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From Underdog to Top Dog

Animal Welfare Department director is now a Certified Animal Services Executive Leader.
October 03, 2023

The City of Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department (AWD) is pleased to announce Carolyn Ortega, Director of Animal Welfare Department, has graduated from the Best Friends Animal Society Executive Leadership Program. 

The program was an intensive, six-month endeavor with the focus of implementing the best animal shelter practices nationwide, create lifesaving changes and teaching shelter leaders the business tools to run their shelters efficiently. Although hundreds of people applied, only 32 (15% of applicants) were selected to attend, and ultimately, just 24 completed the coursework. Currently, there are only 150 individuals in the entire country holding this certification.

The Best Friends Executive Leadership Certification (ELC) is a master’s level program offered by Southern Utah University (SUU). Graduates of the program earned a SUU Institutional Certificate in Animal Services Executive Leadership.  

“I very much appreciate the opportunity to work with Best Friends and shelter leaders from around the country, and to be able to benefit from their expertise and resources,” said Carolyn Ortega, Director of Animal Welfare Department.

Director Ortega started at AWD in 2020. She brought with her more than 25 years of operational and management experience, but no direct animal shelter experience.

“I consider myself a lifelong learner, but the most important reason I wanted to achieve this certification is to convey to my staff and my community my commitment to the Animal Welfare industry and the pets and people we serve.” said Carolyn Ortega. 

“Albuquerque is an animal-friendly city and the AWD reinforces this value by continually bridging service gaps in the community,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “I congratulate Carolyn on this achievement, recognizing that her leadership and expertise further the department’s key goals of increasing spay and neuter programs, finding forever homes for more pets, and fighting animal abuse.”

Director Ortega has evolved into one of the leading municipal animal shelter directors in the state of New Mexico and has transformed from underdog to top dog.