New Director Named at Upper Valley Humane Society

  • Nikki Grimes Ranieri, the new executive director of Upper Valley Humane Society, holds Mr. Bones. “He is a shelter cat who I’ve come to adore,” Ranieri said in an email. “Happily, Mr. Bones has been adopted and is going to a wonderful new home in the next few days.” Carrie Hamel photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/22/2017 12:27:41 AM
Modified: 1/22/2017 12:27:45 AM

Enfield — The Upper Valley Humane Society has a new director.

Nikki Grimes Ranieri, of Hartford, who joined the nonprofit about 18 months ago as development director, succeeds Ayeshah Al-Humaidhi, who had led the organization since March 2015 before stepping down earlier this month.

As development director, Ranieri was instrumental in advancing the Upper Valley Humane Society’s fundraising program, Jennifer Riccio, board chair, said in a letter to the humane society’s supporters. She is committed to “carrying on the good work and direction” established by Al-Humaidhi and to serving the Upper Valley, where she grew up.

Riccio said she cannot overstate the “monumental effort and impact” of Al-Humaidhi’s leadership. During her tenure, the length of stay for animals at the humane society was cut in half. In 2015, cats averaged 85 days before being adopted out; the average stay for dogs was 32. In 2016, those numbers were 40 and 18, respectively.

Al-Humaidhi led the expansion of several services at the Enfield-based nonprofit, including its pet food pantry and low-cost rabies clinics, and built “an outstanding team of professionals” who are operating the shelter at “an exceptionally high level,” Riccio said. She also brought “unparalleled compassion” for people and animals.

“We are grateful for all that she has done to make Upper Valley Humane Society the warm, welcoming and vibrant organization that it is today,” Riccio said.

Moving forward, a top priority is continuing that direction, momentum and progress.

Al-Humaidhi last week started working at Veganism is the Next Evolution, or VINE, a farmed animal sanctuary in Springfield, Vt., where she will oversee development and develop local outreach and education programs.

“Farmed animal welfare is something that has been very important to me for a long time,” the West Fairlee resident said in a telephone interview on Friday. “It’s a very large-scale issue I felt my skills and experience would be of use to.”

While the issue of pet hoarding is familiar to people, they don’t often think about cases of farm animal neglect or hoarding, and fewer support systems are in place for birds and hooved animals, she said.

Al-Humaidhi said she’s “super proud” of the strong, knowledgeable team she built at Upper Valley Humane Society.

They understand the importance of the human component in animal welfare and work together toward a collective vision, which includes moving animals through the system faster, she said.

Over the years, the number of cats coming to the shelter has declined, a “wonderful result” of successful spay and neutering efforts in the Northeast, she said. During her tenure, the nonprofit began bringing in dogs from states that struggle with overpopulation, mostly in the South.

That initiative has generated greater interest, prompting more people to visit the Enfield site, which has contributed to shorter average stays for pets waiting to be adopted.

Al-Humaidhi is confident the humane society will continue to focus on the human component and “ensure that we have more and more services in place,” she said. With strong leadership, the organization is “in very good hands.”

Before joining the Enfield organization, Ranieri had previously worked at Central Vermont Humane Society. An animal lover with three dogs of her own, she is passionate about maintaining an outstanding shelter and continuing to serve people and pets with compassion, Riccio said.

In a telephone interview on Friday, Ranieri said she’s excited to have the opportunity “to make a difference to so many animals” and the people who work at the humane society, and about where they are as an organization.

“Ayeshah did an outstanding job of setting us on exactly the right course,” Ranieri said. “I have the obligation and honor of carrying on what she started.”

Once saddled with a deficit of more than $300,000, the humane society’s financial situation is on the upswing, she said.

“Ayeshah has left us in a strong financial position,” Ranieri said.

She hasn’t seen the final numbers for the year, and while the organization is “certainly not flush,” she expects any deficit will be “not even close” to that of 2013, thanks in part to unexpected gifts the nonprofit received in 2016. “We’re very blessed to be in that position.”

According to IRS tax filings available on the Guidestar website, in 2013 the organization spent nearly $334,000 more than it took in. In 2014, according to the latest tax forms available on the website, that number had fallen to $209,000.

Looking ahead, Ranieri’s goals include spreading the word about the organization’s role as an “active and significant institution in animal care” in the Upper Valley, she said. “We are more than an adoption center, and we need to tell that story.”

The nonprofit will continue to emphasize compassion and kindness in its education programs, which include a summer camp at Crossroads Academy in Lyme, she said. It also will reconfigure some of its space in order to expand its spay and neuter clinics, which are “oversubscribed every time,” and consolidate its animals, and adoption processes, from two buildings to one, with a grand re-opening expected this spring.

Like many shelters, the humane society has moved from an adoption application form to a match form, geared at connecting the right person with the right animal, Ranieri said. The new, warmer process has enabled them to adopt out more pets.

The original building really was designed for housing and sheltering animals in a safe and healthy manner, she said. The new setup is expected to be much more convenient for employees and the public.

An “early vegetarian,” Ranieri said she’s always been passionate about animals. In the 1970s, her family had a “marmalade cat” named KC for kitty cat.

“I just adored that cat, and she adored me,” she said. When she was ready to have kittens, the orange cat chose a natural spot — Ranieri’s closet.

Aimee Caruso can be reached at 603-727-3210 or

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