Kittens in a Bag

The Danville Area Humane Society is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who put three four-week old gray tabby kittens in a paper bag, then twisted the top shut, and left the bag on the side of the road in the Bryant Avenue area of Danville.  Fortunately, a local citizen found them and brought them to the shelter.

The kittens were weak and scared, but are expected to recover.

During the spring and summer months, we see a marked increase in animals being abandoned in Danville and Pittsylvania County.  We remind everyone that abandoning an animal on public roads or property is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and is punishable by confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

Any citizen who has any information about these kittens is urged to call the Danville Area Humane Society at 799-5306.  Callers may remain anonymous.

Mother’s Day 2011

Today, we celebrate Mother’s Day.  The very word “mother” brings to mind safety, warmth, care, and love.  There are bad mothers, to be sure, but the vast majority offer unconditional love.  In fact, all nature values mothers.  There is a reason our planet is called Mother Earth. 

I have never had the blessing of being a mother, but my sister has seven children (all grown now) and it has been a tremendous blessing to be able to share their lives with them.  I have learned a lot about motherhood by watching my mother and sister, and now my nieces, raise their children.  The same traits that I see in human mothers can also be seen in animal mothers.

Puppies and kittens adjust easily and quickly to shelter life if they come in with their mother.  As long as they have her, all is right with their world.  It is always heartbreaking to see little kittens and puppies come to the shelter without their mother.  When put into a cage with another nursing mother to see if they will be accepted by that mother, they immediately try to nurse, and then quickly cuddle with her.  Most animals in nature crave their mother.

Occasionally throughout the years, a mother cat or dog has been brought to the shelter first, and then the babies have been found and brought to us a couple of days later.  It is heartwarming to see the joy of that reunion.  Sometimes, the babies are captured first, and then the mother.  The reunion is just as joyous. 

The situation that we hate to see the most is to have a nursing animal put in our drop-off cage; we always worry about where the babies are.  If we have been told the general area where the mother has been caught, we have been able, in some cases, to put a leash on the mother dog, take her to that area, and let her lead us to her babies.

People know to exercise caution approaching a mother animal who has her babies with her.  Even some very trusting dogs and cats become nervous when a human picks up their young. 

In the wild, most fights with a female are caused by a protective mother.  Wild animal poachers and collectors know that in order to capture a baby or a young animal, the mother first has to be killed.

There are many documented stories about the care animal mothers give.  In 1988, several female elephants brought one of their babies to a park ranger’s office for help.  When the baby was hurt, they walked two miles to the ranger’s office, where the baby would be safe from other animals.

Cows are very maternal.  One witness saw a newborn calf sliding down a slope.  Six cows answered the mother’s cry for help, and stood in line to keep the calf from sliding.  They even stayed to lick the calf clean.

Mother chickens can recognize their chicks’ peeps, and sheep and goat mothers make sure their offspring play with others in their own age group.

Even some species of insects are raised by their mothers! 

How grateful the earth and its creatures should be for the institution of motherhood.  I know I am grateful for my mother.

(We still need items for our yard sale – May 21st in the old Salvation Army building on Riverside Drive.  You are welcome to bring your items to donate to the shelter; we have storage space.)

Yard Sale – May 21

The Humane Society will be holding a Yard Sale on May 21, at 7 AM.  Come to the old Salvation Army Building on Riverside Drive and support the animals!

Productive Day

On Tuesday, April 19, 2011, we hired an off-duty police officer to spend the day with us to catch up on complaints of neglect and tethering violations.  The other humane investigator, Lynn Shelton, and I went with the officer to 22 locations.  We seized 13 dogs and several tickets for violations were written.  At the end of the day, we were exhausted but felt that the day had been a very productive one.

We seized one dog that had been on a chain for 11 years, although that was not the reason for the seizure.  The police officer noticed a tumor on his leg, as well as his difficulty breathing.  As it turns out, he has a very strong case of heartworms, and will not survive.

Two more pit bulls were seized for inadequate care.  The owner had already been charged with animal neglect, but had not made the appropriate and required changes.  A few months ago, we had spayed and neutered his dogs and had helped him acquire two dog lots.  However, we can only give so many warnings and notices.  At some point, the owner has to take responsibility for the care of his own animals.

Two younger dogs were seized from another address because of inadequate care.

An emaciated mother dog and seven puppies were seized due to lack of care.  The mother dog immediately began eating when offered food.

Appropriate legal action will be taken in each of these cases.    

It was an interesting day.  One woman was offered assistance with getting her female pit bull off the chain.  We offered to pay for the spay, as well as provide her a dog lot.  She said, though, that she is opposed to spaying any dog, so she does not qualify for one of our dog lots. 

Another woman is planning to breed her dogs (mixed breeds, might I add), so I had to withdraw our offer to supply her with a lot.  Another woman said her dog is happier on a chain, and people who do not have chained dogs should not promote laws against chaining because they do not know what they’re talking about.   In cases like these, all we can do is inform the owner of the details of the anti-tethering ordinance and hope they comply within a reasonable time.  If not, charges could be filed against them.

It is always very sad to see dogs chained with no shelter, and it always amazes us when the owners talk about how much they love their dogs.  It is also very upsetting to hear about the people who still believe it is okay to breed animals. 

We saw many stray cats, but could not catch them. In a matter of weeks, those numbers will multiply.  Citizens, animal control officers, and the humane society set traps for cats, but the numbers are astounding. 

At the end of the day, many animals had received help.  I just wish we could have solved all the problems for all the animals.

$1000 Reward!

The reward for Wildcat, the cat who escaped while being transported to a spay/neuter clinic last week, has been increased to up to $1,000.

A caller this morning said that her husband saw a cat matching Wildcat’s description in the Main Street area of Danville last Friday.  This is encouraging news. 

Wildcat may still be in the Main Street, West Main Street, or Memorial Drive area; however, he may have wandered into other areas.  He is a dark colored cat with a bobtail.  He was wearing a white paper collar when he escaped, and when he was spotted Friday night,  he was still wearing the collar. 

We ask that anyone with information about Wildcat call the Humane Society at 799-5306.

Easter 2011

It is the time of year that brings back such fond memories of days gone by of Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts, and lots and lots of candy.  Now, it also brings back memories of ducks abandoned in parks, rabbits stuffed into boxes at dumpsters, and additional animals received at the shelter. 

Each year, we remind everyone that chicks, ducklings, and baby bunnies generally should not be given to children as Easter surprises.

Too many parents make the mistake of believing that rabbits, chicks, and ducklings make appropriate Easter gifts.  Young children oftentimes do not understand how fragile these little creatures are.  In an attempt to play or give affection, children can injure or kill the delicate babies.  Also, many of these animals may carry parasites.  Salmonella is a real danger to children, and can be transmitted from chicken or ducks to humans.

Baby animals are often acquired on impulse at Easter, without consideration of a lifelong commitment.  Rabbits, chickens and ducks have an average lifespan of 8-10 years.  The longest recorded lifespan of a chicken was 34 years!

All of these animals very quickly grow up. They have specific physical and behavioral needs, which a caring, responsible owner would want to fulfill.  A special diet and a carefully controlled environment are necessary for the wellbeing of the Easter pet.

Pet bunnies are being bred in increasing numbers by “rabbit mills” and breeders for the lucrative pet industry.  They are marketed as easy, low-maintenance pets who will sit quietly on a child’s lap, when in reality they are complex animals with unique traits and needs.

The novelty of a pet can quickly wear off, when the cute fuzzy bunny becomes a full-grown rabbit. Many of these animals are merely dumped in the woods and parks where they are easy prey for other animals and cruel people.  In a world where ninety percent of wild rabbits do not live to be a year old, the discarded domesticated rabbit has very little chance of survival.

Ducks and chickens do not fare well either.  We have found grown-up ducks forced to live in small bathtubs, and many domestic ducks have been abandoned by the river bank. Each year, we receive many adult chickens and roosters who are left to fend for themselves, causing problems in neighborhoods.

Just a reminder – it is against Virginia law to sell, raffle, or offer for sale chicks, ducklings, or other fowl under two months old in quantities of less than six.  Baby chickens and ducklings cannot be sold as single Easter pets.

If a family is truly prepared for the responsibility of a pet rabbit and have the facilities to meet the needs of the pet, we wish them many years of happiness together.  For those who are not prepared for such a responsibility, we suggest a non-living alternative, such as a stuffed animal.  A stuffed toy animal makes a great gift for children and does not require the long term expense and commitment of a living animal.

(Critter Corner is co-sponsored by the Register & Bee and Danville Area Humane Society.  Questions or comments should be e-mailed to

Drop-off Cages

One evening last week, the shelter manager, April, and board president, Lynn, and their spouses decided they would have a nice, relaxed dinner out after a long day at the shelter.  I went home, thinking I would have a quiet evening.

A few minutes after I had finished supper, police dispatch called to say that a dog had attacked another dog.  Since the animal control officer was not on duty then, the police asked for our assistance.  They were going to bring the dog that attacked to the shelter; the owner was taking the dog that had been attacked to a veterinary clinic.

I did not want to, but had no choice but to call April’s, cell phone.  Yes, I interrupted their nice dinner out, but then that seems to be a common occurrence for us.  She said she would go to the shelter as soon as they finished dinner.  The police were going to put the dog in one of our drop-off cages.

A very few minutes later, the police called to say that they had seen a very sick puppy on the porch of the house where the dog that had just attacked the other dog lived.  The owner of the puppy said that the puppy had parvo, and she was going to let it die overnight.  That, of course, is unacceptable.  The police impounded the puppy.  I had to make another call to April to tell her that the police were also bringing a very sick puppy to the shelter to be euthanized.

By this time, the waiter had given their dinners to the wrong table, so the staff members had not even eaten.  I assured April that it was going to take some time for the police to finish their work at the house, so a little amount of time would not matter.

A short time passed, and my telephone rang again.  This time, a dog had been hit by a car on North Main Street and was badly injured.  The police were going to take that dog to the shelter, also.

By this time, I was feeling very bad about having to call April and Lynn again.  Their dinner had arrived, and all four of them agreed that the food was not the best, so they ate hurriedly.  April and Lynn said good-bye to their spouses, and drove to the shelter.  The drop-off cages were filled with the three dogs.  The aggressive dog was put into a run, and the other two dogs were euthanized.

The drop-off cages were busy that night, and actually remain busy after hours many days.  Sometimes, the police put stray, injured, or impounded animals in the cages.  Sometimes, members of the public find strays and put them in the cages.  At other times, owners put their animals into the cages, releasing them to us.   Unless we have a letter from an owner, specifically telling us that the animal was theirs, all animals in the drop-off cages are treated as strays.  That means that they have to be kept the stray times required by law.

Some shelters do not believe in having drop-off cages.  Those people believe that it makes it too easy for owners to not have any accountability for releasing animals to us. However, we have found them to be useful for people who find animals during the night.  Long-distance truck drivers and other night owls have found many strays on the highways, and without our drop-off cages, there would be no place for the animals to be safe.

About 12 years ago, we spent $5,000 building a cinderblock room for the drop-off cages to better protect the animals from the elements.  We still have phone numbers posted on the door, encouraging people to call us after-hours so an employee can be dispatched to take the animals into the shelter.

Hundreds of animals each year are put in the drop-off cages.  We have found hamsters, rabbits, and guinea pigs, along with the dogs and cats.

That “nice, relaxed” dinner on that particular night is actually repeated many times during the week.  We believe that the drop-off cages are another tool to help us help the animals.

Lifetime Commitment

In 1973, I moved to Utah for a brief time.  This was to be the first time of three times I moved to Utah.  I still had a few months before I turned 18, but I had graduated from high school a year early, and did not know exactly what I wanted to do.  So, I tried stretching my wings a bit.  It was a short-lived wing-stretching, since I could not find a job and returned home when I had spent all my meager savings. 

A few years ago, I found a letter that my dear father wrote to me during my 1973 adventure so far away from home.   I must have written to my parents, telling them I wanted to buy a puppy.  I remember going into a pet store and falling in love with some Lab puppies.  I lived in an apartment complex that did not allow pets, but my roommates and I thought we could probably sneak the puppy in.  I had no job, other than a very part-time one answering the phone for the local Red Cross office.

My father replied in his letter that when you have a pet, it is a commitment that lasts the lifetime of the pet.  He asked how I planned on feeding the puppy, when I could barely afford groceries for myself.  He said that since I was so young, had no full-time job, and lived in a place that did not allow pets, I really needed to re-think the wisdom of buying a puppy.

I find myself talking about his letter a lot when speaking with young students about adopting.  I tell them that, hopefully, the animal they have applied for will live 15-17 years, and they need to think about the changes they will probably go through during that time.  Hopefully, most of them will marry, have children, and find steady employment.  I always ask how they see this animal fitting into that picture.

We have learned through the years that all kinds of circumstances and situations can weaken the bond that pet owners have with their animals.  Some animals are relinquished to us when a child is born, some come to us when divorce happens, some come to us when a marriage happens,  and others come to us when the owner moves.  In these economic times, more animals are being relinquished because the owner simply cannot afford them.  Pets do not always meet the unrealistic expectations that owners have.

Please do not misunderstand – we are grateful when people bring their pets to us, because so many choose instead to dump them like trash.  There are some heart-wrenching decisions that sometimes have to be made when situations change.  However, our belief is that it is much better to carefully research and plan before bringing a pet into your home.

Acquiring a pet should never be made on impulse.  Adopting a pet is not like buying a pair of shoes or a toaster oven.   Animals are living breathing creatures that have both physical and emotional needs.  Dogs and cats will live between 12-18 years, other companion animals have varying life expectancies, and larger exotic birds can live 70-80 years.

A commitment to a pet involves a commitment of finances, time, and energy.  I am so grateful that my wise father gave me counsel that helped me make a decision that was in the best interest of the puppy – and me.

Adoption Center

Last year, we announced our plans to build an addition on to the existing shelter.  It will be an adoption center, and the animals accepted into the program will be kept until they are adopted or transferred to another shelter or group. 

The center will have ten additional dog runs, a puppy room, a cat colony room, a kitten colony room, a room for other small animals, office areas, and a room that will, in the future, become a spay/neuter room.  We will still be an open-admission shelter, which means that we will not turn away any animal.  That, in turn, means that we will still have to euthanize.  However, this adoption center will give us another way to help the animals that we know we can find homes for.

A local architect, Michael Maurakis, has drawn the plans for this expansion.  His plans were submitted to the city, and a couple of changes were requested.  Mr. Maurakis made those changes, and now we are waiting for final approval from the city.  When we receive this, we will open the bidding process.  If the bids are what we believe they will be, we will be able to begin building this exciting expansion.

When we began negotiating with the city in the early 1980s to take over operation of the shelter, the facility consisted of only nine dog runs and a small office area.  We paid for, and built, 28 additional dog runs, a small cat room, and small kitchen area.  In 1989, the State Veterinarian required the city to build a larger cat room, a treatment room, and dog and cat isolation areas.  The next expansion took place in 2007 when we built, and paid for, an additional 28 dog runs. 

In 1984, we only had one employee and relied heavily on volunteers to help clean and take care of the animals.  By 1989, it became apparent that we needed a shelter staff to be able to keep up with the rising number of animals.  We now have a shelter manager, assistant manager, a part-time secretary, and two part-time kennel attendants.  Other shelters throughout Virginia that receive even fewer animals that we do have staffs that are triple or in quadruple in numbers. 

As we contemplate the adoption center, we realize that we are going to need to rely on volunteers to “fill in the gaps.”  We have a strong core of people who come to the shelter to play with the cats and walk the dogs, and we are very grateful to them.  We hope that, eventually, volunteers will be willing to help us clean the adoption center areas. 

The E. Stuart James Grant Adoption Center will make a wonderful addition to this area, and we are thrilled with the plans for it. 

(Do you want to help with the adoption center?  We have lots of volunteer opportunities, including shelter volunteers and fundraising volunteers.  In order to volunteer at the shelter, you must attend a brief volunteer orientation.  The next one will be held on Wednesday, March 30th, at 4:00 at the shelter.)

$500 Reward

A reward of up to $500 is being offered for the return of a cat that escaped as he was being put in a van to be transported to a spay/neuter clinic.

The cat is black and gray and has a bobtail.  He is wearing a white paper collar with his name and his owner’s name on it.  He was last seen running through the pasture by the City of Danville animal shelter.  His owners say that he is a friendly cat and answers to the name Wildcat.

He may be in the Riverwalk area of Dan Daniel Park.

We urge any citizen who sees the cat to call 799-5306.  The reward will be given to the citizen who calls with information that leads to the capture of the cat, or to the person who safely captures the cat and brings him to the animal shelter.