Community Support Specialist

Job Title: Community Support Specialist

Department: Shelter

Classification: Full time, salary, exempt

Job Relationship: Reports to Project CARE Manager.  Works closely with the Community Pet Clinic (CPC), the Animal Resource Center (ARC), and Humane Investigations.

Position Summary: The primary function of this position is to work closely with other departments at the APL as well as social service agencies across Cuyahoga County to connect pet owners to needed resources and support. They will also provide resources and support to APL employees in crisis and/or those experiencing compassion fatigue.

Revised: April 2024

Essential Job Functions:

Provides support, counseling, and program referrals to clients and staff

  • Provides support and counseling to clients as needed or by referral from doctors or staff, including those experiencing elevated levels of stress and emotion.
  • Facilitates interactions with clients in emotionally charged situations, either in person, via email, or on the telephone in an empathetic manner.
  • Consults with doctors and staff about assessment of client’s comprehension of diagnosis and prognosis of their pet(s).
  • Meets with clients and provides short-term supportive counseling during end-of-life decision making, pet euthanasia, and hospitalization of pets, as well as resource support.
  • Assists Admissions and Humane Investigations teams with open cases and surrender, providing support to pet owners through the process.
  • Connects pet owners in crisis to human and pet resources, both internal and external
  • Develops and expands partnerships with community organizations that provide human and pet services. (i.e., homeless shelters, free/low-cost emergency temporary boarding facilities, etc.).
  • Intervenes and offers short term counseling to staff in crisis or suffering from compassion fatigue, burnout, or other situations that may impair ability to work effectively.
  • Provides staff training in areas such as communication, wellness & self-care, boundaries, stress management, compassion fatigue, redefining success and failure, grief counseling, de-escalation training.
  • Oversees Crisis Foster Boarding program, assesses clients for program eligibility and oversees the program’s case management.
  • Coordinates and attends outreach events to provide support to underserved and low-income communities in need.
  • Designs and facilitates education and trainings for employees and volunteers on human/social service issues (such as: homelessness, mental health issues, poverty, domestic violence abuse, racial inequity) and strategies on supporting clients during everyday interactions.
  • Manages data and reporting related to project activities, milestones, and success indicators. Completes and collects all required program documentation with accuracy and consistency; provides supervisors with monthly reporting and program analysis.
  • Interfaces with animals of varying species, size, and temperament, both in carriers and on leashes. Handles individual animals in a safe, caring, and respectful manner.
  • Demonstrates a value system that is in accordance with the interests of the agency and clientele served (NASW Code of Ethics).

General Expectations

  • Flexible with scheduling and available when away from the facility as needed to meet the organization’s needs; shifts may include varied hours/days, including nights, weekends, and holidays.
  • Notifies VP of Operations of situations that could be harmful to the reputation of the APL.
  • Informs directors of special needs cases for potential public relations or direct mail pieces.
  • Ensures policies and procedures are being followed.
  • Promotes and follows safety guidelines to ensure a safe work environment. Takes immediate action to address any safety concerns or noncompliance with OSHA safety rules that could put an employee, volunteer, client, animal, and organization at risk.
  • Promotes communication and cooperation between APL departments.
  • Performs other duties as assigned.


  • Minimum 2-3 years experience in social services practice or equivalent work experience.
  • Valid, unencumbered LSW, LISW, LPC, or LPCC license.
  • Experience with grief/bereavement and/or trauma.
  • Internal applicants must be currently in good standing.
  • Highly dependable, able to multi-task and manage multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Must possess an Ohio’s driver’s license with an insurable driving record.
  • Fear Free Certified or must become certified within six months of hire.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment with a variety of people.
  • Ability to develop solutions based on individual needs assessments.
  • Ability to work with a computer in a Windows environment.
  • Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written and proven ability dealing with the public
  • Ability to speak in public and to the public with ease and without passing judgment.
  • Understands socio-economic issues that plague underserved communities.
  • Demonstrated ability to handle high-stress situations and use good judgment.
  • Ability to read and understand documents such as safety rules and procedure manuals.
  • Detail oriented and able to prioritize and perform duties efficiently and effectively and with an adequate degree of independence.
  • Ability to collect and analyze data in spreadsheet format or designated software.
  • Committed to maintaining the Cleveland Animal Protective League’s high standard of animal care and mission to foster compassion and end animal suffering.