PEOPLE OF INTEREST
MARYANN KETCHAM PHOTOS
St. Lucie County Humane Society executive director Melissa McInturff gets down and dirty with Leia and every animal to help them feel at home.
BY MARYANN KETCHAM
For Melissa McInturff, accepting the position of
executive director for the Humane Society of St. Lucie
County was a no-brainer. After all, for this animallover,
it was an early realization of a lifelong dream.
“This was genuinely my retirement goal,” the 41-year-old
said. “I was going to invest my money in a 401(k), retire at 50,
and find a high-kill shelter out in the middle of nowhere and
make it no-kill.”
Hailing from Maryland, the McInturff family moved to the
Miami/Fort Lauderdale area when Melissa was just 2 years
old. There, thanks to a sizable backyard, they had the wherewithal
to rescue and nurture a wide variety of animals.
“By the time I was 5, we had three cats, five horses, and
eight or nine parakeets,” she said. “Saving animals is inherent
The early 1990s brought a move from South Florida to Port
St. Lucie. For McInturff, the transition was very challenging
and ultimately altered the course of her future.
A mere three days into her studies at Port St. Lucie High
School, she made the tough decision to drop out.
At just 15, she passed the General Educational Development
exam, joined the workforce and has zero regrets.
“I schooled myself with life, hard knocks and some college
courses along the way,” she said.
She began as a telemarketer for a vacuum cleaner company.
Gradually, she worked her way through a series of positions
in the mental health field at the Department of Children and
Families, New Horizons and Southeast Florida Behavioral
Although she discovered that she had a deep-rooted love
of working, her devotion to animals always remained close to
her heart. She continued to rescue dogs, including two Great
When she was diagnosed with a mental health disorder
about 11 years ago, she began volunteering her spare time
at Rescue Adoption, a no-kill shelter in Fort Pierce. She had
previously adopted a puppy from them.
“I didn’t want to be at home in my head, so I would go
The HUMANE DIRECTOR