Q&A with Debi Michnick

Editor-in-chief Brooke Adams discusses the joys of working in animal adoption and rescue with Allen Animal Shelter supervisor Debi Michnick.

Brooke Adams, Editor-in-chief

How long have you been in charge here?

I will have been a supervisor here for two years this October. 


Why did you decide to work here?

I have done animal control for many years. I actually started animal control in the state of California, in Orange County. I was there for a few years, and then I ended up going to the police academy and was a police officer for nine years in southern California. I got married and had kids and got out of it, but I always missed public service and working with municipalities. Later, I actually was working for a big box [store] in retail. I was an assistant manager at a big box store, and I was really not enjoying it that much. When a position for an animal control officer opened in Allen, I took the opportunity to go back into what I really love to do. That’s how I ended up here. 


What’s the most rewarding part about working in Allen?

It’s the people. It’s citizens. It’s a wonderful city not only to work in. The folks that live here, everybody is so into taking care [of the city]. We’ve got great citizens that will donate to us. They have hearts of gold. It just makes working here such a pleasure. It’s a nice, small shelter. It’s very homey. I really like the size of the shelter. We’re able to do a lot of great educational programs. Our animals don’t have time limits. They’re able to hang out with us as long as they need to, as long as their behavior and temperament stay great, and I really like that. I don’t think I could enjoy working for a place like Fort Worth or Dallas because they’re so large. 


What’s your favorite story of something that has happened at the animal shelter? 

There was the case of Stacy, a dog from a couple years ago. I was one of the officers on her case. She was actually sprinting down the freeway. The police officers had to stop traffic for us to get her off the freeway. It took us about three weeks for us to catch her. We set up traps. We went hunting for her every day. We were able to catch her in the tennis courts at the high school. She was so thin, and she ended up actually getting so sick that she had emergency surgery the day after she was here. It really, really did our hearts good that we were able to bring her back to health. She hung around with us. She came here in April and she was adopted in December, so she was here for many months before we were able to find her a home. She was quite the success story. We have a few of those, but I think a lot of it is just going ahead and knowing that we have found their home. We did have a cat one time that was brought in as a stray and the cat was here for at least a good couple of months when a citizen came in and recognized the cat. It turned out, the cat’s owner had actually moved out of state and the cat was being pet sat by somebody and got away. We were able to reunite him with his cat and he hadn’t seen his cat in a good six to eight months. It was did our hearts good knowing that that cat would be going back home again. It’s stories like that. We just reunited a dog that had been lost for a year and a half. The dog’s name was Scar and we have the video on our Facebook page of him finally seeing his owner. It brought tears to all of us. Those kinds of stories are what make this job a wonderful place to be. 


What’s the most difficult challenge that you face working there?

The challenge is of course as we fill up, we have to scramble to make sure that we have places for all the different animals. One of our main jobs is taking care of sick and injured animals and sometimes, especially when you’re working with wildlife, it’s difficult to catch that duck that has a fish line stuck in its web or a dog that is out for months and months and months, and you just can’t catch it. We had both of those types of cases and with the dog, we actually worked with a canine rescue group and it took the better part of a couple months, but we finally did catch her. She was adopted and is now in a home here in Allen. We did have a Canadian goose that did have a fishing hook stuck in its web and it took a boat and about five people to catch the goose. Those are tough, because you want to catch them so much, but they’re wild so it’s very difficult. That can be hard, but it’s part of the job and one of the reasons why we love to do the job. We love taking care of the animals and seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they adopt or get their pets back. 


How common is it for the workers to adopt the animals you rescue?

We have all adopted at least one. Everyone single one of us has adopted an animal at one time. We had a seven-hour-old kitten brought in who was an orphan and I took her home and fed her. After bottle feeding her for six weeks, there was no way I could let her go, so I went ahead and adopted her. Her name is Genesis, because I’ve had her since the beginning, and she is so attached to me. All my dogs and cats have been adopted or rescued. We’ve got others that have rescued everything from dogs to chickens to lizards to you name it. We also have officers that will do triage on baby rabbits and baby squirrels. We’re all in for making sure that all the animals get the best chance we could possibly give them. 


What’s one thing people in Allen might not know about the shelter?

I think that one thing people don’t know about the shelter is the fact that our animals don’t have time limits. No kill or kill shelter is really a misnomer. It’s actually what we call limited intake or unlimited intake. All municipal shelters are classified as what would be a kill shelter, but our animals don’t have time limits. As long as they stay healthy and their behavior and temperament stays good, they can hang out with us as long as they need to. Our longest resident dog was about a year and our longest resident cat was probably six to eight months. Because of the fact that we do help injured animals and wildlife, we do have situations where people, if they have an elderly senior dog or cat whose health is declining and they need to put it to sleep, we have the ability to do that if they live in the city of Allen. In that case, we would be classified, but we don’t do it if we don’t have to. The limited and unlimited intake says if you live in the city of Allen and you need to get rid of your pet, we won’t turn them down. Whether they are a baby or a 16-year-old dog with kidney issues, we will bring them in. 


What is the one thing y’all have done there that you are most proud of?

I think I’m most proud of the Clear the Shelters. We ended up having the best Clear the Shelter ever this year. We adopted out 41 animals that day, and we adopted out all of our cats. The Clear the Shelters campaign is tracked for three weeks prior. During that three weeks, we ended up adopting out 84 animals, which is pretty good for a small shelter like ours. We’re very proud that we’ve been able to find homes for that many animals.