Bay County Executive James Barcia Earns ‘Friend of Homeless Animals’ Award

(Bloomfield Hills, Michigan) — With generous support from the Humane Society of Macomb Foundation, the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance (MPFA) is announcing its Michigan Elected Official’s Friend of Homeless Animals Award to Bay County Executive James Barcia for making transformational changes to Bay County Animal Control.

In 2016, County Executive Elect Barcia was approached by Bay County Humane Society president Jeannie Wolicki-Nichols about making Bay County no-kill for homeless cats and dogs. The Humane Society had championed the idea since 2011 with no support from the county.

“The no-kill approach reserves euthanasia for those animals that are irremediably suffering and to save all healthy and treatable companion animals,” explained MPFA Chair Deborah Schutt. “It would require the county to embrace more compassionate practices, while engaging the community’s involvement and support.”

In 2016 Barcia attended the statewide MPFA Getting to the Goal Conference to understand what would be required. After winning election, he established a committee with representatives from the Humane Society, area home-based rescue groups, and animal control to prepare a strategic plan.

With plan in hand, changes started immediately. The live release rate rose from 66 percent in 2016, to 85 percent in 2017, 89 percent in 2018 and 96 percent in 2019.  The live release rate is the number of animals leaving the shelter by return to owner, adoption, or transfer to another shelter or rescue organization.

“The closer you get to the goal, the harder it is to achieve progress,” Schutt said in naming Bay County the most improved large shelter in Michigan in 2017.  “The low hanging fruit has been picked and the more difficult cases arise that require not only passion but creativity, collaboration, and partnerships.”

In 2019, after Barcia appointed Craig Goulet to be the new shelter leader, he took the next step and achieved no-kill status.

“Transformational change often takes a movement, but in Bay County, it was the decision of one man, Executive Barcia,” Schutt said.  “He is a leader that established a vision for the future, developed a plan to get there and selected the critical staffing to achieve the goal.  Bay County residents have reason to be proud of the leadership they have in Jim Barcia. When an elected official cares for the lives of the voiceless, it speaks volumes.”