Don Jordan
Seattle Animal Shelter Director 1996-2016

As we launch the 18th annual Furry 5K, we do so in memory of Seattle Animal Shelter’s longtime director, Don Jordan, who passed away on Oct. 19, 2016.

“Don was a kind, compassionate and dedicated leader, one who devoted his entire career – and many would say his entire life – to the care of animals,” said Mayor Murray. “Under Don’s leadership, the shelter transitioned from the world of animal control into the world of animal welfare. Most would agree that Don’s vision, strength and courage were driving forces behind the Seattle Animal Shelter’s evolution from being thought of as a ‘dog pound’ to the highly respected animal welfare organization it is today.”

In the late 90s, Don opened the door for the creation of the shelter’s volunteer program, which represented a major shift in how animal control agencies were operated at the time. Today, more than 600 volunteers work alongside staff to provide exceptional care for Seattle’s lost, injured and orphaned animals. In Don’s 20 years as the shelter’s director, SAS’ save rate increased and the shelter has gone from saving “one life at a time” to saving “many lives, all of the time.” In fact, it is thanks to Don’s efforts from long ago that the shelter now saves every adoptable animal that comes under its care.

“Don’s professional accomplishments are incredible, but he was also a dear friend to many of us and one of the kindest people I have had the good fortune to know,” said Fred Podesta, Finance and Administrative Services director. “Don understood that animals can bring out the best in their human companions, and he dedicated more than 26 years at the City demonstrating this.”

Don is remembered by shelter staff and volunteers as someone whose compassion for people and animals was endless. He welcomed and created space for new ideas, such as the shelter’s signature Furry 5K event, a 17-year tradition that shelter volunteers first created and organized. He was passionate about changing attitudes surrounding breed ban legislation he believed had no basis in fact, arguing that the focus belongs on “the deed, not the breed.” Don fostered relationships with his peers, participating in national animal welfare organizations across the country. Don was always looking forward and for opportunities to improve how we care for Seattle’s animals.

Some of the stories staff and volunteers shared speak to Don’s humor and good nature:

“Don’s door was always open, and he made time for anyone who walked in his office and sat down. In that space, you were surrounded by his family in photographs and mementos that covered every wall, every ledge that would hold a frame … and in that space you were also a part of his family. He cared deeply about all of us. He loved to laugh and put up with my many pranks, including the year I plastered every surface in his office with newspaper clippings that included any reference to the Huskies after they won the Apple Cup. Three weeks later, he stumbled on the last picture in some crevice, and I can still hear his exasperated ‘Ann!’ from where I was sitting at dispatch.” ‑Ann Graves, SAS acting director

“Don would need data pulled for a report and often it would be needed ‘stat!’ I would drop everything I was doing to pull the information together as fast as I could to meet the deadline. Don knew that I would get frazzled when I had to drop what I was doing to work on data requests, so sometimes he would appear at my door and ask, ‘Hey, can I get a report of all the animals that ever came into our shelter, their names and which ones had droopy ears?’ It was so funny, and we’d have a good laugh together.” ‑Robin Klunder-Ryall, SAS operations manager

“A quote that Don used from time to time was ‘Carpe Dentum’ – ‘seize the teeth’ – instead of the normal inspirational quote ‘Carpe Diem’ or ‘seize the day.’ He recognized the stressful environment we work in when our decisions literally came down to the life or death of an animal. He tried to keep things light and not add any additional stress on us, if he could help it. Yes, he was my boss, but he was more than that – he was also my friend. I will miss sitting in his office chatting with him about our lives, family, past shenanigans at Wazzu and taking some time to just step away from the daily work routine.” ‑Don Baxter, SAS manager of animal care and volunteers

“Don was so kind and supportive when I was developing the Seattle Animal Shelter’s Pet Loss Support Group program – I could not have done it without him. He always took the time to tell us that our work was important and that it was making a difference. He left behind an incredible legacy, and there are thousands of little souls who owe their lives to his work.” ‑Connie Starr, SAS volunteer

Don first joined the Seattle Animal Shelter in 1990 as an animal control officer II. He was promoted to animal control supervisor in 1993 and became the shelter director in 1996.

Don was born in Seattle and grew up in Lake Forest Park. He graduated from Shorecrest High School in 1985 and from Washington State University in 1989 with a bachelor of science in zoology. He was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Don is survived by his college sweetheart Jenny; children Micheal Miller (Jaclyn), Amanda, Alyssa and Donald; parents Don and Joan; mother-in-law Joyce Chin; sister Stephanie Myers (Matt); brother Jeff (Denae); brother-in-law Darren Chin (Colleen); nephews and nieces Shaylah, Reilly, Jake, Henry, Ainsley, Kennedy, Nicholas, Peyton; and a very large extended family.

We remember Don as we carry forward his work and passion on behalf of all the animals and people whose lives we touch.

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