Ana Zorrilla’s childhood was filled with a variety of pets: ducks, chickens, cats and dogs. They all have good stories. The chickens used to chase Zorrilla around the yard; a Siamese cat, who lived to be 22, was sick all the time and was a frequent visitor to the veterinarian’s office. And her first dog, Princey, came from one of the cat’s office visits. Zorrilla was eager to have a dog, but her mother wasn’t. Once, when they took the cat to the vet, a woman arrived at the office with a box of puppies, all of which were yellow except for one that was black. That standout pup went home with Zorrilla and her family, and won over her mother in the process. After many years of advocating for animals on a professional level, Zorrilla is set to wrap up her first decade with Louisiana SPCA, which attempts to provide the best care and find loving homes for 43,000 animals every year. She is the only animal shelter director in Louisiana and one of less than 100 in the country to become a Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA). The CAWA designation proves that Zorrilla has the skills, experience and competencies to excel in her field. But her dedication was evident long before she earned the certificate. When she was hired at the organization’s old Japonica Street location, she originally planned to stay a short time. But, inspired by the important work they were doing, and by the fierce and tireless devotion of their staff and volunteers, “I knew I wanted to stay on,” she admits. Nov. 11 marks Louisiana SPCA’s 38th annual Howling Success fundraiser, with a 2016 theme of “Pop Culture.”
Q: Have you had any unusual animal encounters? Because the Louisiana SPCA is an open-admission shelter, we take in every animal that comes to us. So while the majority of animals are cats, dogs and rabbits, we do get some unusual urban critters like stray goats and pigs; miniature and full-sized horses; snakes and birds. We’ve also had small monkeys, pet rats and an African wildcat.
Q: What led you to this position? I had watched the footage of animal rescue during Hurricane Katrina and was so in awe of the work the Louisiana SPCA did under Laura Maloney’s leadership. I joined the team to help raise funds to build a new shelter since the Japonica Street facility was a complete loss. I planned to stay for about six months or a year. … Within a year, the opportunity to take on the CEO role came up. I felt (and still feel) so fortunate to have this opportunity. Over the past 10 years I’ve learned so much.
Q: What’s on the horizon for the Louisiana SPCA? I’m most excited about Louisiana SPCA’s Public Veterinary Clinic Services. We have brought some of the most talented veterinarians who are able to provide annual exams and vaccinations for dogs and cats, as well as rabbits and other small animals. We have been growing these services because they support keeping pets healthy and in homes, which is critical to our mission. We have also been expanding our dog-training programs and have two of the most outstanding trainers on our team.
Q: Who inspires you? Dr. Kate Hurley is an amazing veterinarian at the University of California-Davis. She was one of the driving forces to create a shelter medicine specialty and launched the “Million Cat Challenge,” which has saved outdoor cats from shelters by challenging communities to focus on spay/neuter programs and returning cats to neighborhoods rather than shelters.
Q: Tell us about the Howling Success event. Howling Success is one of the most fun fundraisers I go to every year. Not only is the food outstanding (from some of the best restaurants in the city), but also the co-chairs and committee work to make it a unique experience. This year the theme is “Pop Culture,” and we’ll have some of the Mardi Gras dance groups performing to a medley of pop tunes. We also have one of the best auctions, featuring travel packages, pet care, art and jewelry. n
Occupation: Chief Executive Officer, Louisiana SPCA Age: 42 Raised in: Metairie Lives in: Broadmoor Education: Dominican High School; Bachelor of Arts, Loyola University New Orleans; Master’s Degree, University of New Orleans. Family: Husband, Robby Harris; daughter Isa (11), son Jacob (2 months) Pets: Sparky (scruffy terrier mix) and Maximus (giant very vocal cat) were both adopted from the Louisiana SPCA. Favorite TV show: “The Goldbergs” Favorite book: Wonder by Raquel Palacios. “I recently read it with my daughter, and love how you see the same events through different people’s eyes. I cry every time I read the chapter about the dog. I just love this book.” Dream pet: “Any that are adopted from shelters. My shelter pets have been so much more easygoing, more grateful and more affectionate than any other pet I’ve had.” Nightmare pet: “Wildlife and exotic animals. They are beautiful, majestic animals whose needs cannot be met in a home.”
I had no idea that spaying/neutering my pets was important until I started working at the Louisiana SPCA. I always took my pets to the veterinarians and thought I knew so much about being a good pet owner, but I was wrong.