JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Rick DuCharme no longer runs Jacksonville-based First Coast No More Homeless Pets, which he founded in 2001 and built into a nationally recognized animal welfare organization, according to a report from the Florida-Times Union.
DuCharme said his departure as executive director was at the behest of the board of directors.
In mid-June he was “sent a severance package and told to sign it,” he said.
“It was a board decision to go a different direction and I was not part of that new direction,” he said.
A news release from No More Homeless Pets said DuCharme “submitted his resignation” to the board. In the release, board chairman Martin Rees did not comment on the impetus behind the decision but praised DuCharme’s contributions.
The nonprofit “has grown from the vision of one man to end the needless killing of dogs and cats in the city of Jacksonville to a vital regional resource that has saved and cared for hundreds of thousands of animals,” he said. “Duval County and our entire region have become a national model in animal welfare best practices, thanks to Rick’s passion, dedication and focus on the mission.”
In an interview, Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Barker also said DuCharme submitted his resignation. “We stand by that statement,” she said. She declined further comment on the nature of DeCharme’s departure, citing personnel restrictions.
She said the only “new direction” she knew of was the board naming development director Rob Levine to take DuCharme’s place to continue the nonprofit’s existing mission.
“We’re going through a little bit of transition, but there are not going to be any changes,” she said. “Full speed ahead ... in a positive direction.”
DuCharme said he has formed a consulting business to continue his animal welfare work nationally and internationally.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” he said. “A lot less stress in this new job.”
Under his leadership, what began as a volunteer group whose goal was to curtail euthanasia at Jacksonville’s animal shelter has since evolved into a nonprofit that runs two low low-cost animal clinics and regional spay/neuter efforts and launched Mega Adoption Events that have found homes for thousands of dogs and cats. Ducharme also was a leader in Jacksonville’s successful campaign to become a no-kill community, which means at least 90 percent of shelter animals leave alive.
Other animal welfare leaders who worked with DuCharme said his shoes will not easily be filled, particularly his role in the ongoing effort with the Jacksonville Humane Society and Animal Care and Protective Services, which is the city shelter, to maintain no-kill status.
“I will always be grateful to Rick and FCNMHP for their devotion to working in partnership ... to create a no-kill community in Jacksonville. Together we set a new lifesaving standard for animal welfare,” said Denise Deisler, CEO of the Humane Society.
She said she arranged for a consultant team from Best Friends Animal Society, a Utah-based national animal welfare organization with existing ties to First Coast, to visit and offer free recommendations for setting a new course. The visit was to happen this week, but Levine turned it down, saying a board member was going to pay for another consultant, she said.
Best Friends is familiar with DuCharme’s work, said Marc Peralta, Senior Director of National Mission Advancement.
“Rick DuCharme has been involved in animal welfare in the state of Florida for many years, including working in partnerships with Best Friends and Petco Foundation on various projects,” he said.
DuCharme also launched TAILS — Teaching Animals & Inmates Life Skills — which enlists inmates from state prisons, county jails or transitional programs to train at-risk shelter dogs to make them more adoptable. Jen Deane, founder and executive director of the Pit Sisters rescue group, took over TAILS in 2012 at DuCharme’s request.
“He gave me the program that is near and dear to my heart,” she said.
Through TAILS, the Mega Adoption Events and other initiatives, DuCharme has helped save the lives of “thousands of animals” across the country, she said.
“He has had a huge impact on animal welfare in this community,” she said. “I can tell you he will be missed.”
Levine has been No More Homeless Pets’ development director since 2016.
“Rob has been part of our organization for almost three years and has a deep understanding of our operations, our mission and the important role that our team plays in the community,” Rees said. “Rob’s had the opportunity to work side-by-side with ... Rick DuCharme, so his appointment assures continuity and continued growth.”
Levine previously served as a regional CEO for the American Red Cross in South Florida and Northern New England and was an executive with the National Basketball Association for two decades.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the organization through its next phase of growth as we work to honor all that has been accomplished by our founder and so many other animal welfare advocates,” Levine said. “Every year our two hospitals see more than 100,000 dogs and cats, and it is a remarkable opportunity to build upon the work of all of our team members as we help pets, and the people they love, each and every day.”