In May of 1997, a tiny black and white kitten was brought to the shelter.  He had been picked up on a remote road in the county, about to be hit by a car.  He reminded us of another black and white kitten, Billy, that had been adopted a year before, so he was named Billy.

Billy was a chubby little kitten, but was too young to be away from his mother.  He was put in a cage with a mother cat and her one little kitten, about the same age as Billy.  My Dusty cat had gone to heaven a few months before, and I wondered if my dog, Katey, would like a friend.  Since Katey loved kittens with a passion, her answer was a resounding “yes.”  But, Billy still needed to be with his foster mother for the best chance at a healthy life.

After a couple of weeks, the mother cat and her kitten became very ill, and the decision to euthanize them had to be made.  I stood crying in front of the cage, opened the door, and took Billy out.  The next day, the adoption questionnaire was filled out, the contract was soon signed, the adoption fee paid, and Billy Dean went home with Katey and me.

All of his kitten and young cat-hood pictures show him on top of the refrigerator, hiding behind something, jumping in the air, biting Katey’s ears, or opening the kitchen cabinets.  It was a wonderful experience raising him.

He loved to taunt Lynn Shelton, the board president, and April Hogan, the shelter manager, by smacking them as they came into the house.  It was a game they played.

My Bill-Bill loved to stare.  He stared at me as I read, he stared at me as I watched television, he stared out the window at the birds, and he stared at Katey sleeping.

Billy had no instinct to hunt whatsoever.  In fact, he was scared of birds, bugs, and mice.  He had a kind heart.

I do not understand why people think cats do not bond with their families. Billy had an ability to know when I was upset, and he loved to curl up in my lap to comfort me.  When my cockatiel, Gracey, left us, Billy sat under the bird cage for hours at a time.

He had the uncanny ability to know when it was time to visit his veterinarian.  He outsmarted me every time, hiding so I had to really search for him.  Reinforcements (Lynn Shelton and April Hogan) were called in to get him in his carrier.  Once the exam or any treatment was finished, we never had to outsmart him to get him back in the carrier to go home!

When he was eight, I thought maybe he was lonely, so I let him come to the shelter and choose a kitten to be his friend.  He chose Becky, and they became friends.  A few months after Becky came to live with us, Katey went to heaven.   Billy searched her favorite resting places and meowed for his friend.

By this time, I had three cockatiels and a parrotlet.  Billy let them climb all over him when they were out of their cages.

Several months ago, Billy started losing weight.  He had weighed 16 pounds, but the weight loss was steady, despite the fact he ate voraciously.  Veterinary tests ruled out everything but intestinal cancer.  I was told he was not in pain.  Regular weigh-ins documented his decline.

On Sunday, July 22nd, I texted his veterinarian and we arranged to meet early Monday morning.  He had lost more weight, and the intestinal walls were thickened.  The end was near.

My Billy had spent his entire life, 15 years, being my good friend and companion, and it was time for him to go to heaven.  Thank you, Bill-Bill, for everything.  I sure do miss you.


Pony Penning

My favorite place on earth to live during retirement would be the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  My sister and I were born on Chincoteague Island, and it seems my beginnings are calling to me.  I have fallen in love with that area of the state, even though I have spent only three days there during the past 40 years.  (Wow; life goes by quickly.)

In October of 2011, several family members and I spent a wonderful weekend there.  We drove to Chincoteague, and were able to see a small herd of the wild horses that inhabit Assateague Island.

A popular legend tells that the wild horses descended from survivors of wrecked Spanish galleons.  Other legends say they descend from horses released on the island by 17th century colonists who wanted to escape livestock laws and taxes.

Whatever the beginnings, the horses live harsh lives.  They live on a diet of salt marsh plants and brush.  They endure temperature extremes and are exposed to heavy mosquito and tick infestations.  Excess salt is flushed from their systems by drinking fresh water they find in rain puddles and springs.

The herds on the Maryland side are owned and managed by the federal government, but on the Virginia side live within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  Those horses are managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department.  They use the horses to raise money once a year.

Each July, since 1935, wild stallions, mares, and foals that reside in the Chincoteague Refuge have been rounded up, penned inside corrals, and then forced to swim the channel that separates the refuge from the mainland.  Once they reach the opposite bank, they are given a short rest, and then herded down Main Street to the carnival grounds.  The next morning, the foals are separated from their mothers and auctioned off to spectators.  The first stallion that reached shore the day before is raffled off. The mares are forced to endure bronc riding advertised as “wild-pony rides.”  The next day, the mares and stallions can swim back to freedom.

After several mares collapsed and died in 1988 with no veterinarian present, a stipulation was added to the fire company’s grazing permit requiring a veterinarian to be present.  Recent improvements also have a larger holding corral and water being provided.

The veterinarian can now stipulate which foals are too young to be forced to swim across the channel, and buyers can now purchase foals less than three months old, but they have to remain on the refuge with their mothers until they reach that age.

Animal welfare organizations do not approve of the Pony Penning event.  I feel sorry for the horses that live in the harsh, wild environment, but I also feel bad for the trauma the horses have to endure for the Pony Penning event.  I guess if I ever retire to Chincoteague, I will not attend the event.  Maybe that’s when I’ll visit in Danville.


Through the years, we have sponsored a variety of programs to assist with the cost of spay/neuter surgeries. In 1993, we received our first disbursement from The E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust, and the board immediately decided to use that money to help spay/neuter as many animals as possible.  We are pleased now to report that the $25 rebate is back!  Residents of Danville and Pittsylvania County may come to the shelter (the office opens at 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday) and pick up a certificate at least the day before the animal is taken to the veterinary clinic.  The animal must belong to a resident of Danville/Pittsylvania County and must reside with the owner in Danville/Pittsylvania County.  The certificate must be used and redeemed not more than four months after the date on the certificate. This certificate cannot be used if the animal was adopted from another rescue group or shelter.  No more than five certificates may be obtained during a 30-day period, and it cannot be combined with other of our spay/neuter programs.

We are committed to doing everything in our power to decrease euthanasia by decreasing the number of unwanted dogs and cats being born.  Since 1993, we have spent about $500,000 on our spay/neuter programs, and 75% of that money has helped Pittsylvania County residents.

At various times, we have had rebates of varying amounts.  We work with veterinary clinics to make sure their clients who are truly in need can have the surgery performed on their pets.  We have worked with a low-cost spay/neuter clinic.  We have worked with participating local clinics to pay for the complete cost of surgery during certain months.  As we have received complaints of neglect, we have paid for the full cost of the surgery, plus we have paid the owners for their permission to have the animal sterilized!  When owners release litters of kittens and puppies to us, we offer to pay for the surgery.  In 2005, when we contracted with The Humane Society of the United States to have a team spend two days reviewing our shelter operations, the reviewers reported that we had the best spay/neuter program of any shelter they had visited.

Spaying or neutering every dog or cat is the responsible thing for owners to do.  It is estimated that for every human born, there are 15 dogs and 45 cats born.  There are not enough homes, and there are even fewer good homes.

The medical benefits are numerous.  Neutering males decreases and often eliminates diseases that intact male dogs are prone to later in life, including diseases of the prostate, testicles, and other tissues influenced by male hormones.

Spaying female dogs and cats entirely eliminates diseases of the ovaries and uterus, and if performed before the first heat, greatly reduces the chance of mammary cancer.

Behavior is only positively affected by the sterilization surgery.  A neutered male cat’s territorial spraying is decreased.  And spayed or neutered dogs and cats fight less and wander less.  In fact, we cannot think of any reason not to have the surgery performed!

We are very pleased that the $25 rebate is available again.


Animal Cruelty

Some time ago, a woman told me how upset she was about something she had witnessed.  She had volunteered at another non-profit organization, and one of the clients had walked to her car.  A small dog jumped out of the car, and the woman began beating the dog.  She even commented, “Sometimes, you just have to beat a dog to get them to do what you want them to.”

The dog’s owner was very, very wrong.  You never, ever beat a dog or a cat or a rabbit, or any companion animal.  They do not think like we do, and so they will never know that their action is connected to the beating.  What they will think is that they live in a scary place with someone who hurts them.

In Danville, people have been charged with hitting animals, and they have been convicted of animal cruelty.  One man hit his neighbor’s Chihuahua with a broom, and was found guilty.  Another man was seen by a police officer hitting his dog, and was also found guilty of cruelty.  People have also been convicted of cruelty in cases of embedded collars, starvation, and other examples of ill-treatment.

Virginia actually has a very broad definition of animal cruelty:  “Any person who: (i) overrides, overdrives, overloads, tortures, ill-treats, abandons, willfully inflicts inhumane injury or pain not connected with bona fide scientific or medical experimentation, or cruelly or unnecessarily beats, maims, mutilates, or kills any animal, whether belonging to himself or another; (ii) deprives any animal of necessary food, drink, shelter or emergency veterinary treatment; (iii) sores any equine for any purpose or administers drugs or medications to alter or mask such soring for the purpose of sale, show, or exhibition of any kind, unless such administration of drugs or medications is within the context of a veterinary client-patient relationship and solely for therapeutic purposes; (iv) willfully sets on foot, instigates, engages in, or in any way furthers any act of cruelty to any animal; (v) carries or causes to be carried by any vehicle, vessel or otherwise any animal in a cruel, brutal, or inhumane manner, so as to produce torture or unnecessary suffering; or (vi) causes any of the above things, or being the owner of such animal permits such acts to be done by another is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”

            If you believe an animal is being treated cruelly, we encourage you to make a call that could quite possibly save the animal’s life.  In some cases, however, a conviction is not possible without the court testimony of a witness.

In this area, you may call animal control.  In Danville, call 799-5111 and in Pittsylvania County, call 432-7937.  The Danville Area Humane Society has two humane investigators appointed by Circuit Court judges to investigate complaints of neglect and cruelty.  Sometimes, when we go out on investigations, we hear comments about how the world is in sad shape because people care more about animals than about other people.  Not necessarily so.  People can have compassion for animals and compassion for humans.  The reality is that people who abuse animals will abuse people, too.

I just cannot get the dog who jumped out of the car out of my mind.  Does he live in fear all the time?  Personally, I  hope the woman does not have young children.

$3,000 Reward Offered

The Danville Area Humane Society is offering a reward of up to $3,000 for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the torture of a male Jack Russell terrier on Tuesday, October 23, 2012.
At approximately 10:00 p.m., shelter employees were contacted by the Danville Police Department regarding a severely injured dog on Oakland Avenue. The owner of the dog had contacted the Police Department for help. The dog was suffering from dog bite wounds and serious knife wounds. The owner transported the dog to the animal shelter; the dog died shortly after arriving at the shelter.
April Hogan, shelter manager, and Lynn Shelton, board president and court-appointed humane investigator, met the owner at the shelter and said the dog was suffering from the most horrific injuries they had ever seen.
“The pictures are too graphic to release,” said Paulette Dean, director. “If a person intentionally inflicted these wounds, this is proof that pure evil exists.”
Details are sketchy, but it is believed the injuries were caused between 5:00-6:00 p.m. Lynn Shelton said, “We hope that someone in the 100 block of Oakland Avenue and Halifax Road heard or saw something that would be helpful to the police in solving this case.”
Dean said, “We are grateful to the officer who investigated the complaint, as well as the administration of the Police Department. They are treating this case very seriously.”
Anyone with knowledge of this incident is urged to contact the Humane Society at 799-0843. Money for the reward comes from donations; no taxpayer money is used.

Change to the Fritz Childrey Senior Pet Program

We are very happy to announce that the Fritz Childrey Senior Pet Program has expanded. Senior pets are hard to find homes for because people don’t like to think that they will lose their new friend in a few years. Obviously, we want our beloved companions to spend many years with us. However, the senior pets are calm, and have usually been trained. To help find senior dogs and cats homes, we will waive the adoption fees for these animals. We certainly do not want to give the appearance we are just giving away pets free to any home. Potential adopters will be screened carefully, and will be educated on the possible veterinary bills that may come sooner than later. For the purposes of this program, a senior pet is defined as one that is 8 years or older.

Summer Care

Summers are definitely the hardest season for animals. We believe, based on our experiences, that we lose more companion animals to the heat than we do to cold weather. We also believe that most of the deaths that occur in the summer are preventable.

During hot weather, our humane investigators have zero tolerance for the following situations:

Dogs chained outside with no shade provided. Never put a doghouse where it is not protected from direct sunlight. Outside dogs cannot find relief in a doghouse that is not shaded. At temperatures over 80 degrees, the danger of heat stroke increases significantly. If the dog is confined to a pen on concrete, reflected heat makes the temperature even higher. A doghouse that is not in shade becomes nothing but a hot box. A source of shade must be provided in order for your dog to be comfortable. A tarp over one corner of a dog lot may suffice; if the dog is chained outside of a lot, sometimes a piece of plywood leaned against the doghouse will provide needed relief from the direct sunlight. Actually, the definition of “adequate shelter” in the Virginia code requires animals to be kept free from the ill effects of direct sunlight. Dogs kept in outside lots or on chains with no shade provided are the ones that are most at risk from high temperatures.
Pets that do not have water. Never expect your pet to be without cool, fresh water. Fresh water must be provided at all times. Even inside pets drink more during hot weather. Continuous cool, fresh water is necessary for every pet; in fact, it is a legal requirement. Outside animals can become dehydrated very quickly. During the summer, I very seldom take a drink of cool water without thinking of the many dogs in this area whose throats are parched because they do not have water. It gets very tiring to hear, “Well, if the dog did not knock the bowl over, he could have water,” or “I gave him water yesterday,”
Animals left in parked cars. Never leave your dog or cat in a parked car during warm or hot weather. The buildup of heat inside a car can kill a pet very quickly. Dogs and cats do not sweat as we humans do. Their lungs are their main cooling system. With nothing but overheated air to breathe, your pet cannot live very long. Heat stress, heat stroke, and permanent brain damage are the consequences, if your pet does survive. With the outside temperature in the low 80s, the temperature inside a car – with windows slightly opened – will reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes. In 30 minutes, the inside temperature reaches 120 degrees. Humidity increases the danger. Cars parked in the shade or cars that have just had the air conditioning turned off are just as dangerous. It is kinder to leave pets at home in warm weather, beginning when the temperatures reach 60.
If you see a dog in an unattended parked car, please call us immediately. We will need the location, make and color of the car, and the license plate number. Then, go into the store and ask the manager to announce over their public address system that the owners need to return to their car. The confusing thing about this situation is that most people who take their animals, especially their dogs, with them to run errands are the people who give them much-needed attention. However, when the spring and summer seasons arrive, either leave your pets at home, or take along a human who can remain in the parked car with the engine running and the air conditioning on.
Other Issues
Outside dogs need to have their collars checked regularly. A tight collar can actually become embedded in the flesh and cause much damage.
Outside animals are easy targets of fly bites. Then, as the flies bite and the ears bleed, more flies are attracted. Owners who keep their dogs outside must by fly repellent made for animals.
Think about what makes you comfortable during the summer, and give your pets the same treatment. Please call us at 799-5306 or 799-0843 if you know of an animal that is not receiving the proper care. Summer can be a very difficult time for animals.

Reward for Guinea Pig Abandonment

The Danville Area Humane Society is offering a reward of up to $500 for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for abandoning a guinea pig at the dumpster site on Kentuck Road.

Late Monday evening, a woman called to say she had just found a guinea pig in a cage in front of a dumpster.  She brought the cage and animal to the animal shelter. 

The cage was dirty, and the guinea pig was thin and dehydrated. 

It is illegal to abandon any animal, but given the circumstances of this case, including the condition of the guinea pig, the person responsible may be charged with cruelty to animals.  This is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and carries a jail sentence of up to 12 months and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Paulette Dean, director, said, “Abandonment of animals along the highways or at dumpster sites is an ongoing problem in this area.  The humane society cannot tolerate any abuse or abandonment of any companion animal.”
 Lynn Shelton, board president said, “We are grateful for the person who noticed the animal and brought him to us.  We remind everyone that the animal shelter is an open-access shelter, and we do not charge a fee for any animal to be released to us.”

Anyone who has information about the abandonment of this guinea pig is urged to call the Danville Area Humane Society at 799-5306.  Callers may remain anonymous.  No taxpayer funds are used to support the reward program; it is supported by donations.

Volunteers are Vital!

About five years ago, I was invited to sit on a panel at a conference of humane organizations in Virginia. I was one of six panel members to discuss the challenges shelters face. At the start of the session, we were asked to give an overview of our organization. The first woman said her shelter was very busy, taking in about 2,500 animals each year with a small staff of 15 employees and about that many volunteers, on a budget of about $1 million. The audience gasped, wondering how that many animals could be handled in a year. The next director said they take in about 3,000 animals, with a staff of 35 and about 45 volunteers, on a budget of $2 million. Again, audience members were appalled about the number of animals. I heard comments like, “How can they take care of that many animals?”
Each director said they operate the shelter, and do no rescues, investigations, or any work other than taking care of shelter animals.
Down the line the introductions went, until it was my turn. When I said we take in 5,500 animals with a staff of six and a small number of volunteers (we’ve expanded since then), with a budget of $250,000, people could not believe it. Then, when I added that we do conduct investigations, our employees do assist with rescues and picking up hurt, injured, or unwanted animals, the audience clapped. The board president and I went home feeling that our employees should be applauded for working the miracles they do each day. We also realized that our volunteer program needed to be expanded.
Since that time, we have come to rely even more heavily on volunteers. Volunteers walk dogs, bathe them, let cats and kittens have play time outside of the cages. Others help with fundraising. We had one volunteer who, until her husband became ill, came every Thursday and helped with the laundry. Other volunteers love to help with our off-site (and on-site) adoption fairs. One young man helps empty trashcans.
Our board president, Lynn Shelton, leads by example by volunteering over 1,200 hours each year. The shelter manager, April Hogan, and assistant manager, Lisa Hannaford, volunteer their time off to help with adoption fairs and fundraising events. In fact, through the years, most of the employees have been willing to donate time to help the animals.
Volunteering for the animals is truly an act of love, and gives the animals an even greater chance of being adopted. We currently have need of more volunteers to help with taking pictures for Facebook, transporting puppies to Martinsville, and helping us raise money.
We have a volunteer orientation the last Wednesday of each month at 4:00 at the shelter. This brief session introduces volunteers to our policies and procedures, as well as volunteer guidelines. We would love to have your help!

May 20 Wildlife

A few weeks ago, we complained about the cold weather and in a few weeks we will be complaining about the hot weather. For now, the temperatures are generally pleasant and that means the animal kingdom is busy having babies. Chances are, many of you will come into contact with baby wildlife. Federal and state laws prohibit individuals from possessing wild animals, and Virginia requires wildlife rehabilitators to be trained and licensed. We strongly encourage people to bring orphaned wildlife to the shelter. We care for them until we can take them to a wildlife rehabilitator.
It is easy to assume that baby animals are orphans if they are seen with no adult nearby. However, many animal mothers leave their babies for varying stretches of time to forage for food.
Many deer picked up as orphans are not really orphans. A doe will leave her young ones hiding in the grass while she grazes. The fawns will not move at any approach. The best thing to do for the fawns is to remember where you spotted them, leave without touching them and return in an hour or so. The chances are the doe will have moved her babies. If the fawns are still there and are making peeping noises indicating distress, help is probably needed.
It is common to see baby birds on the ground. Fledglings (birds that are learning to fly) may simply be disoriented for a time and the mother will stay within close range and continue to feed her baby. Hatchlings (recently hatched birds) may have fallen from the nest. Gently place the hatchling back in the nest, if you can locate it in the tree. However, do so cautiously as you may frighten the nest mates and cause them to fall out of the nest. If you cannot locate the nest, try attaching a box to a tree where the parents can find their wayward baby and continue feeding it themselves. Continue to monitor the situation to keep the fledgling safe from other animals. If you determine the bird really is an orphan, bring it to us as soon as you can.
A rabbit’s nest may be disturbed or destroyed by lawn mowers, simple gardening, or other animals. The mother will probably have been frightened away. Restore the nest as much as possible to its natural condition, and keep a close watch to see if the mother returns. Place leaves or grass over the nest in a way that will indicate if the nest has been disturbed by the mother returning. If after a couple of hours, the mother has not returned, keep the bunnies warm and bring them to us.
Squirrels blown out of nests or hurt by cats have a good chance of surviving if they are brought to us as quickly as possible. It is nearly impossible to return them to the proper nest.
If the wild animal babies have their eyes open, they are going to be frightened. Eyes that look directly forward, as human eyes do, are generally recognized in nature as the mark of a predator and are likely to cause fear and panic. As you are helping the orphans, do not look directly at them.
The ultimate goal in helping orphaned or injured wildlife is to nurse them to health, and release them to lead a natural life in the wild. The babies may lose their fear of humans – a fatal affliction for any wild animal. It is better to have as little contact with them as possible and bring them to the animal shelter as soon as you can. We have a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who helps us save the lives of many wild animals.