Joy Braunstein was the Executive Director of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society (WPHS) for just over a year until a whirlwind of events quickly changed that. After she and her family decided to buy a purebred Collie puppy from a responsible breeder, it was this personal decision she made with her family that resulted in thousands of people rallying for her to resign or be fired.
Braunstein allegedly paid $1000 for the Collie puppy (to add to her other rescue dogs at home), and outraged onlookers accused her of being the ultimate hypocrite for not adopting a shelter dog/puppy.
In a Change.org petition that requests signatures for the removal of Braunstein from her position, a heated synopsis reads:
It is the height of hypocrisy to be the face of an organization that promotes adoption and combats overpopulation while purchasing a dog from a breeder. It is a slap in the face to the wonderful employees and volunteers at WPHS, animal rescuers everywhere, and worst of all, the homeless dogs she has committed to serving. We call for her to step down or be removed from her position as shelter director.
There’s accustations from the opposition that Braunstein was responsible for higher euthanasia rates after restructuring dog behavioral evaluations, making less pups available for adoption in a timely manner.
Additionally, the former Executive Director may not have been well liked by some of her colleagues. An article by the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reads:
Former employees estimate that in Ms. Braunstein’s 13-month tenure as executive director of the Western PA Humane Society, more than a third of the roughly 60-member staff was either fired or quit.
Of course, there’s two sides to every story. Supporter Anya Dobratz started her own Change.org petition, speaking of Braunstein’s achievements while in the position. It reads:
Mrs. Braunstein has proven herself to be effective at her job since beginning the position in 2015, including but not limited to an increase of donations, more community awareness and outreach, advocacy and bottle baby programs as well as a more effectively-run shelter overall.
Another interesting point: Dobratz writes that, along with the purebred puppy, Braunstein has adopted many rescue animals into her family. What’s more, some say that the decisions she makes in the privacy of her own home should not affect her professional reputation.
In an article by CBS Pittsburg, Dobratz said:
“I’m seeing a lot of hateful, ad hominem, unreasonable comments that are just kind of disturbing…I feel like the purebred community and the rescue community need to work together, instead of against one another.”
But despite support amidst the scrutiny, a bewildered Braunstein told the Pittsburgs Post-Gazette how stunned she was to have received such backlash, having dedicated her life to advocating for animals.
After being bullied and threatened, Braunstein went on administrative leave, and ultimately decided to step down from her position. She said that above all, she feared for the safety of her children.
“I have two small children…The violence that’s been called for … all I’m focused on right now is making sure that my 2-year-old and 6-year-old are safe from harm,” she said to the Post-Gazette.
Some of the threats were so severe that two women, named Diane Bandy and Tara Vybiral, have been charged with harassment.
When announcing her resignation, Joy Braunstein’s official statement was as follows:
Given the present circumstances, I have made a personal choice to step away from The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and resign my position effective immediately out of respect for my family and out of respect for the organization. I wish the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society well and will continue to be a supporter of the organization. At this time, I have not decided what I plan to do next professionally. Before I do, I plan to take some time with my family. I want to thank the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society for my time there and everyone else for their concern, but I have no further comment.
You’ve heard both sides; now we want to hear from you – do you think Braunstein made the right decision to resign?