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From The Top: Anna Payton, Naperville Area Humane Society

Anna Payton is the new executive director of the Naperville Humane Society. She took over the position from her predecessor Angie Wood on May 27.  |  Submitted
Anna Payton is the new executive director of the Naperville Humane Society. She took over the position from her predecessor Angie Wood on May 27. | Submitted

As trite as the phrase might be, Kendall County’s loss is Naperville’s gain.

That’s the opinion of Amy Cesich, Kendall County Board member and the Animal Control Committee chairman, about Anna Payton, the new executive director of the Naperville Area Humane Society.

Payton was the director of Kendall County Animal Control but took over the NAHS leadership from her predecessor Angie Wood on May 27.

Cesich said the 33-year-old graduate of the University of Illinois, who majored in animal science, is someone she admires because of her passionate advocacy for animals.

“When Anna took over here about two years ago, we had some incidents here, and she really turned things around,” Cesich said. “There were times when she sort of butted heads with the committee or the board, and she remained true to what she wanted, and I really respect her for that. This new appointment is really a gain for Naperville and a loss for us.”

One example of Payton’s advocacy for animals was changing the rules about euthanizing animals in Kendall County.

“Anna changed the mindset here, and rather than look at a time frame of maybe 35 days in a shelter, she argued it shouldn’t be about time, but that temperament, the health of the animal and space available at the shelter should be the components of the evaluation,” Cesich said.

Payton, of Plainfield, said that initially her goal was to become a veterinarian when she grew up, but an internship with DuPage County Animal Control changed all that.

“I worked during the summer of 2002 doing the internship, and after that, I was all in — in terms of doing the work I do now,” Payton said. “I figured there were plenty of smart people out there who could fill the need for future veterinarians, but we needed more motivated people to work with animal shelters.”

Payton said that, as a child, she was interested in animals but her parents thwarted her attempts to own a cat or a dog.

“I had other things, including fish, a hamster, a bird, frogs, gerbils, and I think, I even had a leech at one time,” she said. “My freshman year of college I rebelled, I guess, and I brought home this puppy.”

Before working in Kendall County, Payton was an animal control officer and humane education and public events coordinator for DuPage County Animal Care and Control. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Association of Professional Humane Educators, and volunteers her time with various humane societies and breed-specific rescues.

Wood, who is relocating to Texas with her husband, said she has known Payton for 10 years and is sure that her passion and experience will serve NAHS well.

“She has experience with animal welfare, and we feel she’ll be a great fit here in Naperville,” Wood said.

Payton said she believes the overall conditions regarding animal welfare are improving, thanks to more animals being spayed or neutered. She also says the perception about animal shelters “being sad and lonely places like you see in ‘Lady and the Tramp’ are also changing.”

“You also realize that each animal and situation is unique, and you never see the same thing twice,” she said. “You can’t control what comes through the door with each animal’s special need to survive or the difficult people you may have to deal with. Animals can’t tell you what’s wrong, and it takes patience and knowledge and compassion.”

Payton said her goals as the new director are to increase the name recognition of the Naperville Area Humane Society “as the first place to adopt a pet,” along with decreasing the length of time an animal stays at the shelter and to increase revenue.

“Despite this being a nonprofit, it still has to operate like a business, and if we don’t have the funds, we fail the animals, and that’s not acceptable,” she said. “I’m excited about the forward thinking of this organization, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”

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