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Mayor of Dog Town 

Steve Farley joins Humane Society of Southern Arizona as CEO

Steve Farley: “My whole life, I’ve been working with animals.”

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Steve Farley: “My whole life, I’ve been working with animals.”

THough many know him for his time in the legislature, serving as both a state senator and a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, or as the artist behind the tiled murals on the Broadway underpass, Steve Farley's career working with animals predates all of these.

Steve Farley became the newest CEO of The Humane Society of Southern Arizona on Wednesday, Feb. 19, and hopes to use the lessons he's learned in his numerous previous roles to continue the organization's "vision of a community in which all pets are cared for and loved." Farley views leading the Humane Society as the next step in his public service.

"My whole life, I've been working with animals," Farley said. "So, when I saw this opportunity come up, I thought 'I've been training my whole life for this.' And when I found out I got the position, I was beyond ecstatic."

After a national search over the course of several months, the Humane Society Board of Directors selected Farley for his experience and service record, such as winning the Humane Society's Humane Legislator of the Year multiple times.

Farley's work with animals began in the 1980s when he spent three years as a volunteer animal behaviorist at the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In that role, he worked to socialize and train hard-case shelter dogs to make them more adoptable, and worked SPCA's national behavior hotline to help foster parents solve animals' behavior problems.

During his 12 years in the legislature Farley also led a successful effort to ban greyhound racing in Arizona, as well as helped lead the fight against puppy mills.

"Especially in these often difficult and divisive times, our companion animals unite us," Farley said in his announcement as CEO. "Their unconditional love for us and ability to bring us together comprise a unique natural force that promises to help us find solutions to a wide array of social problems, both human and animal."

Farley has also previously volunteered with the Humane Society, and his family found their two dogs, Scooter and Benny, at the Humane Society.

"It all adds up to a fabulous place to be working," Farley said.

In his new role Farley says he is as interested in bringing new people to the Humane Society as he is as bringing the Humane Society to new people. He highlighted certain Humane Society community programs he's especially interested in expanding, such as the New Beginnings Canine Program.

New Beginnings helps "at risk" dogs – such as those coming from abusive homes, or those that have never been properly socialized to people or other dogs – socialize by interacting with Arizona prisoners. This is a symbiotic program, as the Department of Corrections members build confidence and develop a sense of responsibility, and the dogs receive necessary attention, training and nurturing.

"I've always wanted to reach across the aisle to have people come together for a common goal, because everyone has different backgrounds and abilities," Farley said. "I have a radically collaborative approach... I say let's look at new ideas to see how we can make animals central to who we are as a culture... There's so many ways we can collaborate. Everybody's got a way into the Humane Society."

Farley expressed interest in expanding these programs, such as taking animals to retirement homes or day cares. He says he's also considering possible Humane Society expansions to Tucson's east side.

But before any expansions or new programs, he says he will busy himself speaking with and learning from the Humane Society's extensive community of staff, donors and volunteers.

"After 12 years of serving in the legislature, I was still learning. So I'm going to be learning things all the time here, and that's one of the things that's great about this job, because I love learning," Farley said. "And for the people who haven't been in since 2018, please come in. It's an amazing new facility... It's just a great place to be." ■

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona's annual "Puttin' On The Dog" fundraiser takes place Saturday, April 18. This dog-friendly gala includes local food, cocktails, entertainment and a silent auction.

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