all over the world, Jordan cut the Seattle Animal Shelter death rate by more than 75%. Among other innovations, Jordan introduced cooperation with nonprofit neuter/return feral cat control projects, adoption promotion partnerships with other agencies, use of volunteers, more than 400 of whom now assist the Seattle Animal Shelter paid staff of 38, and extensive renovation of the shelter itself to make it more visitor-friendly.
Skid Row programs
Located only blocks from the site of the original “skid row” in the U.S., as the log-hauling route up Yesler Way was called in Seattle’s early years, the Seattle Animal Shelter under Jordan’s direction also became a national leader in extending spay/neuter and animal health services to homeless pet keepers.
Though Yesler Way was long ago redeveloped into Pioneer Square, a major local tourist attraction, the district remains a haunt of transients and vagabonds, many of whom keep dogs for personal protection, companionship, and as assistants in begging from passers-by.
Early in his tenure with the Seattle Animal Shelter, Jordan noticed that a disproportionate number of dog bite and running-at-large incidents involved the dogs of the transients, and began working with human services agencies and charities to ensure that the transients’ dogs were sterilized, vaccinated, and kept leashed.
National & international presence
By the mid-2000s Jordan had become a frequent speaker and panelist at national animal care-and-control conferences, served as president of the Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies, and often welcomed international visitors, in keeping, he told ANIMALS 24-7, with Seattle’s role as one of the U.S. gateways to the fast-developing cities of the Pacific Rim.
Throughout, Jordan worked to increase the Seattle Animal Shelters’ earned income and donations.
“It would be really an admirable goal to see the taxpayer subsidy reduced through the support of cat and dog owners,” Jordan told Murakami.
Learning from the 2001 American Veterinary Medical Association Pet Population & Demographic Sourcebook that only 33,000 of the estimated 125,000 dogs in Seattle were licensed, and just 29,000 of the estimated 250,000 cats, Jordan in 2005 assigned one Seattle Animal Shelter staff member to doing licensing enforcement full-time, “patrolling parks, organizing direct-mail campaigns and following up with owners,” Murakami recalled. “That enforcement resulted in about 1,000 citations and 27% more licensed dogs and cats, which generated about $250,000 in new fees.
“It’s a regulatory fee by all means. It’s very similar to having car tabs,” Jordan said.
Seattle pet licensing compliance is still believed to be less than 50%, but is two to three times the U.S. average. License sales now raise more than $1 million of the Seattle Animal Shelter budget of more than $3 million per year.
In March 2009, several years after increasing emphasis on enforcing pet licensing, Jordan at suggestion of volunteer Connie Starr began sending condolence cards to people who reported in response to annual licensing renewal reminders that their pets had died.
“We know pets are often the only family members people have,” Jordan told Seattle Times staff reporter Susan Gilmore. “We needed to do something extra and bring about great sense of closure by having someone else acknowledge how important pets were to them. By no means do we want to dupe people into coming here and adopting, but that would be fantastic since many need homes. We just want to let people know there are people who care.”
The condolence card campaign did increase adoptions, and brought in donations to the Seattle Animal Shelter too.
An ongoing source of frustration to Jordan, however, was that even as the packs of free-roaming dogs who had terrorized him as a child disappeared, he had more success in reducing shelter killing than in preventing dog attacks.
Though subscribing to the philosophy that “We focus on the deed, not the breed,” “It’s not the dog but the owner,” and “It’s all in how you raise them,” Jordan nonetheless recognized that most of the most severe attacks are by pit bulls.
“Pits are the dog of choice for drug dealers and young males 12 to 23,” Jordan told media in 2006.
“So dangerous we don’t want to place them with the public”
In 2008 Jordan spoke against a proposed ordinance which would have banned pit bulls from Seattle, but acknowledged to the local periodical The Stranger that Seattle Animal Shelter “receives about 600 ‘aggressive animal’ complaints a year, of which 300 involve a bite. Seven dogs were administratively declared dangerous last year, a designation requiring that they be euthanized or sent to live outside the city,” while the Seattle Animal Shelter euthanized 300 pit bulls and pit mixes altogether.
“They’re just so dangerous we don’t want to place them with the public,” Jordan said.