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.
Closed December 24-25.
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.
Closed December 24-25.

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.
Closed December 24-25.

Susan M. Markel
Veterinary Hospital

Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed December 24-25.

Admissions Hours
Mon. - Fri. by appointment.
Closed December 24-25.

Administrative Hours
Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed December 24-25.
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CEO purrspective

July 2006

Dear Friend and Supporter:

I have always found words and their ability to persuade to be a fascinating topic.  Writing is a great joy to me and preparing this column each month is one of my favorite parts of my job.  Well chosen words can have remarkable effects on people – both for great good and for enormous ill.  The news media’s choice of descriptive terms can contribute significantly to the public’s positive or negative feelings about an issue.

The news media frequently uses the term “animal rights activist” to refer to people who work to help homeless animals in various ways.  This term is usually used inaccurately by news reporters in news accounts.  An animal rights activist is someone who:  (i)  believes that animals possess natural rights given by God, or other superior power, that are on a par with the natural rights of humans, and (ii) works actively to promote that philosophy.  My purpose here is not to delve into the complexities of theories of natural rights.  My point is that most of the people to whom the news media apply this term do not fit this category.  In fact, very few people do.  Recently, I read a piece in the Times-Dispatch about Bob Barker that described him as an “animal rights activist.”  Bob Barker has worked tirelessly and has given his personal money generously to the spaying and neutering of companion animals.  I have never once read of his advocating that animals have natural rights.

The news media has applied that label to me too at times in the past.  I can tell you that it is used inaccurately with respect to me.  I admit that I am not deeply philosophical and I have never devoted any substantial thought to the subject of whether or not animals have natural rights.  I am not sure that I even believe that there is such a thing as natural rights.  I just love animals deeply and care that they get treated respectfully and compassionately, that we stop their needless slaughter in pounds and shelters and that people realize how much animal companions do to enhance our lives.  I would describe myself, therefore, as an “animal welfare advocate” which is someone who works to improve the treatment of animals.  This is a much more accurate term for the vast majority of people who work in my field. 

Similarly, the news media uses the word “euthanize” anytime that an animal’s life is taken intentionally by humans other than in the context of hunting.  The word “euthanize” means the taking of a life to alleviate the suffering of the one whose life is taken.  It is not properly used to refer to the taking of an animal’s life to benefit humans.  Numerous times during the coverage of the killing of Buster and Baby, the Maymont bears, the news reports used the term “euthanize.”  These animals were healthy, safe and secure before they were killed.  They were killed because of misguided bureaucratic thinking that prioritized putative human interest over even a shred of concern or respect for the lives of the animals.  It had nothing to do with euthanasia.

The problem with the use of these inappropriate terms is that it perpetuates the news media’s trivialization of animal welfare issues and suggests to the public that people who work to help animals are kooks.  Neither is fair or just.  Both the animals and the people who look out for them deserve to be treated with more respect.


Robin Robertson Starr