Mark Curran has some paw prints to follow, but said he's eager to take on the challenge.

The executive director of Azaya Ranch Sanctuary in Novato, Calif., has been tapped to take the place of Catherine Powers at Pennies for Pooches, Curry County's animal shelter. Powers died unexpectedly this summer.

Curran will be paid $34,000 a year, plus a $1,000 signing bonus. He will likely begin work here the first week in January.

"I am very excited to join your group and work together to help save more lives," Curran wrote in an acceptance email letter to Eric Bryant, president of the nonprofit agency at the Gold Beach facility. "I look forward to working with each of you to further deliver on our mission of saving lives."

Curran, 42, was born and raised in England but his early career days were spent in corporate America where he gained experience in management and strategic planning.

Then he began his work in animal welfare. In 2008, he attended the Academy for Dog Trainers at the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, where he completed an intensive 500-hour training in non-aggressive positive reinforcement.

He moved to Hong Kong in 2009 and worked as the Behavior and Training manager for Hong Kong Dog Rescue. His training efforts allowed Hong Kong Dog Rescue to increase adoptions from 330 to 510 per year. Curran also introduced new safety procedures and saw the rate of dog-to-human incidents fall from 12 to 1.5 per quarter.

"Can you imagine the challenge of rescuing dogs in China?" Bryant said Monday. "We're so excited to have him."

Curran then moved back to the United States and began working for Azaya Ranch Sanctuary, where his work resulted in reduced expenses, a doubling of adoption rates lowered dog-related injuries and incidents by 50 percent.

He and his wife will be relocating to Curry County at the end of the year.

Bryant said Curran's hiring brings a sense of relief to the organization.

"It is no secret that our organization revolved around our late Executive Director Catherine Powers, and we were in shock at her sudden passing," he said. "Pennies for Pooches appreciates the efforts of all of our volunteers and donors who helped us push through our crisis and transition period.

"With a strong leader and the continued support of the community, Catherine's ideas and values will live on. Soon after Mr. Curran is settled in, we will host an open house and invite the entire community to the shelter to come meet him. This was, is, and will continue to be an amazing organization."