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

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
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.

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

August 2004

Dear Fellow Animal Lover:

We Richmonders must admit that we are not often found on the cutting edge of anything. Ours is a wonderful city, rich with history and beauty and full of wonderful people. It has many strengths that make it a great place to live but being highly progressive is not really one of them. We usually stay as far as possible from the edge of the envelope - some folks may find this not to be a fault but actually another attribute! What many people in our community do not know, however, is that there is one field in which we have truly blazed a trail for others to follow and are widely recognized to be setting the pace for the rest of the country - that is the field of animal welfare, specifically the no-kill movement.

Five years ago, when the Richmond SPCA’s Board of Directors adopted a plan that was nothing short of revolutionary to make our organization a no-kill humane society within three years and to provide the tools for the entire community to become no kill within a very few years. There were a couple of communities that were entertaining a similar vision at the time but only one that had actually undertaken a community wide no-kill challenge with success and that was San Francisco. Our Board’s bold step was a very courageous thing to do and there were many people in 1999, including many within the local animal welfare field, who did not believe that it could be done.

In the intervening five years, with hard work, perseverance, money and determination, we have proved in Richmond that a no-kill model is achievable and sustainable. On July 26, USA Today did a cover story in their Life Section about the growing strength and impact of the no-kill movement in the United States. That article cited Richmond along with San Francisco, New Hampshire and Utah as the most successful examples of the practical application of the no-kill philosophy. As I have discussed in this column before, “no-kill” means that killing is not used as a means of pet population control; that animals do not die for reasons of lack of shelter space or the passage of time. No matter what any community does, there will always be some animals who are too sick, too injured or too vicious to be expected to have a reasonable quality of life as a pet in a home. I think we would all agree that the taking of these lives is sad but reasonable. What we do not condone in the no-kill movement is the taking of an animal’s life when that animal is either healthy or able to be rehabilitated so that he or she will have a decent quality of life. We have now achieved this situation in the City of Richmond but must work hard to carry it into the surrounding counties.

As you might imagine, our success has given rise to an enormous amount of national interest in the Richmond SPCA. Our staff members and I field questions and visits constantly from people and groups around the country who want to learn how we did it. We have been of particular interest because each of the other communities that have been successful with the no-kill model is unique in some way. They have either social forces or physical climates that may be seen as being unlike most of the rest of the country. For this reason, the naysayers claimed that the no-kill model was not susceptible of being replicated in more typical communities – that is, until we made it work here in Richmond.

How did we do it? I am asked that question constantly by others. The answers are far from simple and I will discuss them in next month’s column. But, the important point for the moment is that, so far in 2004, in the City of Richmond (including every place that homeless animals are taken in), we have achieved an overall euthanasia rate of 22%; meaning that 78% of the homeless animals that have come into any shelter this year have left alive. It is generally believed among experts in the animal welfare field that a euthanasia rate in the low twenties is about the best that may ever be achieved since there will always be that many pets whose physical condition is not treatable or whose behavior is a serious danger to humans. Our success came in a relatively few years once we put a system in place that did the right things - since 2001, we have reduced by well over half the number of homeless animals who lose their lives annually.

So, in spite of our usual reticence to be on the front lines of change, Richmond is providing a highly progressive model for the rest of the country with respect to the care and treatment of homeless animals. We are showing the rest of the country that, while the solutions may not be easy, cheap or quick, it is possible to care for our homeless pets without relying on killing them to control their numbers. Next month, I will talk about exactly what was required to achieve what we have accomplished here in Richmond and what we must now do to extend that success to our entire community. The work is far from over but it is so much easier now because we know what to do and we have already demonstrated success.


Robin Robertson Starr
Chief Executive Officer