Mutt Strut

Each October since October 2001, we have held a fundraising event called the Mutt Strut.  This event provides an opportunity for dog owners to take their dogs for a walk and raise money to help homeless animals.  It’s a wonderful event that we always look forward to and enjoy.

Since Mutt Strut 2011, we have been very busy.  We have taken in approximately 5,000 dogs and cats, plus a few hundred other companion animals.  We have completed and opened our E. Stuart James Grant Adoption Center, expanded our transfer program, expanded our volunteer program, and have helped spay/neuter 1,500 animals in Pittsylvania County and Danville. Not bad for a year’s work.

We are also thrilled to announce that our euthanasia rate for dogs has gone done about 30%.

Our fundraising efforts continue to be a vital part of supporting our work to help the animals.  This year, Mutt Strut 2012 will be held on October 6, in partnership with the River Fest.  That is not the only change in the Mutt Strut.

This year, registration will begin at 9:00 in the Newtons Landing parking lot (not far from the Community Market).  We will have a blessing of the animals at 9:30 by Rev. Vanessa Falgoust from West End Christian Church, and the walk begins at 9:40.  As usual, we will have treats for the dogs and humans.

The first 75 people who register and pay a total of $35 will receive a free event t-shirt. Those dogs may also complete a free mini-paw painting.  An addition that may be of interest to cat owners is the availability of “My Cat Napped During the Mutt Strut” t-shirts.  Cat owners may donate $35 to the Mutt Strut and receive a shirt.

We will also have a booth all day in Showcase Alley.  We have lots of t-shirts designs, plus other items for animal lovers to buy, give, and receive as gifts.

Please come and enjoy the day.  Next year, we will report that we have been able to help thousands of animals, in part because of the money raised on October 6th.  We hope to see you and your dogs!

We had a small list of sponsors for our first Mutt Strut, and that list has steadily grown.  We are very grateful to our sponsors:  Animal Medical Center, Brosville Animal Clinic, Cherrystone Animal Hospital, Custom Alterations, Danville Orthopedic Clinic, Donald G. Cairns, D.D.S., F. T. Grogan, III, D.D.S., J. J. Hogan Towing, Lauren and Adam Jones, LeggettTown & Country, Malcolm J. Mallery, D.D.S., Moss Home Improvement, Mount Hermon Animal Clinic, PRUDENTIAL Manasco Realty, Frances J. Pruitt, Susanne and Joel Singer, WBTM 1330/WAKG FM 103.3.


15 Years Lot Dog

After twenty years of working for the humane society, it is difficult to recall every animal with which I’ve come into contact.  However, there are many that will never be erased from my mind, and another one joined those ranks last week.

On Wednesday, we received a call from a person who was concerned about a dog that was in a backyard.  When we went to the house Thursday afternoon, the owner readily admitted that he does not like animals, but had had the dog for 15 years.  I asked if we could see the dog, and we started into the backyard.  I asked if the dog ever came out of the dog lot, and the owner said he had escaped a couple of times.  The full meaning of that took a couple of seconds to register, and he confirmed that he really did mean that for 15 years the dog had been in the lot and had only been out twice.

“That’s so sad,” escaped my lips before I even knew it.  He agreed it may seem sad, but he said he fed and watered the dog every day.

The lot was homemade and small.  What was the most disturbing was that mattresses and other items had been attached to the pen, so the dog had no view of the outside world.  His entire world consisted of the small area inside the lot.  There was no gate, and no way for anyone to enter the lot.  Even his view of the sky was obscured by trees. He, of course, was not socialized.

We recognized the empty, hopeless look in his eyes.  We had seen the same look in a cat that had been kept for many years in a rabbit hunch that was surrounded by plastic.  We had seen the same look in a dog that had never been off a chain for twelve years, wearing down a perfect circle in the ground about a foot deep.  These are the animals who have given up on life, and the only reason they weren’t dead is that their hearts kept beating.

The law can require pet owners to feed and water their animals and provide shelter, and the neglect is obvious when those things are not provided.  However, the law cannot force pet owners to love their animals nor can it require them to spend time enriching the lives of the animals.

As we review the adoption questionnaires, we do so with the thought that we have to do everything in our power to ensure the shelter animals that go into homes are placed in homes where they can thrive and flourish and live long, happy lives.  When pet owners use the thought of “What is the minimum that is required of me?” as a yardstick for their success in pet ownership, that is simply not good enough for us or for the animals.

The dog that had been in the small lot for 15 years was released to us.  Not surprisingly, he had heartworm disease.  His health and behavioral issues could not be overcome.  We now take comfort in the reality that heaven is filled with green pastures and only good things for that dog, and for all other animals.

Fritz Childrey Fund

We are thrilled to announce the expansion of the Fritz Childrey Fund for Older Friends.  Beginning immediately, the adoption fees will be waived for the adoption of any senior dog or cat.  For the purposes of this program, we will consider dogs and cats older than eight years old to be senior animals.

The majority of people who visit the animal shelter to adopt an animal want a younger dog or cat.  Some may have made that decision because they have young children and want the child and pet to grow up together.  Other people do not want to take the chance that an older animal will not live for as many years as a younger animal.

Some older animals have medical issues because of age or neglect.  Hence, senior animals are at a distinct disadvantage for many reasons, although there are many benefits to adopting an older animal.  In 2009, we received a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Dan River Region to help us place senior animals in the homes of senior citizens.  That year, we were able to place about 25 senior animals.

Last year, we changed the name of that program to the Fritz Childrey Fund for Older Friends, in memory of a dachshund who was adopted from a shelter and then lived for a little over fourteen years.  His owner, Mark Childrey, has been a tremendous friend of ours for several years.  Mark works for Star News in Reidsville; we have been guests on his show for once a month for years.  He allows us to spotlight shelter animals, as well as talk about some of the neglect and cruelty cases that we have had.  We are able to talk about our work for about a half an hour, and sometimes even field questions from callers.

Fritz’s human companions had to make a difficult decision last year to send Fritz to heaven.  All I could do was express my sympathy, and told Mark of my belief that Fritz was now in heaven.  It is a sad fact that we will outlive most of our pets.  It is painful when they die because our grief goes as deep as our love.  That is why the vast majority of people want to adopt a young cat or dog.

However, older animals are usually calmer and for those who have been in homes previously, are probably housebroken.  They are probably less destructive, and more used to following the rules of living in a home with humans.  Put another way (only partially tongue-in-cheek), adopting an older animal is like adopting a human adult; you do not have to go through the energetic toddler stages or the emotion-filled teenager years!  What you do adopt is a wonderful companion.

Potential homes will be screened very carefully.  We will not approve the adoption of any senior pet to a home that is not familiar with or not capable of taking care of the needs of older animals.

We will also continue accepting donations to support this program.  You may make a contribution to the fund by sending a check to the Danville Area Humane Society, P.O. Box 3352, Danville, VA  24543.  Be sure to note on the check that the donation is for the Fritz Childrey Fund for Older Animals.

Disposable Pets

About 25 years ago, I read a story in some now-forgotten animal welfare newsletter about bringing new pets into a home where there are already pets.  The account told of a family who had had a cat for many years.  He was getting old, so they decided they would acquire a kitten.  Suddenly, they started finding wet spots all over the carpet.  A veterinary examination found no physical reason for his accidents, but the family could not tolerate the spots on the carpet, so they opted to have him euthanized.  The next afternoon when they arrived home from work and school, they found more wet spots.  It was not their older cat who had had the accidents, it was the younger kitten.

That is such a sad story.  Although each situation is different, shelter staff and I do worry each time an animal is adopted to a home that already has other animals.  We would never want an older animal to feel nudged out by a younger one.

Last week, a woman walked through the front door of the shelter carrying a cat in a small carrier.  Her daughter held an adorable shih-tzu puppy in her arms.  The woman said that she was releasing the cat to us, and said she had had him since he was a young kitten.  He was now almost 3 years old.  I asked if she was also releasing the puppy to us, and she was horrified.  No, that puppy was what her daughter wanted for her birthday.  The cat did not like the puppy, so the cat had to come to the shelter.

This, unfortunately, was not an isolated case.  Through the years, many people have released a pet to us, only to say that they would like a younger animal now that this one is old.  If the older pet has health or behavior issues, the kinder action would be to euthanize them if the condition is untreatable.  We do not approve “replacement adoptions.”

Frankly, in cases like the shih-tzu/cat one, it is easier to understand why some shelters would not accept an animal under those circumstances.  However, there are too many sad stories of animals being turned away from shelters only to be abandoned for us to even consider having any other policy other than open-door.

There will usually be an adjustment period when a new animal is being introduced into a home. It probably will be very hard on everyone involved, but things usually settle down after a while.  We strongly encourage people to bring their current dog to the shelter to meet a new dog they are interested in adopting.  Sometimes, it is apparent that the animals will generally get along, and sometimes it is very apparent that the dogs will have problems.  Cats, of course, are harder to bring to the shelter.

When I thought about adopting a new kitten eight years ago to be friends with my then-7 year-old Billy cat, I brought Billy to the shelter to see what his reaction would be.  I also introduced the kitten to my birds to see if she would be as nice to them as Billy always had been.  Once I adopted Becky, I would never have released Billy or the birds to the shelter if they did not get along.

There are extreme circumstances, however, such as allergies or aggressive behavior.  We certainly try not to judge people harshly for decisions that have to be made.  It just seems that, in some cases, animals are thought of as being disposable if they become inconvenient.





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.