Jack Hagerman portrait

Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society CEO Jack Hagerman and his Dachshunds Madeline and Ollie.

Lifelong animal welfare advocate Jack Hagerman joined the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society as its new CEO this month.

He will lead Northern New Mexico’s largest animal shelter, with a $7 million budget, more than 100 paid employees and hundreds of volunteers.

“A lot of people have preconceived notions about what shelters are,” Hagerman said. “I’m used to being the guy who talks about animal welfare to the public.”

Hagerman, 45, replaces former Executive Director Jennifer Steketee, who has retired but plans to volunteer with the nonprofit shelter by fostering animals. Steketee, who previously served as a veterinarian at the shelter, had served in its top job since 2016.

Hagerman is the shelter’s first chief executive officer. The title comes from an organizational restructuring, he said, but the job will include the same responsibilities as those of a director.

He and a spokesman for the shelter both declined to disclose his salary.

The most recent federal tax filings publicly available show Steketee earned more than $157,000 in compensation in 2019 as executive director. The shelter holds around $15 million in assets, the documents show.

Salary and benefits for Steketee’s predecessor, Mary Martin, totaled nearly $188,000, according to tax documents. Martin also lived rent-free in a home the shelter had purchased.

Hagerman said in an interview Tuesday he grew up poor in the Inland Empire, a sprawling area east of Los Angeles. He spent his youth tooling around the neighborhood, picking up stray animals and nursing them back to health.

He said because he was shy, he didn’t have a lot of friends. “Spending time with my animal friends was the way that I liked to spend my time.”

Hagerman overcame his shyness and began working as a marketing, communications and public relations professional in the health care industry, he said. “I was ready to take a step back and focus on a passion project.”

In 2012, he and his partner at the time moved to Spring Green, Wis., where they started a farm and conservation organization for critically endangered livestock. The operation grew quickly, and before long, they were hosting more than 400 animals representing 17 endangered species.

“Making the shift to animal welfare was actually a pretty easy shift to make,” he said. “If you think about how hospitals and clinics work, it’s kind of similar to how shelters work.”

When the relationship ended in 2016, Hagerman moved back to Los Angeles and began working as vice president of operations and community engagement at the Pasadena Humane animal shelter.

“It was a very special time to be a part of animal welfare because, as the pandemic came, the industry started to completely reshape and reengineer itself and provide service to the community in a different way,” he said. “And I got to be a part of building that.”

He moved to New Mexico on Nov. 1 and stepped into his role at the local shelter.

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society opened in 1939. It now has a 100-acre campus at 100 Caja del Rio Road with trails and playgrounds for dogs and their caretakers.

It also operates the Clare Eddy Thaw Animal Hospital and two off-campus retail stores.

The retail stores and the animal hospital bring in the majority of its revenue, along with fundraisers, charitable donations and local government contracts.

The nonprofit shelter fosters and permanently places animals, and offers behavioral training classes for post-adoption pets. It provides assistance to disadvantaged pet owners, as well as education and outreach in the community.

It now has around 240 animals — including dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, reptiles and birds — down from 360 at the beginning of November.

A shelter’s busy season typically runs from spring through summer, Hagerman said, and populations drop in the fall as the number of strays decrease with colder weather.

The shelter faced heavy scrutiny in 2018, when two members of its board resigned, citing operating losses and questionable business deals between the shelter, some of its board members and former executive director Martin.

Hagerman said those issues are in the past.

“Our current board of directors is only between two and three years old,” he said. “Whatever was happening back then has not been happening for a number of years now.”

Despite a staffing shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said the shelter is doing well. “Our care of the animals is excellent,” he said.

Going forward, he said he will focus on providing more community resources. One idea he mentioned was creating a pet food bank to aid pet owners who are struggling financially.

“We’ve started to see a dramatic shift from housing animals in shelters to having really robust foster programs,” he said, adding animals do better in a home than they do in a shelter. “The pandemic really helped put that into fast motion.”

“Even if it’s only for a temporary period of time,” Hagerman said, “an animal’s going to do much better in a foster home than they will do in a kennel.”

(9) comments

Kathy Krickhahn

Welcome, Mr. Hagerman, and best wishes for continued success. SFAS is a jewel, and you are indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to lead it forward.

Henry R.

Welcome to our latest newcomer from out of state. For the sake of the animals and employees of the shelter, I wish him the best and hope he’s able to do well and hope he sticks around for a while if he does a good job.

D. Stark

It’s beyond wonderful that Santa Fe has such a beautiful facility and such ample resources, but it would be even greater if there was a way to share some of those assets with the animal shelter in Espanola. Espanola’s facility and staff could really use some help, not to mention the animals in it care. Perhaps Santa Fe can look northward and expand its area of concern?

Linda Garrido

D. Stark, an interesting idea. You could consider being the liaison between the two shelters to explore this sharing.

Murad Kirdar

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter does help Espanola Humane, as well as over 40 other rescues and shelters from all across New Mexico.

Espanola handles homeless animals in their jurisdiction, which is Rio Arriba county. The SFAS handles the injured, neglected and homeless animals from Santa Fe County.

Last year, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter transferred in over 300 at-risk animals from partner shelters all over New Mexico including Las Vegas, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Deming, Farmington, Espanola and more.

- Murad, Santa Fe Animal Shelter

D. Stark

That is quite reassuring, Murad - nevertheless, the facility at Espanola could use some help and I imagine, so would the staff. I was there last week dropping off some dog beds and was saddened to see the state of the facility and its accommodations for the animals.

Kristen Lieving

In what universe does an animal shelter need a “CEO?”

Rob Morlino

This one? Lots of nonprofits have CEOs. This shelter also needs a lot more administrative and fundraising capacity as it's not substantially supported by the city or county. The vast majority of it's $7 million budget is fundraised.


ms. lieving. in our universe where the shelter is a complex business consisting of employees and volunteers dealing with the public and suppliers and donors and regulatory agencies with reporting and oversight responsibilities and did i mention donors requiring programs targeted at them thru special events, promotions and periodic drives. there are alo the short term and strategic planning functions to be lead, supervised and whose progress toward goals needs to be monitored. the foregoing is not all of the ceo's universe, but it provides a glimpse.

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