Years ago, a dignified, elderly golden cat was brought to us by his owners because he was too old and they wanted a kitten.  I thought then how sad it was that they were willing to turn their backs on such a treasure. It is true that older animals have a tendency to have more health problems than younger ones, and is breaks our hearts when they die.  It is also true that most people want a young animal to adopt because they want to spend as much time with them as possible.  With those truths comes the sad truth that thousands of older shelter animals are overlooked.  I would like to share with you an experience I had last week that taught me a great lesson.

The shelter manager, April, and I went to Richmond to attend an executive committee meeting of the Virginia Alliance for Animal Shelters, a statewide organization that has been formed to support open-access shelters.  Sharon Adams, my mentor and hero for many years, is the executive director of the Virginia Beach SPCA, is the chair of this committee, and we met in her daughter’s house.

April and I were greeted at the door by Sharon’s daughter’s dog, Holly, a wonderful older yellow Lab, and then we met Star, Sharon’s dog.   Their eyes melted my heart, and then during lunch, they fingered April and me as the soft touches at the table, and sat by us, waiting for us to share our lunch with them.  We did.

Star is a Black Flat Coat Retriever, and was released to the Virginia Beach SPCA a little over two years ago when she was nine because she was not producing puppies.  She had been in the same home all her life, although most of her life had been spent in a garage.  She had mammary tumors, and that problem was taken care of.  Sharon adopted her, and Star has been her constant, faithful companion since then.

About three weeks ago, Star was not feeling well and, after a lot of tests, was diagnosed with lymphoma.  Her days, or weeks, or months are numbered.  Rather than having exploratory surgery, then chemotherapy which would probably lengthen Star’s life by only two months, Star is being made comfortable with prednisone (hence, the begging at the table for food) and she and Sharon are going to enjoy their last little while together.

The day after the meeting, I e-mailed Sharon to ask how she is doing emotionally, knowing she is going to lose her friend, probably sooner than later.  Tears came to my eyes when I read her response, “I only adopt animals 9 years or older, so I know going in that there is a limited amount of time.”

Life’s lessons sometimes come to us gently and usually unexpectedly.  The way I look at loving animals has forever been changed.  Sharon loves animals unselfishly.  She is willing to have her heart broken over and over again because she adopts older animals that probably would have no other chance of being adopted.  She gives these animals a chance to live out their final years in a home filled with love.  In return, she receives the gift of their gratitude and devotion.

I am going to ask Sharon to send me a picture of Star, and I am going to keep that picture on my office wall to remind me to work harder to place older shelter animals that are rich treasures of goodness.  Star, I am so glad I met you.  I will never forget your kind eyes and gentle ways.

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

Strut Your Mutt This Week!

It’s almost time for the Mutt Strut, the annual event that helps us raise much-needed funds. We’ve had a tough summer with record numbers of animals being received, and we are looking forward to spending time on a nice (hopefully) fall day with lots of people and the dogs who love them!

If you can’t come, you are welcome to participate by sending in a donation.

When: Saturday, October 9, 2010

Time: Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. Walk begins at 9:30 a.m.

Where: Shelter #13 Dan Daniel Park (Please note the change in location this year.)

Cost: Registration $10, additional pledges

The first 75 registered walkers who donate a total of $35 (including registration) receive an event t-shirt.

We’ll also have free mini-paw paintings and treat bags for the dogs.

Mutt Strut 2010

It is hard to believe that it is Mutt Strut time again.  This event has been held annually since 2001, and remains one of our favorite events.  It gives us a chance to visit with some dogs that have been adopted from the shelter, and also a chance to meet owners who truly love their dogs.  We usually make about $6,000 from this event.

The Mutt Strut in its current form is the brainchild of Karen Wells, who was the clerk of court in Danville General District Court.  She and others in the court offices had become upset about the number of abuse and cruelty trials they had witnessed, and they wanted to help in some way. 

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, we had sponsored events called walk-a-dogathons, but for various reasons, those events had been discontinued.  Armed with a little bit of knowledge and a lot of enthusiasm, a committee began working on the dog walk that was named the Mutt Strut.

Sadly, Karen did not live to see the success of the first Mutt Strut in 2001.  But, the Karen Wells Memorial Award is given each year to the walker who donates the most money to this event.

The first Mutt Strut was scheduled for the first Saturday in October, 2001.  When September 11, 2001, became a violent day, some people criticized us for continuing with the event.  But, we decided that good things should not cease because horrible things have happened.  If that were the case, every day would be filled with a lot of sadness.

Mutt Strut 2010 is scheduled for Saturday, October 9.  All previous Mutt Struts have been held in Ballou Park, but this year the event will be held at Shelter Number 13 in Dan Daniel Memorial Park.  Registration begins at 9:00 a.m., with the walk to start at 9:30.  This year, the walk will be longer, even though there are shortcuts for smaller, shorter-legged, or older dog.  The registration fee is $10, and with paid pledges of $25 (for a total of $35), the first 75 people registered with paid pledges receive a free Mutt Strut t-shirt.  Each participating dog gets a Mutt Strut bandana! 

After the walk, we will have free mini-paw paintings again.  We will also have a fun picture-taking event with large dog and cat cut-outs.   Both human and canine refreshments will be served.

The sponsors for this year’s event areAnimal Medical Center, Brosville Animal Clinic, Cherrystone Animal Hospital, Custom Alterations, Danville Orthopedic Clinic, Donald G. Cairns, D.D.S., Dr. and Mrs. Joel Singer, F. T. Grogan, III, D.D.S., Hamilton Properties of Danville (Janet & Bob), J. J. Hogan Towing, Jarrett Welding Company, Leggett Town & Country, Malcolm J. Mallery, D.D.S., Moss Home Improvement, Mount Hermon Animal Clinic, Prudential Manasco Realty, and WBTM 1330/WAKG FM 103.3

(Critter Corner is co-sponsored by the Register & Bee and Danville Area Humane Society.  Questions or comments should be mailed to Critter Corner, P.O. Box 3352, Danville, VA  24543 or e-mailed to


As horrible as Hurricane Katrina was, the United States learned some valuable lessons about disasters and animals.  Some people simply refused to leave their homes because emergency shelters do not accept animals.  People all over the country were horrified at the sight of dogs, cats, and other animals being abandoned on the side of the road as their owners evacuated.  And, our lesson came in a very personal way when we received several animals from the hurricane area.

Emergencies and disasters affect animals as well as humans, and a plan must be in place to offer the best protection.  All emergency and disaster plans must include your pets.  The time to protect your pets during an emergency or disaster is before the emergency happens.  Having a plan in place can save their lives.

Different disasters require different responses.  Keep in mind that, no matter what the disaster is, you may have to evacuate your home.  If you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them also.  Leaving pets behind, even if you do your best to protect them, can result in injuries, being lost, or worse.              

Your animal’s best protection is to be with you.  But, taking a pet requires special planning.  Locate a safe place for your pets before disaster strikes.  Evacuation shelters generally do not accept any animals.  Call hotels and motels a reasonable distance from your home and ask if they accept pets, under what conditions, and whether there are any restrictions as to the size and number of animals. Ask friends and relatives outside the disaster area if they could shelter your pets if necessary.  Remember, the local animal shelter will be overburdened with strays, but call to find out if they provide emergency or foster care for pets.

No matter how long you will be away from home, you will need certain supplies.  Keep items in a convenient location and store them in sturdy, portable containers.  A pet disaster kit should include food, water bowls, a cat litterbox, and can opener.  Include any pet medications, along with a simple first aid kit.

A few simple steps can protect your pets before, during, and after an emergency.  Keep up-to-date identification on your dog or cat at all times.  Make sure the collar is properly fitted (avoid chain link collars for dogs and use breakaway collars for cats).  Keep current color photos of your pet, showing any distinguishing marks, with your emergency supplies.  If you and your pet become separated, these photos will help identify him/her.  If you know a disaster is imminent, bring your pets inside immediately!  (The obvious exception to this is in the case of a house fire.)  Get your animals under control as soon as possible, either on a leash or inside a carrier.  This way, you won’t have to search for them if you have to leave suddenly.

All pets should be included in this plan.  Birds can be transported in a travel cage or carrier.  When it’s cold, wrap a blanket around the cage.  Place a few slices of fresh fruit or vegetables with a high water content in the cage while you are traveling if you do not use a water bottle for your bird.  If the bird is being transported in a carrier with no perches, line the bottom with paper towels and change them frequently.  Try to keep the bird in a quiet location and never let him out of the cage, even is he is used to being out.  Your bird will be under a great deal of stress and may not react the way you expect him to.

Other small mammals should be placed in secure, suitable carriers.  Be prepared to provide bedding materials, food, bowls, and water bottles.

Reptiles also need special care.  Snakes may be able to be transported in a pillowcase, but must be transferred to more secure housing when the destination is reached.  Take food and bowls, and include a bowl large enough for soaking.  Also take a heating pad.  House lizards can be transported the same way birds are.

Remember, you and your pet will experience trauma and stress.  Your pet may experience a loss of appetite, changes in sleeping behavior, diarrhea, aggressiveness, a need to be close to people, a desire to hide, and increased nervousness.  If these symptoms persist for longer than a few days, see a veterinarian  

If you know of an animal that needs our help because of severe weather or other type disaster or emergency, give us a call.  If you do not have a plan in place for your pets, or if you do not have an emergency kit for them, this is a good time to start. 

We are going to have a display at an emergency preparedness seminar on Saturday, September 18, from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3058 North Main Street.  We will have a couple of examples of emergency kits for pets, as well as other information for you.

(Critter Corner is sponsored by the Register & Bee and the Danville Area Humane Society.  Questions or comments should be delivered to P.O. Box 3352, Danville, VA 24543 or e-mailed to

$1,000 Reward!

The Danville Area Humane Society is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved in a case of abandoning a dog in Oak Hill Cemetery.

The body of a female pit bull was discovered by Public Works employees, and animal control and the humane society were called to investigate. The dog, a dark brown pit bull at least one year old, was tethered to a pole with a brown extension cord linked through a wide black collar with metal studs.

The necropsy of the pit bull found in the Oak Hill Cemetery revealed awful details of the dog’s death. Her body was badly bruised, she had puncture wounds on her body, and she was shot.

There are many scenarios that could have taken place: The dog could have been forced to fight, and then shot when she lost the fight. She could have been beaten by her owner after the fight. What we do know is that the veterinarian who performed the necropsy said the dog suffered greatly.

This is no longer an abandonment investigation; it is a cruelty investigation.

The Danville Area Humane Society has increased the amount of the award for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible. We now are offering a reward of up to $2,000.

Citizens with information are urged to call 799-0843. All calls will be kept confidential.


In January of 2007, I saw an advertisement about a large-scale bird breeding facility that was going to hold an absolute auction due to the poor health of the owner.  The advertisements in trade magazines declared the birds were “proven money-makers,” enraging many groups dedicated to the welfare of companion birds.  Because of our proximity to the facility, the Danville Area Humane Society became involved.  Bird rescue groups and sanctuaries wanted to take as many of the birds as possible out of the breeding cycle.  We were also concerned with the medical condition of many of the birds.  We made several pre-auction trips to the facility, and ultimately were asked by the owners if we would accept some of the sick birds before the auction.  We, of course, did.    People from all over the country also donated money to us so we could bid on other birds during the auction. 

We had made a list of the birds we wanted to bid on, but during the five-hour on-line auction, we made many other decisions about bidding on birds.  One single bird, a blue and gold macaw, was described as “plucked.”  These birds sell for a couple of thousand dollars, but I made a split second decision to place a bid.  No one else bid, and the bird sold for $175.  The next blue and gold macaw sold for $1,200.

After a trip to the facility in Greensboro, an agonizing wait, and transfer of the birds to crates and our van, we arrived back at the shelter about midnight.  Most of the birds we brought back with us had many, many physical and emotional problems.

The almost-bald blue and gold macaw had a very bad seizure that lasted several minutes.  We decided to put him in a quiet place and let him calm down.  We wondered what had brought him to the breeding facility.  We had been told that many of the birds had previously been in homes, but then had either been given to the facility because they thought the people were expert caretakers (they were not), or had been shuffled from home to home until finally there were no other options.

What we did not know then was what a special bird the macaw was.  We decided we would keep him at the shelter until we could find a special home for him. We could not decide on a name, although I wanted some regal.  The debate went on and on for several days until we finally decided on B.G. (blue and gold).  It was not very original because an avian veterinarian told us there are lots of such macaws named B.G.  Oh well, we convinced ourselves that he liked it.  We also decided that he needed to stay with us.

Employees and volunteers pooled money to buy B.G. a large cage, and he took up residence in a large public receiving area of the shelter.  Visitors to the shelter loved looking at him.  He said “hello,” but it was on his terms and schedule.  He loved to eat treats; walnuts and peanuts were his favorite.  Although his beak could have easily cracked them, he preferred Joe Davis, the retired animal control officer, to crack the walnuts. 

B.G. and Lynn, the board president, became best buddies.  Lynn was the one who could calm B.G. down during his nail and beak clips.  Lynn was the one who could get B.G. through his seizures which continued to be an issue.  Lynn held B.G. on his lap one Saturday when he was taken to an avian veterinarian for an examination, and we could not believe how well B.G. did on the trip.

He was a gentle giant of a bird who stayed on top of his cage all day, watching all the comings and goings of the shelter.  His feathers grew back in rich, beautiful colors.

Birds are genetically pre-disposed to mask illness; this protects them in the wild from hawks and other predators.  By the time they show symptoms of illness, they have been ill for quite some time. 

About three weeks ago, B.G. did not get on top of his cage, but climbed down to sit on the floor of the cage.  He had been okay that morning, but by late afternoon, we knew something was wrong.  The closest avian veterinarian was on vacation, and I called clinics from Roanoke to Charlotte to find out if they could see B.G.  Lynn and his wife and April, the shelter manager, and her husband had gone to Las Vegas for a few days of vacation, and they were due in at the Raleigh airport about 5:00 that evening.  We sent e-mails and text messages for them to call us as soon as they landed.  The message was brief – B.G. is very ill

They came to the shelter from the airport, and by this time, we thought B.G. was not going to survive the night.  We finally found an after-hours clinic in Durham that would see him, although they were not avian specialists. 

Lynn, Cindy (his wife), and I left Danville about 9:00 with B.G.  Upon arrival at the clinic, he was taken back quickly and placed in an oxygen tent.  We waited until midnight, and then left.   He was going to be transferred to a specialty clinic by 7:00 that morning.

I talked to the specialist early, and she said B.G. was in critical condition.  A couple of hours later, she called with the news that B.G. had died.  We requested a necropsy.  He had an abscess in his stomach that had led to peritonitis.  Unfortunately, the lifesaving instinct in the wild led to B.G. masking his illness.  The veterinarian assured us we could not have known about his sickness.  Lynn and I went that afternoon to pick up his body.

We didn’t know how B.G. spent the first part of his life, he was our good friend during the last part of his life, and we wish we could have been with him as his spirit left his body.  He would have been comforted by being held by Lynn.

The next day, I received a brief e-mail from Lynn:  I buried B.G. in my yard.  It was a hard thing to do.  He was my friend.

The corner of the lobby looks empty without our big blue and gold feathered friend.  We still have several of his long, beautiful feathers that we collected through the years.

(Visit us on Facebook.  Type in Danville Area Humane Society and click “Like.”)


Note:  Since this column is about an individual dog, you may think he has died.  Let me assure you he is alive and well, but I want to share lessons we can learn from him.

Almost six years ago, some people brought a very young Chihuahua puppy to the shelter.  He had a serious wound on one side of his mouth that extended around the back of his neck to the other side of his mouth.  The owners who brought him to us claimed he had a birth defect.  However, it was apparent to us that someone (perhaps a child) had injured him by putting a rubber band or some other item tightly in his mouth and around the back of his head.  Within a few weeks, the wound had healed, although it left a scar and the puppy with a problem with food falling out of the side of his mouth.

The little puppy won our hearts.  He did not stay in the cage very long; most days were spent in the front office.  One of our employees fell in love with him, and adopted him.  She named him Rowdy. 

Rowdy still spent most days in the office because he came to work every day.  `

Rowdy has a healthy appetite.  He eats all kinds of dog food, dog treats, chicken nuggets, vegetables, and even some fruit.  Rowdy is a great eating partner.  He loves his friends, Opie, the dachshund that belongs to the shelter manager, and although it took him a longer time to not be jealous of them, he also likes playing with Trixie, a spitz, and Peppy, another Chihuahua, both of which belong to the shelter manager. 

Rowdy has a loud bark that he uses on some shelter visitors, but he really is a little baby.  He gets very attached to shelter employees, and when they go on vacation for a few days or find other jobs, he is sad for a few days.  Rowdy has the most expressive ears; they go up and down and provide a good gauge of how he feels about whatever is going on around him.  Mention the word “bath” and the ears immediately go down.  Mention the words, “food, treat, lunch,” and his ears go up.  We often commented about how his ear muscles must get so tired from being so active.

A couple of years ago, Rowdy began limping on one of his back legs, and the veterinarian said he needed to have surgery.  Shelter employees, volunteers, and board members contributed money to pay for the surgery, and we were all so happy when Rowdy got better and could resume his important job of making sure everything went well in the shelter office.

About this same time, Rowdy’s family started having various family and personal problems.   We could always tell when things had not gone well the evening before, because Rowdy’s body language would tell the story.  One day, when our employee hung up the phone after receiving some bad news, and burst into tears, Rowdy also became very emotional.  His sadness lasted for days, and we talked about how, if people do not believe animals have emotions, we needed to let them meet Rowdy.  We heaped even more love and attention on him because the look in his eyes was pitiful.

Sometimes, we humans cannot fix everything that is broken, and the decision was made last week for the employee and Rowdy to leave Danville and move away to be with family members.  The decision was made rather suddenly, and within an hour, we all gathered around to say good-bye to Rowdy.  He knew something was going on, and we knew that he knew.  He curled up in a corner of the office and refused to come to us.  His owner had to get on her knees and pull him out.  Then, he melted into her arms.  His pitiful eyes looked at us as we all took turns hugging and kissing him.  His ears were definitely down.

There are several lessons that Rowdy can teach us:  First, the resilience of animals who begin life in abusive situations, but wind up being absolute jewels, can teach us we do not have to live our entire lives as victims.  Second, what affects humans in a home also affects the animals.  Third, animals do have emotions; they feel happiness and sadness.

So, Rowdy, our dear, dear friend, good-bye.  We will miss you.  We are grateful we had you with us for five years.  Have a safe, happy life.  Thank you for the lessons.

(We’re on Facebook now!  Just search for Danville Area Humane Society and click on “like.”  At least, that’s what the younger employees tell me you should do.)

Spay / Neuter

In 1984, the Danville Area Humane Society began operating the animal shelter when a contract with the City was signed.  Twenty-six years and over 100,000 shelter animals later, we declare the same truth that we always have – spaying and neutering is the only way to stop the pet overpopulation crisis.

Since 1993, we have helped spay or neuter about 18,000 animals through a variety of programs.  Our programs are changing again, and we hope that they will prevent many unwanted births.

From now until the end of the year, we are offering $25 rebates for any spay or neuter surgery to help residents of Danville and Pittsylvania County.  They may call 799-0843 to be placed on the rebate list.  Then, before December 31, 2010, proof of residency and the surgery should be provided to the humane society.  The $25 rebate check will be given to the owner of the dog or cat.

Since we received so many animals from Pittsylvania County animal control and residents in June, we are offering another option for the first 100 county residents who call the shelter to be placed on a list.  The spay/neuter surgery needs to be performed before September 15, and proof of residency and the surgery should be provided to the humane society.  Those residents will receive a $75 rebate.

Citizens who take advantage of the two rebate options may use any local veterinary clinic.  However, the $75 rebate is limited to one per household, and cannot be used in conjunction with the $25 rebate for the same animal.  No more than ten $25 rebates can be obtained for the same household.

We remind residents that we still have a low-cost spay/neuter clinic near Lynchburg.  We pay a portion of all the surgeries scheduled through the humane society.  With our portion of the cost, residents can have a female dog spayed for $34, a male dog neutered for $27, a female cat spayed for $25, and a male cat neutered for $10.  This program is not related to the two rebate programs explained above.  Shots are given at a discounted rate also for the animals have the surgery.  This is a very popular program, and we urge people to call for an appointment.  We are booking surgeries into September now.

Spaying and neutering is a very safe, very humane surgery.  It is the right thing to do.  It always has and always will amaze me that some of vocal critics of shelters who euthanize do not have their animals spayed or neutered. 

In June alone, we received over 650 animals, with 530 cats received.  Let us repeat – the only way to stop the overpopulation crisis is to spay/neuter animals.  Larger shelters, more lax adoption policies, and releasing spayed or neutered animals back into the streets will not stop the overpopulation or the neglect.  Spaying and neutering is the only answer.

New Spay/Neuter Options

News Release

July 21, 2010

Contact:  Paulette Dean

(434) 799-5306

The Danville Area Humane Society is pleased to announce new spay/neuter options for area residents.

From now until the end of 2010, we are reinstating our $25 rebate program for residents of Danville and Pittsylvania County who use local veterinary clinics. Residents must call the shelter at 799-0843 to put their name on a list before the surgery is performed. After the surgery is performed, proof of the surgery and residency is to be provided to the humane society, and a $25 check will be issued. The surgeries must be performed by December 31, 2010.

Because of a large increase in the number of animals being received from Pittsylvania County, from now until September 15, we are offering $75 rebates for the first 100 Pittsylvania County residents who call to have their name added to a list. The surgery must be performed by September 15, 2010, and proof of the surgery and residency must be shown to the humane society. After that date, if 100 rebates have not been paid, we will contact the people on the waiting list.

Only one $75 rebate per family may be paid, and a limit of ten $25 rebates will be paid per family.

The rebates may be used at any local veterinary clinic.

We remind residents that we still have a low-cost spay/neuter clinic near Lynchburg. We pay a portion of all the surgeries scheduled through the humane society. With our portion of the cost, residents can have a female dog spayed for $34, a male dog neutered for $27, a female cat spayed for $25, and a male cat neutered for $10. This program is not related to the two rebate programs explained above.

In June, we received approximately 650 dogs and cats. Spaying and neutering dogs and cats is the only solution to the problem.

Please call 799-0843 to be placed on the rebate list before the surgery is performed, or to schedule a trip to the spay/neuter clinic.

2010 Legislative Session

The 2010 legislative session in Virginia was a rather unusual one for animal issues.  It resulted in some strengthening of animal protection, and also led to the formation of a new group that will protect animals in the Commonwealth and provide a voice for open-access shelters.

The penalty for a violation of the minimum standards of care for companion animals (animal neglect) is now a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.  Up until July 1, 2010, it had been a Class 4 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $250.

The penalty for abandoning an animal becomes a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.  In the past, it had been a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $500.

The penalty for animal cruelty remains a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.  However, a conviction will now require a mandatory minimum of five days in jail and a prohibition on the possession and ownership of companion animals.

Those are very good additional protections, and we thank our local legislators who voted for the bills.  We also need to thank them for voting against a proposed bill that was seen as very dangerous for all open-access shelters, whether public or private.

The proposed bill, HB429, seems rather harmless at first glance.  It would have prohibited “any adoption or euthanasia decision to be based solely on breed.”  However, th4 wording of the bill would have prohibited municipal shelters from having any breed specific adoption policies.  For instance, we do not allow poodles, Yorkies, Chihuahuas, dachshunds, etc. to be adopted as outside dogs.  Other shelters do not allow Huskies to go into homes where there are young children or cats.

The bill was proposed by rescue groups and limited access shelters who felt that too many pit bulls and other “bully” breeds are being euthanized.  One group sued a municipal shelter in Northern Virginia because their policy stated they do not adopt out pit bulls, but they transfer them to groups who do.  The judge found in favor of the municipality, so the rescue groups decided to introduce a bill.

However, regulated shelters (public and private open-access shelters) felt that the unintended consequences of the bill would have put shelters at risk of lawsuits.  We were contacted by a couple of women who are heavily involved in legislation and asked if we could go to Richmond to testify before the House Agriculture Sub-Committee.

We testified that shelters can be held accountable for many things, but not for the numbers of animals that are received, the breeds of dogs received, and the breeds of dogs that more people want to adopt.

The patron of the bill even testified that shelters could be sued.  The judge would then look at the numbers of dogs euthanized for, perhaps, a six month time period, and if he determined that more pit bulls than dachshunds were euthanized, the shelter could be found in violation of the law.

Thankfully, the bill was defeated in sub-committee.  However, the supporters of it re-worded the proposed bill (not changing the meaning or intent) and brought it up the next week in the House Agriculture Sub-Committee.  We went to Richmond again, and it was defeated again.  The supporters became angry and posted comments on blogs about how the opponents of the bill should find other jobs, or how we should have been in charge of the Nazi death camps.  They persuaded Governor McDonnell to amend the anti-cruelty bill to include the prohibition against any adoption or euthanasia decision being based on breed.  The Speaker of the House ruled that it was not germane to the anti-cruelty bill and the bill died.

As a result of HB 429, several open-access shelters formed a group and named it the Virginia Alliance for Animal Shelters.  All open-access shelters, whether public or private, are being invited to join.  The open-access shelters are responsible for the vast majority of unwanted companion animals (reaching into the tens of thousands each year), and needed an organization that supports that vital work.

It was an interesting legislative session in 2010, and we suspect the 2011 session will be equally as interesting.