Current job title and how long you’ve been in that position:

Jessica Thiele: Veterinarian at Jefferson City Animal Shelter for two years and two months.

Karen Jennings: Animal control supervisor at Jefferson City Animal Shelter for 13 years.

Tell us about your family: 

JT: I’ve been married to my husband, Matthew, for seven years. We have two children, Alex (3 years old) and Laura (2 months old). My furry kids include River (a JCAS mutt) and three cats (Penny, Butterball, and Rosie, all rescues). River comes to work with me and spends most of his day sleeping in my office.

KJ: My daughter graduated from Jefferson City High School this past May and is currently in the U.S. Army. My son is in first grade. Of course, we also have four dogs, one cat, and two horses.


JT: I have a Bachelor of Science in animal science from MU’s College of Agriculture and received my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. I’m currently working toward, with only one course left, a graduate certificate in shelter medicine through the University of Florida’s Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program.

KJ: I have a Bachelor of Science from MU in animal sciences as well as a master’s in HR development and an MBA, both from Webster University

Favorite charitable organization and why: 

JT: Any organization that benefits our kids, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Clubs. In my opinion, our kids are our most valuable resource and we should, as a community, do our best to see that each kid has the resources they need to reach their potential.

KJ: Friends of the Jefferson City Animal Shelter. This group has evolved over the years, and I’ve made so many close friends because of this organization. It not only helps the shelter, but also our community’s pets.

What are some of your immediate and long-term goals for Jefferson City Animal Shelter?

JT: We’ve been implementing some progressive changes over the past few years to get more animals adopted. I’m excited to continue looking at areas where we can improve to better serve the animals in our care. I’d also like to help the community understand more about what we do for the community as a municipal shelter (versus a private shelter) and what our limitations are. I’d also love to develop more community engagement in the shelter through volunteer work. The more helping hands we have, the better we can help the animals in our care and better meet the evolving expectations of our community.

KJ: My main goal is to have more staff. We had over 23,000 people visit the shelter last year to play with the animals and adopt. We could really use a receptionist and an adoption coordinator. 

How do you hope to impact the community with your roles? 

JT: I hope to contribute by both providing a compassionate place for the community’s animals to pass through and by promoting responsible pet ownership and the health and well-being of the community.

KJ: We have a duty to keep the animals and the community safe. We educate people when they’re adopting, but we also go to day cares, schools, and businesses to talk about safety with stray animals. Public health is also a huge concern, so if wildlife, especially bats, are inside the house, we test for rabies. 

Why are you passionate about your work with the Jefferson City Animal Shelter?

JT: It’s such a great feeling to help an animal on its way, especially when they come to us in bad shape and we patch them up a bit and they end up finding a new home or, preferably, their way back home. The animals that come to us all need help in one way or another, and providing that is very fulfilling.

KJ: Animals have always been part of my life. One of my favorite cats, Peppermint, would jump on the deck and then the roof to come to my bedroom window and wake me up because he was ready to come in. We also had many beagles over the years. I enjoy helping people adopt animals, and I love how excited people, especially the kids, are about taking home a new family member. 

Ideal vacation: 

JT: A Florida beach, no agenda.

KJ: Taking an Alaskan cruise.

Favorite comfort food: 

JT: Chocolate.
KJ: Imo’s Pizza.

Favorite place to spend an afternoon: 

JT: A coffee shop with an interesting read.
KJ: My family farm in northern Missouri.

Last book read: 

JT: “Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff.”
KJ: “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen.

Source of inspiration:

JT: My family. I’ve been so fortunate to have a supportive family who instilled in me a love of animals and taught me the benefits of hard work.

KJ: My family. The women in my family are strong, independent, somewhat stubborn, and loyal. I can see these traits being passed onto my daughter.

What’s a fun fact about you that most people do not know? 

JT: I love to draw and make wheel-thrown pottery (functional stoneware in particular). I earned a minor in art in undergrad, but I don’t have much time these days to spend on these activities.

KJ: I like to collect plates. My grandparents were big plate and antique collectors, and I followed in their footsteps. Pansy plates and Bavaria stamped plates are my favorites.

Get to know more Jefferson City people you should know here.