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

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Richmond SPCA

Humane Center

2519 Hermitage Road
Richmond, VA 23220

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

Donation Drop Off Hours
Mon. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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

March 2004

Dear Fellow Animal Lover:

Last month, I wrote about the variety of government and private organizations in the field of animal welfare to help you sort through some things that I have found to be very confusing. Another part of the animal welfare field that can be highly confusing to folks is the distinction between organizations that are called “no-kill” and those that are not. This issue is not only complicated but is also highly charged with emotion.

As you may be aware, the Richmond SPCA is a no-kill humane organization. By this, we mean that we never take the life of any animal in our care for reasons of kennel space or the length of time that the animal has been with us. We regard our commitment to each animal we take into our care to be quite similar to the commitment that we ask of adopters – we must care for them lovingly and responsibly until such time as they go to another loving and responsible home. We provide them with the veterinary and behavioral care they need in order to have a healthy and long life. We are one of the largest no-kill humane organizations on the east coast.

There are other private humane organizations that accept every animal brought to them and take the lives of animals when they receive more than they are able to accommodate. Most government pounds take the lives of animals that either exceed the number they may care for or are not able to be adopted or transferred to a humane organization or rescue group. Government pounds often have little choice but to kill animals. Private organizations must choose the path that they believe is right for them, and the choice is neither black nor white but many shades of gray. We respect the right of organizations to choose a different path than ours and expect that they will show us the same courtesy.

Many people dislike the term “no-kill” because they feel that it suggests that the lives of animals are never taken under any circumstances. Most responsible no-kill organizations, such as the Richmond SPCA, will take the life of an animal under two specific circumstances. The first is when the animal is so sick or injured that a veterinarian decides that there is no reasonable prospect for recovery with any future quality of life. The other circumstance is when the animal is vicious and presents a serious danger to the lives of people or of other animals and its aggressiveness is not likely to be addressed adequately through retraining. At the Richmond SPCA, the decision maker in the first circumstance is our Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Bruzzese, and, in the second, it is a panel of three members of our senior management staff.

We have always been very clear about the fact that there are these occasional circumstances when we will euthanize an animal. These circumstances constitute less than 3 percent of the animals that we care for. While I understand the concerns of those who oppose the use of the term no-kill, I have always believed that our supporters are certainly understanding of the reason for these euthanasias and that would agree that they are humane and not in conflict with our principles.

The other reason that is often cited for opposing the use of the term no-kill is that it makes people who work in shelters and pounds where animals are being killed feel guilty about what they are having to do. They would have us use other terms to describe how we operate in order to avoid highlighting the fact that we are not taking the lives of healthy animals while others are. I certainly do not believe that the people who are having to perform the horrible task of ending the lives of healthy animals should feel personally guilty about that act. However, I do not believe that using language that is confusing and unclear in order to spare feelings is sensible. All of us share in the collective guilt for not having used the humane and civilized ways available to us to control pet population numbers appropriately. People who work in pounds and shelters who are having to do this task are no more responsible than anyone else and many of them are making sure that the animals subjected to this fate are treated with caring and gentleness. We have known for decades that sufficient spaying and neutering will manage the matter without the need to kill healthy or rehabilitatable animals. Therefore, we all share equally in the guilt for having allowed this situation to exist and in the responsibility for seeing that it changes promptly.

The Richmond SPCA is deeply proud of having been at the forefront of the no-kill movement in this country. We use that term openly and proudly. We do not believe that taking the lives of animals to control their population numbers is responsible or moral when we know how to control their numbers through spaying and neutering. We believe that our most important role is to push our community and others around the country to be no-kill. It is our responsibility to give our community the tools and the leadership to accomplish that goal – not to participate in the perpetuation of outdated behaviors. Since we do not believe that it is acceptable to kill animals to control their numbers, we will not engage in doing so ourselves. A wonderful article about the growing strength of the no kill movement appeared recently in the Winter issue of Animal Watch, the magazine of the ASPCA. That article cites the Richmond SPCA as one of the most successful no-kill organizations in the country. If you would like to read the article, please call Christi Hancock at 521-1316 and she will send it to you.


Robin Robertson Starr
Chief Executive Officer