RIO GRANDE VALLEY/EDINBURG - Bringing a depth of experience with animal welfare organizations in South Carolina, Missouri, and California, Donna Casamento has joined the Palm Valley Animal Society team as its new permanent Executive Director as of April 1. Relocating from Springfield, MO, Casamento comes on board during a critical time nationwide and plans to focus on what the community can do for PVAS as well as what PVAS can do for the community.

“Keeping our direction focused and encouraging the community to support us in these difficult and uncertain times will be critical to the service we are able to provide to the community,” she said. “We are in this together, and together we will get through the challenges that lie ahead.”

Casamento recognizes the significant progress PVAS has achieved during the past two years, going from a 34% save rate of the animals in its care to a 90% save rate for the first time this past January. Between the Trenton Center which handles the intake of animals as well as adoptions and The Laurie P. Andrews Center which offers adoptions and veterinary care, PVAS is currently at an 88% live release of the animals coming through its gates.

“It is critical that we keep the momentum going,” Casamento said, “and further engage our community to support PVAS knowing that we exist to provide the people and animals of RGV with critical services that will not only improve the lives of companion animals in our community but of the people who love them.”

With streamlined curbside adoptions and the help of rescue organizations and local fosters, hundreds of animals are still making it out of the shelters.

“The animals are receiving great care at both facilities, but nothing compares to a home of their own,” Casamento said. “Anyone considering bringing a pet into their lives should come and check out the animals at PVAS where they are sure to find a pet that is just right for their home.”

Although she is new to Texas, Casamento is no stranger to the plight of lost and abandoned animals. She has served as director of the HEART Program in Columbia, SC, as CEO of Pet Helpers in Charleston, SC, and as Executive Director for the Humane Society of Southwest MO. Most recently, she was Chief Program Officer for Michelson Found Animals in Los Angeles.

“In addition to the personal satisfaction that comes from helping to save the lives of companion animals,” she said, “there is a great sense of joy and achievement in helping others to follow the path of changing the world for animals.”

The PVAS Board of Directors has been searching for a permanent ED since July 2018. Mike Bricker of Best Friends Animal Society served as interim ED for the past year.

“We are so blessed to have found such a qualified person to lead us to continued high levels of lifesaving and greater long-term solvency,” said PVAS board president Keely Lewis. “Donna brings the right kind of experience, the pragmatism, the relational skills, the national connections, and the passion to take Palm Valley to the next level.”

Casamento visited the Valley in March and toured both PVAS centers. She was particularly impressed with the staff.

“PVAS has some of the most dedicated staff I have encountered in shelters throughout the country,” she said. “They are committed to the work that needs to be done to help save the lives of the animals in our care and reaching our goals of sustaining a No Kill shelter.”

Casamento was impressed with the relatively-new Laurie P. Andrews Center but recognized that the decades-old Trenton Center needs significant work to bring it up to current standards of high-quality animal care.

“While we’re grateful for the lifesaving space that the Trenton facility provides,” she said, “it was not created to care for animals in the way we must do so now. We will be looking for ways to improve the existing structure until we can come together as a community and provide a new facility to better handle the needs of the animals in our care.”

Although she is coming on board during an historic national crisis beyond anyone’s control, Casamento believes better times are ahead throughout the community and that, with the community’s help, PVAS can continue on the road to sustainable lifesaving levels at 90% or above.

“Without the support of the community,” she said. “we will not be able to achieve what is critical. The people I have met so far fill me with confidence that together we will make it happen.”