Former research scientist takes the helm as director of Broward’s animal shelter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Emily Wood, who loves to wear sparkly cat-eye glasses, started her path to South Florida when she left her career as a research scientist about a decade ago in California.

Wood worked for nearly 12 years at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which conducts scientific research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy.

She is a trained environmental scientist from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and she earned degrees in physics and mathematics from the University of California in Berkeley.

Five days into her new job on Friday, Wood was adapting to her duties as the new director of the Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Center in Fort Lauderdale.

After leaving the Berkeley Lab, Wood joined the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an organization founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind treatment at the hands of humans.

She served as a humane educator and as a client care manager at the SPCA in San Francisco when a housing crisis forced families to surrender their animals because they couldn’t find pet-friendly housing. She has also worked at the Contra Costa County Animal Services and at the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA.

Wood’s arrival from California comes after a scathing report that blasted the center’s former administration for not adhering to best practices. The audit uncovered the center was understaffed and it was losing money on pet licensing operations.

There was enough going on for the auditor to issue 135 recommendations. Wood read the report and is familiar with the circumstances, and she has a plan. First, she has a list of short-term priorities including a new social media engagement strategy.

“I really want to make sure we are telling our story and communicating well with our community,” Wood said.

Emily Wood walks inside the Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Pet Adoption Service building on Thursday in Fort Lauderdale. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

The animal lover is already dealing with a construction project that was part of one of the recommendations in the audit report to improve air circulation in order to address the building’s serious odor problem.

Wood is passionate about her new mission in Broward County and she said she has already clicked on the reset button. Here is how she described the center’s role:

“We are a great safety net for the community, for catching those dogs in the net who need a place to go, but we’re a bridge to the step of their life.”

For more information about how to adopt a pet, visit the county’s page here or call 954-359-1313.

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.