SPCA Serving Erie County President and CEO Gary Willoughby Set to Depart the Organization in the Fall; Will Lead Gulf Coast Humane Society in Florida

July 13, 2021
By: SPCA Chief Communications Officer Gina Lattuca

It is with regret and understanding that the SPCA Serving Erie County Board of Directors announces the departure of President and CEO Gary Willoughby.

Willoughby, who started his tenure at the SPCA in March of 2016, will be leaving New York State to be close to and care for aging relatives in Fort Myers, Florida, and will be leading the Gulf Coast Humane Society there.

Board Chair Julie Desmond Schechter stated today that board members are incredibly grateful for all that Willoughby has accomplished for the organization throughout the last five years.

In his time with the SPCA, in addition to several other accomplishments, Willoughby, currently a board member of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, helped complete the planning, construction, and subsequent move to the organization’s new West Seneca home; maintain financial health of the agency; and complete and open the Stanford & Judith C. Lipsey Veterinary Clinic at the SPCA.

During Willoughby’s tenure, a partnership with Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate, Tennessee commenced, whereby veterinary students come to the SPCA for rotation between the SPCA’s infirmary and Lipsey Clinic. Engagement in new initiatives including the CATalyst Council (enabling the lifelong health and welfare of companion cats) and AlignCare®  (aligning resources and activities from a community-based perspective to benefit both humans and animals) were realized, helping to ensure that the SPCA Serving Erie County remained at the forefront of animal care.

“Not the least of his challenges and successes was guiding this agency through the unprecedented period of COVID,” says Schechter. “Gary implemented protocols to ensure that our staff, volunteers, and visitors were always safe, and at the same time allowed us to maintain our budget, care for our animals, and fulfill our mission.

“I’m personally thankful for the advice, guidance, partnership, and friendship he’s provided to me during my tenure as Chair of the SPCA Board of Directors,” Schechter added.

“In many ways, this move brings me back to my home,” Willoughby states. “My family moved to the Fort Myers area when I was eight years old, but other members of our family have lived there since the 1950s. We adopted two cats from the Gulf Coast Humane Society in 1979, in fact, and I’ve watched the organization grow and thrive as the community grew.”

Willoughby adds that the Gulf Coast Humane Society has a number of programs similar to that of the SPCA Serving Erie County, including a vibrant adoption program, a high-volume spay/neuter infirmary, a public veterinary clinic, and more. “They also have a few upcoming construction projects that will allow me the opportunity to dust off my hard hat and oversee facility improvements, which has been a big part of my career over the past 20 years,” said Willoughby.

The SPCA’s Board of Directors has formed a search committee tasked first with finding a potential interim President and CEO. Willoughby will remain with the SPCA Serving Erie County three more months and will assist in the transition of the position of President and CEO.