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February 21, 2014
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Lake Tahoe Humane Society, new director holding open house

Lake Tahoe Humane Society’s new director, Niki Congero, will host an open house Tuesday at the organization’s offices on Emerald Bay Road.

The event coincides with World Spay Day. The organization has been in its new offices at 870 Emerald Bay Road for several months now.

“A lot of people don’t even know we moved,” Congero said. “I’ve had people say, ‘Oh, you have an office?’ We want people to know we’re here, that this is the office, this is where you come.”

A lot of people also have never met Congero. She took over as executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society in January following the retirement of 22-year director Dawn Armstrong.

Congero moved to South Lake Tahoe from Las Vegas. But she’s not a total stranger to the area. She lived in Incline Village for four years in the late-1970s after her mom married a Pan Am pilot and moved the family to Tahoe from New Zealand.

The family later moved down to the Bay Area.

With a background in marketing, Congero said one of her main aims is to promote the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and its many programs.

Those programs include its emergency veterinarian care assistance, spay and neuter program, educational outreach efforts and emergency food bank for people who are facing hard times and need cat or dog food.

Congero has launched a Facebook page for the organization and wants to translate some of its fliers into Spanish to better reach out to the Latino community. She also is partnering up to have a strong presence at local events ranging from the air show to Oktoberfest.

“All of the programs we have are wonderful programs. To me, they need to be out there,” Congero said. “Everyone in the community needs to know that we’re here. Because if they don’t know we’re here, then they don’t know about the services we have.”

Congero’s professional background is in marketing and business administration, but she’s no stranger to working with animals.

When she moved to Las Vegas she was warned and quickly learned that the community has a lot of feral cats.

“First thing I did was call the city and they were like, ‘We’ll have someone come and trap them and put them down.’ I was like, ‘No, no you will not,’” Congero said about the feral cats in her neighborhood.

Congero and her husband started their own catch-and-release program, working with a local veterinarian.

“So over 10 years we spayed and neutered more than 200 cats and got our neighborhood population down to like nothing, no new litters in the last five years,” she said.

“For such a wealthy city, it’s a shame,” Congero said of Las Vegas. “Their animal shelter, they’ve got like three days and they’re put down because there’s just so many. We tried to do what we could do.”

Congero never expected to be back at Lake Tahoe.

“It was something, if you would have asked me six months ago I would have said you’re crazy. No way. But everything happens for a reason, and it all sort of fell into place,” she said.

But after years in Las Vegas, Congero said she’s glad to be back in a small, friendly city.

When she and her husband were driving up to South Lake Tahoe, they stopped on the side of Kingsbury Grade. It was dark and they weren’t sure which way to go. A car pulled up behind them.

“Right away we were like, ‘Don’t roll down the window.’ They tapped on the glass and we rolled down the window, and they were like, ‘Are you OK? Are you lost?’ And they were like, ‘Just follow us down the mountain, you’re fine,’” Congero said.

“Literally every single person we’ve met from the guy who ran the motel we stayed at was just friendlier than the next.”


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Feb 24, 2014 04:21PM Published Feb 26, 2014 02:35PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.