Lisa – an Every Day Superhero

November 19, 2012  

One moment changes everything for the Washington Humane Society, and 2,500 pit bull type dogs get homes as a result

By Kirstyn Northrop Cobb

Superheroes. We see them every day. We pass them on the street, we work with them, we interact with them all the time. Sometimes, we don’t even know it. But every day superheroes are out there. Lisa LaFontaine is one of them.

When Lisa interviewed for the position of CEO of the Washington Humane Society (the only general admittance shelter in Washington, D.C.) in 2007, there was a sweet little 1-year-old pit mix in the lobby. A family was surrendering him to the shelter because they were no longer able to care for him. He was a precious little guy, interacting well with the family, interacting well with the children. Lisa didn’t think much of it and continued her interview and her tour of the shelter. On her way out, just half an hour later, she saw that little fawn pit mix, and he had been put to sleep. Horrified, she asked why that had happened. Lisa was informed that all pit or pit mix dogs are euthanized. And not just pit bull mix dogs, but also Mastiffs and Boxer mixes – none of them made it out of the shelter. That was just the way it was, and it had been that way for at least a decade.

Right then and there, Lisa, coming from a place and a mentality that all dogs are individuals, vowed to change that if she was hired as CEO of the Washington Humane Society.

And, then it happened. Lisa was hired as CEO, and what did she do right away? You guessed it! She made the decision that all dogs would be judged on an individual basis and appearance would not play a part. This decision was met with very positive reactions! Volunteers and donors who had left the shelter because of the biased policies came back.

During her first large event with the Washington Humane Society, Lisa looked over the crowd and saw lots of pit bulls with their families. It was then that she realized that the community would embrace these dogs and welcome the change in policy.

It has been five years since this change took place. Since then, more than 2,500 pit bull type dogs have found their forever homes through the Washington Humane Society. Lisa tells us that her happiest moments are when she is out walking around the city and she comes across a family who has adopted a pit bull type dog from the Washington Humane Society, and she knows that she helped to complete that family, and she knows that she will do all that she can to help these dogs find the home that they deserve.

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10 Responses to “Lisa – an Every Day Superhero”
  1. adoremydogs says:

    Thank you Lisa LaFontaine, because of your open heart and mind, 2500 saved, WOW!!!!!!

  2. tntracy says:

    Ms. LaFontaine, you are my personal hero!

  3. Miznoone says:

    Thank you so much for this profile. As a DC resident, I have been so impressed with the WHS under Lisa’s leadership. At their adoption center, “My Pit Bull is Family” bumper stickers are everywhere. Their mobile adoption van, Adopt Force One, has a huge photo of a “pit bull type dog” emblazoned right along its side. Their weekly adoptable dog promotions feature pit bull mixes really often, and during their appearances on local TV shows, they also often bring an adopt-a-bull with them.
    As an open access shelter, they don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing which dogs to take on, and the change from the previous regime to Lisa’s forward looking approach has been remarkable. I have met several staff members and despite being overworked and understaffed, they work so hard for the dogs in their care, and their adoption of new practices like play groups, running groups, and rooming dogs together – are just a few among many improvements I’m privileged to see developing every day. I’m privileged to support WHS, and can’t thank Lisa and the whole staff enough for the work they do.

    • StubbyDog says:

      Thanks for the shining endorsement, it’s nice to hear from someone close to the shelter. Others should follow her example.

  4. richdt says:

    I’m always in awe of great people like Lisa who step up and make a difference. Thanks Lisa.

  5. SusanLawrence says:

    Lisa, you’re a justice-maker! Thank you!

  6. dogmom19901 says:


  7. Matt.S says:

    Lisa, Thank You! The lives you’ve saved definitely make you a bonafide “Superhero”. I hope this decsion will be a catalyst for positive change everywhere.

  8. Matt.S says:

    Lisa, thank you! The lives you’ve saved definitely make you a bonafide “superhero”. I pray that your principled stand will be a catalyst for positive change in animal shelters everywhere. You took a bold step toward a better world.

  9. John Knol says:

    My throat gets tight and my eyes get misty when I hear a story like this. Lisa is my kind of hero and I’m so grateful for people like her in a world where prejudice against certain dog breeds rule. It would be an honor to shake her hand someday if I ever get the opportunity to visit her facility. God bless.