pets' lives saved since becoming no-kill in
January 2002

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Richmond SPCA

Humane Center

2519 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220

Closed Sunday, Sept. 30

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Mon. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Tue. - Fri. 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
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Sun. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Lora Robins Gift Shop Hours
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Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sun. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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Tue. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sun. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Susan M. Markel
Veterinary Hospital

Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Admissions Hours
Mon. - Fri. by appointment.

Administrative Hours
Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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ceo purrspective

February 2004

Dear Fellow Animal Lover:

When I first began to work with the Richmond SPCA I found the variety of organizations that were involved with animal welfare to be very confusing and their interrelated roles to be even more confusing. If you find it all quite hard to understand, you are not alone. Let me try to clarify it all for you.

The Richmond SPCA is an entirely private humane society. That means that we do not accept any government funding whatsoever – we operate solely on donated funds and the income from our endowment which is also the result of donations made to us over time. We spend our resources doing those things that our Board of Directors believes are essential to the fulfillment of our mission, a mission which is defined by the Board based upon our historical purpose as it evolves over time and with the changing needs and capacity of the community. The current iteration of our mission is “to practice and promote the principle that every life is precious.” Thus, we believe that the saving of animal lives is our foremost job and that is where we place our focus.

“Pounds” are government facilities that house animals for a period of time in connection with the animal control responsibility of local government. The term “pound” came from the fact that they are where stray animals are “impounded.” Because the word “pound” has come to have a negative connotation thanks to “Lady and the Tramp” and other movies and TV shows, pounds nowadays often call themselves shelters as does the one in Richmond. While this is understandable, it does add to the confusion since that was traditionally the word used for a private facility that housed homeless animals.

There are pounds in every city and county of Virginia. There are some private humane organizations that contract with their local city or county to provide the animal control services for the community for which they receive money under the terms of the contract. These organizations then become something of a hybrid – they function both as a private shelter and also as the local pound. The Richmond SPCA has never in its history contracted to perform the animal control function for any local government. It is our belief that the two distinct roles cannot be combined in a way that would be faithful to our mission.

The roles of animal control and that of a private humane organization are quite different but are both very important. Animal control is a law enforcement function to make certain that animals in a community are not neglected or abused and to make sure that citizens are protected from health and safety risks associated with animals. This is a very important function and animal control officers are professionals doing a difficult job. It is part of their job to take in stray animals – those that are wandering the streets alone – and house them for a period of time so that, if there is an owner, he will have a chance to find the lost pet. People often want us to take in a stray but we ask that they be taken to the Richmond Animal Shelter (the pound for Richmond) so that owners can know where to look for their lost pet. Once the period of time has passed, then we can take the pet out of the Richmond Animal Shelter.

Private humane organizations first began in the late 1800’s when people began to be concerned about animals’ well being. They strive to protect and care for animals and to ensure that as many of them as possible are placed into loving and responsible homes. The first private humane organization was the ASPCA established in New York City by Henry Berg shortly after the Civil War. The Richmond SPCA is one of the oldest, having begun in 1891. “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” or SPCA is simply a name for a humane organization. There is no umbrella organization of all organizations bearing this name and no financial support from any such organization.

Private humane organizations vary enormously in their size and in philosophies. Some of them have shelters, as we do, others are organizations of people who keep homeless animals in their homes until a permanent home is found – this is often referred to as safe housing. Some private organizations accept every animal brought to them and others do not. Some of them euthanize animals when space needs so require and others do not accept any more animals than they can accommodate. Sadly, private humane groups have a history of engaging in a lot of name calling and mutual hostility because of their differences. It is our view that every private organization has a right to chart its own course and achieve its mission as it deems best so long as it does not interfere with the right of others to do so as well.

The Richmond SPCA is deeply committed to the no-kill philosophy, and I will write more about that in next month’s column. I hope that this essay helps clarify the very complex field of animal welfare somewhat. It is best for everyone of us and for the animals too when the structure of things is clear.


Robin Robertson Starr
Chief Executive Officer