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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.