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.

Update 2004-2011

We recently appeared before Danville City Council and Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors to speak about the E. Stuart James Grant Adoption Center. Appearing before a body of elected officials is always a little intimidating, I must admit. We reminded council members that, in February of 2004, we came before them body several times to defend our adoption policies. We paid $15,000 to the Humane Society of the United States to conduct a comprehensive review of all of our policies, procedures, and operations. Their conclusion was that our adoption policies were responsible, reasonable ones. A lot has happened since that time, and we updated them on what we have been doing since 2004.
In 2007, at a cost of $250,000, we expanded the city animal shelter by building an additional 28 dog runs. That money came from donations and from the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust. In 2008, we returned to Council to assist in updating city ordinances pertaining to animals. In 2009, we worked to pass anti-tethering legislation in Danville. This legislation has been used as a model or example throughout the United States.
From February 2004 – 2011, we have received 26,514 cats, 15,175 dogs, 26 livestock, 696 other companion animals, and 205 poultry for a total number of animals served: 42,616.
During that same time, we spent $274,000 on spay/neuter programs for residents of Danville and Pittsylvania County. Again, that money came from the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust.
We have expanded our volunteer program, and now have a solid core of faithful volunteers who help enrich the lives of the shelter animals.
Since February of 2004, we have never spent one minute that we have not been on call for the animals. We have conducted or assisted in neglect and cruelty investigations, have helped in many rescues of animals, have given humane presentations, have written articles and columns about animal issues, have gone to Richmond several times to testify either for or against legislation, and helped form and organize an alliance of open-access shelters in Virginia.
We have expanded our transfer program to rescue groups and high-adoption shelters. I am pleased to tell you that, during the first quarter of 2012, we have adopted or transferred more dogs than we euthanized.
During the Board of Supervisors and City Council meetings, we gave the residents of this area a gift of the new adoption center. We will remain open admission – we will never turn away an animal. Animals that are healthy and do not have behavioral problems can be transferred into this E. Stuart James Grant Adoption Center. They will remain there until they are adopted.
The Center cost us $450,000 to build and furnish. $250,000 came from the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust, and the rest came from donations and fundraisers. As we neared completion of the center, we realized we needed more money to purchase cages, bowls, equipment, beds, toys, and to pay for additional construction costs that came about when problems were uncovered. At that time, we unexpectedly received a $60,000 gift from a woman, Marguerite Mitchell, who helped form the humane society. She died about three years ago, and left her estate to a few charities.
We have been busy over the past eight years, but we believe our work to help the animals is a blessing in each of our lives. Actually, since we organized in 1975 and then took over operation of the shelter in 1984, we have had very few un-busy moments!

Our Friend, Joanie

In 1983 when a friend persuaded me to become an active volunteer for the Danville Area Humane Society, I went to my first meeting. I met Bill and Joanie Schwarz, and quickly learned that they were the backbone, legs, and arms for the humane society. During the early years before we began operating the shelter, Bill and Joanie worked on a shoestring budget with few volunteers and very little support.
As we took over operation of the animal shelter, Bill and Joanie were the backbone. To give volunteers and the one employee time off, the two of them spent all day Thanksgiving and Christmas at the shelter, feeding and watering the animals and cleaning the cages. They went out on emergency calls during the night and on weekends, or whenever an animal needed their help. The Schwarzes could also be found at each and every fund raising event, usually after also planning the event. They each served as President, providing stable leadership during a time when tough decisions had to be made during contract negotiations with the City.
Joanie became my friend and mentor. I moved away from Danville from 1986-1989, but we renewed our friendship when I moved back. When I re-joined the board of directors and then subsequently became the director, Joanie was still one of my mentors. She and her husband, Bill, never lost their zeal for helping animals.
When Bill passed away in 1998, Joanie became even more involved. She now volunteers two days each week, manning the front desk at the shelter. However, she is also the chairman of the fundraising committee, and spends countless hours on projects and events. She singlehandedly designed and stocked the new retail store space in the new adoption center. Joanie, along with her sister, Freda Burton, and nieces, Jennifer Brann and Mary Crane, sell umpteen t-shirts and anything else with our logo on it. They are a sales force any retail company would love to have.
Last year, Joanie worked tirelessly on our Paws and Claws event. She wrote to celebrities, asking for autographed items for us to auction off. She turned in mail receipts for only a small number of letters, remarking that only she, the postmaster, and God knew how many letters she sent. Her hard work yielded great results.
Last Tuesday night, when we went before City Council to speak about our programs and the new adoption center, Councilman Shanks said he was impressed with our ability to raise money for construction of the adoption center. I regret my answer. I replied, “We raised it dollar by dollar.” I should have said, “Our success, in large measure, is due to the fundraising efforts of Joanie Schwarz.”
Joanie helped build a firm foundation for the Humane Society in this area, and no work that has been performed since, or work that will be performed in the future, would have been possible without her dedication and commitment.

SB 359

Animal welfare advocates thought this would be a quiet legislative session. We were wrong. There were several bills that would have had devastating effects on the animal protection laws we have worked so hard for through the years. One in particular proved to be rather contentious, and involved the subject of feral cats and what to do about them.
Feral cats are descendants of domesticated cats. They have either been born and raised in the wild or have been abandoned or lost and have turned to wild behaviors to survive. Feral cats often live in groups called colonies and are fearful of any human contact.
According to Alley Cat Allies, an adult feral cat is unlikely to ever become socialized to the point of enjoying human contact or living inside. However, a stray cat that has reverted back to wild behavior because it has been lost or abandoned can be re-socialized. In addition, very young kittens born in the wild can be socialized if caught at a young age.
Trap/neuter/release (TNR) is a program that improves the lives of feral cats and, hopefully, contributes to a declining population of feral cats. Caretakers trap the cats, have them spayed or neutered, vaccinated, treated for obvious problems, and then release them back to a safe location. The ears are usually tipped to show that they have been sterilized. The cats live in a colony and are fed and monitored by the caretakers. Their basic needs are taken care of.
In the past, the State Veterinarian’s office has been of the opinion that TNR is simply a re-abandonment of cats. If we talked about trapping, neutering, and releasing dogs, or guinea pigs, or other pets, people would be appalled. Somehow, though, it has seemed acceptable to promote TNR programs for cats.
A locality in Virginia asked their senator to introduce SB359, a bill that would have changed the abandonment code. The bill would have taken away any responsibilities for the future care of feral cats. Shelters could trap, neuter, and release cats with never again having to feed them or monitor their health. Wildlife advocates, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the Virginia Animal Control Association, and many shelters opposed the bill.
There were many weaknesses in the bill; proponents could actually trespass on property to trap cats and then return them to the trapping site, even if the property owner were opposed. Additionally, owners’ rights were completely disregarded. For instance (and I want to be clear – we support spaying and neutering all animals and never condone any breeding), if an owner of a purebred Persian cat accidentally left a door open and the cat wandered from home, anyone associated with a TNR program could have trapped the cat and have it sterilized, then released back to another location.
Our opposition to the bill was based on all those points, but our main objection was that the life of a feral cat is a cruel, short one, especially for the ones who are never going to be fed or treated in case of illness, accident or injury. We went to Richmond armed with many, many pictures of feral cats that have been starved, burned, scalped, or otherwise tortured.
The bill passed the Senate Agricultural Committee. At that point, the locality that asked for the bill realized there was a lot of opposition, so they submitted a substitute bill that would have required a property owner’s permission, among other changes.
Thankfully, the House Agricultural sub-committee defeated the bill because of the weaknesses.
The State Veterinarian has started to form a formal work group to address the issue of feral cats in Virginia. The problem has grown to hideous numbers, and we hope that good news for the cats will happen next legislative session.

Adoption Center Opening

In just another few weeks, we will officially open the E. Stuart James Grant Adoption Center! We are thrilled with it, and we believe it will be a wonderful tool to help us in our efforts to help the animals.
In 1984, we contracted with the City of Danville to operate the animal shelter. At that time, the shelter consisted of a small office area and about ten dog runs. Cats and other animals were not accepted. Through an agreement with the City, we build 28 dog runs in a “double-decker” style, along with a small cat area and a small kitchen area. We gave the expanded shelter to the City as a gift.
The first day we took over operation of the shelter, we took in about 100 animals from owners who had waited for the expanded shelter to open. Our eyes were quickly opened to the tremendous task ahead of us. I served on the board then, but could not volunteer that day because I was working full-time. I called the shelter to check on things, and was surprised to learn about the huge number of animals already being sheltered.
During a State Veterinary inspection in 1989, the City was told that it needed to build dog and cat isolation areas, as well as a larger cat room. The City paid for that expansion.
Then, in 2007, through the generosity of the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust, we expanded the dog holding areas by building 28 more dog runs.
In 1992, when I became the director, we took in a little more than 2,000 animals. I thought that was a huge number. However, the numbers have increased. In 2009, we took in 6,063 animals, in 2010, we took in 5,442 animals and in 2011, we took in 5,608 animals.
The new “no-kill” adoption center will not solve all the overpopulation problems in Danville and Pittsylvania County, but will provide us more space to hold the adoptable animals. We will still be an open-admission shelter, which means we will not turn away animals. Once an animal comes into the shelter, and they become our property through state law, they will be evaluated for behavioral and health issues. As space permits, they will be accepted into the adoption center, and will be held until they are adopted or transferred to another group (as long as they remain healthy and non-aggressive). We are thrilled to be able to build this center, through the generosity of many donors and supporters, as well as the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust, and give it as a gift to the City of Danville.
The adoption center has a cat colony room, a kitten colony room, a grooming room, twelve more dog runs, a room for small animals, office space, and a retail space for us to sell basic pet supplies, as well as gifts for animal lovers.
We will have a volunteer orientation soon for volunteers – present and future – who would like to help us in the expanded shelter. We need people to help keep the adoption center clean and shining the visitors and residents, people to walk and socialize the animals, people to give baths to dogs and puppies, and people to help us keep the animals flea free and happy.
Many things have changed since 1984 when we began operating the shelter, and it is a joy associating with so many creatures.

Cycle of Violence

Although we knew that we would receive some jokes and negative comments about offering a reward for the abuse of a rat, we also knew that we needed to do it. The same person who is willing to cruelly treat a small animal will not stop there.
We received a complaint about a man beating his puppies. His response to us was a very belligerent, “I don’t beat my puppies any harder than I beat my children.”
In another incident, as I looked out of my office window one day, I heard a young man yelling at his mother while using filthy language. When she came in to apply for a puppy, I did not feel at all bad declining her questionnaire since her young son lived with her.
While the majority of animal cruelty cases involve teenage boys, girls and children as young as seven years of age are also committing acts of violence against animals.
The problem of cruelty to animals is not just a problem for people who respect and care for animals. People learn how to abuse, torture, and kill humans by practicing on animals. It is a brutal, tragic cycle of violence that affects us all.
It is not just a coincidence that most of the time when the newspaper publishes a story about a violent crime that just happened, or announces the arrest of people on drug-related charges, the names of the people are familiar to us because we have been to their homes investigating animal neglect or cruelty. Dogfighting and cockfighting are also interwoven with illegal drugs and other violations of law.
The belief that one’s treatment of animals is closely associated with the treatment of fellow human beings has a long history in philosophy. As early as the 13th century, moralists like Saint Thomas Aquinas proposed that one might lead to the other. This philosophy served as the ethical foundation for the rise of the animal welfare movement during the nineteenth century.
In 1966, Doctors D.S. Hillman and Nathan Blackman published one of the first studies that examined the correlation between animal abuse and its connection to other forms of violence. Their analysis of life histories of eighty-four prison inmates showed that 75 percent of those charged with violent crimes had an early record of cruelty to animals.
Doctors Alan Felthous and Stephen Kellert conducted additional research in the 1970s and 1980s. They identified a cycle of abuse that begins with physical abuse by parents, cruelty to animals, and violence toward people.
Animal abuse rarely involves a single act of cruelty against one victim. It is part of a complex cycle of disturbed relationships. Within this tangled web, an abused child becomes violent to others, including animals.
Scientists and lawmakers are beginning to acknowledge the humane movement’s long-held position that society’s treatment of animals is inseparable from its treatment of human beings.
So, yes, we did receive some jokes and negative comments about our concern for an abused rat. We are also very concerned about any animal that comes into contact with the person who taped the rat and left him for dead.


Oh, my. I have had a startling revelation during the course of the last two weeks. I am 56 years old, and gave up red meat in my late teens. In my early twenties, I stopped eating poultry, fish, and gelatin. Thus, I have called myself a vegetarian for all this time.
In the late 1980s, I heard that a lot of candies are polished with food shellac, and that comes from crushed beetle shells. I’m not even sure where I read that, I gave up eating M&Ms. Actually, I enjoyed having the excuse to not consume all of the varieties of that luscious candy.
Then, one day, my kind and tolerant family talked with me about it. My nephew, Matthew, told me it simply could not be true. I called the M&M Company to ask if it was true. The customer service woman had never heard of that, and I did hear a little bit of doubt in her voice. I’m sure she couldn’t wait to hang up the phone and say something like, “Wait till you hear about the call I just took.”
Unfortunately, I started eating M&Ms again. A few years later, I read that red food coloring is, in fact, made from some beetle shells. The FDA now makes food companies list that ingredient because so many people are allergic to shellfish and beetles. Yuck. I now have to watch out for an ingredient listing of carmine, cochineal, crimson lake, Natural Red #4, C.I. 75470, or E120. Surprisingly, some candies actually do have that ingredient listed, along with some health drinks.
I went on in my little life of feeling secure that I had eradicated all icky stuff from my diet.
But then, Yahoo! News published an interesting story about a number of horrible things we eat, not knowing that we are eating them. Carmine was listed, might I add. It was then I was introduced to the world of castoreum. That ingredient is used to enhance the vanilla flavors or raspberry flavors of candies, drinks, juices, puddings, yogurt, and ice cream. It is made from – are you ready for this? – the anal glands of beaver. Wow. The FDA considers it a “natural” ingredient, so food companies are allowed to list it as “natural flavoring.”
Do I need to tell you that I have called the companies that make foods I eat regularly, if the ingredient lists “natural flavoring?” It is a sad commentary that I am happy when only artificial flavorings are noted.
No customer service person has been familiar with the word “castoreum,” so I have had to tell them that the FDA allows it to not be listed as such. They then either put me on hold or get my phone number and tell me they will call me back. I hope they tell the truth.
My niece, Mary Susan, told me that I should just realize that I have eaten castoreum for years and it has never bothered me. It must be a safe ingredient, to be sure, but it certainly is one that most people would be repelled by. So, I will continue to put back all the food with “natural flavoring” until I confirm with all the companies that I am not consuming secretions from the anal glands of beaver. My goodness; I never imagined I would have to write a sentence like that.

Senate Bill 26

A bill that would essentially legalize poaching has just passed, with an amendment, out of Senate Courts of Justice Committee. The Bill, Senate bill 26

essentially prevents the game warden from investigating a hunter or fisherman unless the warden has “probable cause to make an arrest”.  The warden can’t look in the crell or in the hunting bag or even ask to see a license.

This bill was argued on 4th amendment grounds but that is foolish.  While hunting is a right in Virginia , it isn’t absolute and this could mean the game warden would have to watch the endangered animal, or one too many duck be shot or the rockfish be caught during a ban in order to take action.

This bill must be defeated on the Senate floor during the next three days and cannot be allowed to go over to the House.  Please read the bill, go to the list of Senators and call as many as you know, http://leg1.state.va.us/121/mbr/MBR.HTM, put this on your face book page, tell your friends across the state.

Senator Stanley’s office number is (804) 698-7520

Senator Ruff’s office number is (804) 698-7515

If you care about wildlife, proper management of hunting and fishing or protection, please act now.


Last Wednesday morning, we received a call from a citizen who was driving on 58 East about a mile from the shelter. The caller said that a large dog had just been hit by a car and was lying injured near the side of the highway. Two shelter employees left immediately to help the dog.
A few minutes after they left, the City Manager’s office called to ask for our help. A citizen called to tell them that a wolf (or maybe a coyote) had just been hit by a car on 58 East, about a mile from the shelter. We knew if the injured animal really was a coyote or wolf, all we could do was to call the police department for help in sending the animal to heaven quickly and painlessly.
As it turns out, it was a coyote that had been hit, and by the time employees arrived, she had already died. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the coyote population in Virginia continues to grow and is distributed throughout the state, even though it is thought that more coyotes live in the area west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Coyotes are a threat to cats kept outside, as well as small dogs. There have been some cases of coyotes even attacking small dogs that are being walked on leashes.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries suggests that “Small dogs and cats should be kept in an enclosure when kept outdoors in order to prevent coyotes from attacking and killing a pet animal. Even though a fence may dissuade coyotes from attacking your pet, be aware that coyotes can jump over fences less than 7-feet high and can climb over taller fencing that does not have an outward slanting overhang.” (From www.dgif.virginia.gov.)
This certainly is not an issue that should cause undue concern or cause people to panic; we do not have hordes of coyotes in each neighborhood that are waiting to attack humans and their pets. However, it is not a bad idea to exercise caution. It is better to take a pro-active approach to staying away from coyotes and encouraging them to leave inhabited areas. My sister tells me that she has seen a couple of coyotes in her neighborhood, and there have been sightings of single coyotes in parks.
First and foremost, cats are safer inside. Small dogs should also not be left outside by themselves. All dogs and cats should have rabies vaccinations that are kept current. Dogs that are chained outside are also at risk of being attacked by coyotes.
If a food source is provided (even unintentionally through feeding pets outside), a coyote may become more comfortable in staying around your house. That is not a good thing, because the coyote may become more aggressive. Take steps to secure garbage cans, and prevent small prey from staying around your house; they can attract hungry coyotes.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also offers some good advice about how to make coyotes feel unwelcome. They suggest you find a place that keeps you safe from the animal, and then yell while throwing non-food items in the direction of the coyote.
We are saddened by the number of reports we get about missing cats, especially in Pittsylvania County, and suspect that coyotes and foxes may be part of the reason.
It is always safer to stay away from wild animals, and it is safer for your pets to take steps to keep them away from them also.