Chronicle intern and Point Park graduate student Margaret Singer recently sat down with Lee Nesler, the executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society to talk about animals, hobbies and more. Since 2004, Nesler has managed the organizations two open door shelters, one in Allegheny West and the other in Elizabeth, Pa.
Margaret Singer: When did you know you wanted to dedicate your life to working with animals?
Lee Nesler: I have always known I would work with animals. I have spent nearly 20 years in zoo work. I want to be in profession where I can make a connection every day.
MS: How many animals do you own?
LN: I have one rescue dog and four other shelter dogs. I also have a cat that I am fostering right now and a horse.
MS: What is your educational background?
LN: I have a degree in animal science with a focus on animal behavior and I have worked at a number of zoos throughout my career. I was the general curator at the Pittsburgh Zoo and after 15 years there, I made the switch to the shelter.
MS: Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?
LN: I want to live out in the country so I can have my horse with me all the time. In this line of work, if there’s a time when I felt ineffective, I would find another profession. Since working with animals is an altruistic calling, you have to really be on your game.
MS: What would you be doing if not working for the Humane Society?
LN: I would like to potentially do conservation work in countries of origin like South America or Africa. I would like to care for animals globally rather than just locally.
MS: Could you describe a favorite memory from your time at the Humane Society?
LN: When you see an animal who was abused and neglected go into their forever home and the emaciated ones comes back healthy, it makes you go, “Wow, this can come full circle.” You know the animal is well-loved.
MS: What do you like to do in your off-time?
LN: I live near Heartwood Acres and I like to get lost in the woods — not literally though! I am an avid traveler and like to experience life outside of this country.
MS: Do you have any favorite films featuring animals?
LN: I’m actually kind of against using animals in films unless they use positive reward training. I did like how the “Horse Whisperer” with Robert Redford brought to life that there is a different way to work with animals. There was also a documentary featured on HBO about ranching. It is these kinds of movies that show people how complex animals are and helps people realize animals are part of your team to work with you.
MS: Are there any upcoming events that you would like Northsiders to know about?
LN: Yes, on July 15th we are hosting a Pup Crawl which will benefit all three shelters affiliated with the Humane Society. There will also be a Sample of Station Square on September 3rd.
For more information on Lee and the rest of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society staff or to learn more about the organization, visit www.wpahumane.org.