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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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.
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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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Dear Fellow Animal Lover:

My concern for feral cats grows all the time. While all companion animals not lucky enough to live in a home with a loving guardian have a tough struggle, none are treated with the widespread contempt that feral cats are. They are much maligned and misunderstood and often fail to even get sympathy from people who otherwise call themselves animal lovers. And, yet, they are feral as a natural survival response to the behavior of humans in the past and they neither intend nor cause us any harm.

Since our successful efforts to publicize the incident of the local Fox 35 TV station hiring Critter Control to trap and kill a colony of feral cats that had lived near their property for at least 30 years and the ensuing criminal conviction of the man who killed them, we have been barraged with calls from feral cat caregivers around this community asking for our help in dissuading landowners from using lethal means to deal with feral cats. The scenario is usually pretty much the same: the caregiver has been feeding the cats for years and most often has been trapping them and having them spayed and neutered and given rabies shots, usually here at our Richmond SPCA clinic where we perform such services for free. Then, suddenly, the landowner or a lessee decides that he no longer wants the cats around and either undertakes to trap the cats and take them to a shelter or asks the local animal control agency to do so. Let there be no confusion, feral cats sent to a shelter will rarely make it out alive because they are not behaviorally susceptible of becoming a pet in a home. So, this amounts to a death sentence.

Our response to these situations is to do all we can to educate these people about the realities of feral cat colonies and that Trap-neuter-return is the best and only humane answer. We make clear that ferals will not hurt you, that they do not carry diseases communicable to humans if there is a TNR program ensuring rabies shots, and that more will come if the sources of their life support continue to be present. This last point is the one that is rarely heard but crucially important. Feral cat colonies exist around food and water sources such as schools, restaurants, apartments and grocery stores. Unless the people there plan to cease these activities, more feral cats will come to fill the space vacated by the ones who have been trapped and killed. And so, the inhumane pattern of trapping and killing and more trapping and killing will just continue.

Through TNR, most of the cats are spayed and neutered so that the numbers in the colony are kept to a manageable level, they are given rabies shots and they are fed and overseen by a dedicated caregiver. Under these circumstances, we may co-exist happily and safely with no need for a lethal approach.

Feral cats are remarkably capable of caring for themselves on their own and sometimes I think that that is the offense for which they are held in such contempt. People love the dependence of dogs and something seems to be discomforting about a companion animal that can survive quite well if we decide to abandon them (which is of course how they got to be feral in the first place). I have the greatest of respect for feral cats who quietly and competently care for themselves and raise their families while coexisting peacefully with nearby humans. I wish I could say the same in the reverse.


Robin Robertson Starr
Chief Executive Officer
Richmond SPCA

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