SB 359

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

Adoption Center Opening

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

Cycle of Violence

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


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

Senate Bill 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Urgent! Action Needed Immediately

There are some very bad bills for animals that have been introduced, but only two need your attention now.

Senate Bill 610

This bill adds hunting dogs, working dogs and show dogs to the definition of agricultural animals and removes them from the definition of companion animals. It also allows the owner of these 3 groups of animals to do the following “notching, docking, tagging, dehorning, debeaking, shoeing, trimming, dubbing, castrating, penning, cooping, caging, tethering, herding, hauling, training, showing, and culling” In addition, the bill adds the following:

§ 3.2-6503.2.
Regulation of care and handling of agricultural animals.
The Department occupies the entire field of regulation of the care, control, and handling of agricultural animals. No political subdivision, locality, or humane society shall regulate the care and handling of agricultural animals.

This is a terrible bill for dogs, removes protection as companion animals, removes the ability to enforce commercial breeding protections (puppy mill bill) and is a very slippery slope. It also would prevent any complaint of neglect of agricultural animals to be investigated by animal control officers!

Please immediately call Senator Bill Stanley and ask that he vote against this bill.

His phone # is (804) 698-7520.  You may also e-mail him at

Get your friends and family members to call.  This bill has to be stopped.

Please read the following about House Bill 650 very carefully.  On the surface, it may sound good.  It is not.   We would have to transfer animals to rescue groups that do not have non-profit status and are not regulated.   Two of the hoarding cases we have investigated involved people who believed they were operating as rescue groups!

House Bill 650 

House Bill 650 requires a city or county pound to maintain a registry of organizations willing to accept healthy, nonvicious animals scheduled to be euthanized, and prohibits the pound from euthanizing such animals until it has given 24 hours’ notice to all of the organizations in its registry.

This bill is dangerous to animals, expensive for local governments and disregards the commitment, hard work, training and experience of animal welfare professionals. It adds costly and unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles and record-keeping on animal shelters and impedes the cooperative and collaborative working partnerships between animal shelters and responsible and lawful rescue organizations. In addition, it blindly transfers animals from regulated, public, transparent shelters to unregulated, hidden settings with no opportunity for oversight or tracking of outcomes. It ignores the well documented record of 18 prosecutions of Virginia rescues which would at least suggest that all rescues are not “good” rescues and it fails to recognize national studies which reflect that one-quarter of hoarding cases prosecuted in the United States are rescue organizations.


Please call Delegate Marshall or Delegate Merricks and ask them to vote against HB 650.

Delegate Marshall’s # is:  (804) 609-1014  His e-mail is

Delegate Merricks’ # is (804) 698-1016.  His e-mail  is


It is hard to believe that it has been almost seven years since I had to euthanize my Katey dog. She was a little over twelve years old, and I had adopted her when she was one year old. By any definition, she was a perfect little dog companion, and my heart broke when she died.
I could not even think about adopting another dog for a long, long time. In fact, it was a relief when the owner of the property I live on said no new dogs could be acquired by tenants. I could spend my day with shelter dogs, and go home to my adopted cats and birds and be quite happy, thank you very much. When my nephew and his wife visited often in Danville, they would bring their Gizmo, a dog I picked out for them a few years ago. My Gizzy-Goo (yes, my sister encourages me not to talk baby talk to animals, but I just can’t help myself) gave me solace in my dog-less private life. Then, this summer, they moved to Arkansas and would not let me keep Gizmo. How dare they.
Before the Mutt Strut 2011, I started thinking it would be nice to have a dog. Then, when I thought that temperatures would soon drop, I was grateful I could lock my door in the early evening and not have to go outside with a dog for potty breaks. Still, I looked at the little dogs that came in and began to wonder if my two cats would adjust to a dog.
Around that same time, I found out that my fourteen year-old Billy cat has cancer. I decided I could not disrupt his final months.
But then, in October of last year, April, the shelter manager, brought a dog into my office. He had been picked up as a stray by a police officer, and brought to the shelter. A few minutes after he came in, April went to his cage to put his identification card on, and said to him, “Oh, come here. Paulette has to meet you.”
She brought a young black wirehaired dachshund into my office and put him in my arms. Love happened instantly. Shelter employees wanted to know what we should name him, and I said, “His name is Wally.” I worried about Billy, and also felt a tad bit guilty. My friend, Sharon Adams, who is the director of the Virginia Beach SPCA, never adopts a dog or cat under nine years old. She knows most people want a younger dog. I think she is wonderful, and loved her viewpoint on adopting senior pets. I called her and talked to her about Wally. She cut through a lot of my angst with a “You love him? Adopt him. That’s it.”
My schedule is hectic. My church responsibilities take me away from Danville many Sundays. April and my mother said they would babysit with him on those long Sundays away.
Wally spent his days in the shelter office playing with April’s dogs, and spent the nights in a cage in the treatment room until all the employees, Sharon, the board president Lynn Shelton, and my mother finally said enough is enough. Several weeks ago, I adopted Wally and took him home.
So now, I leave for work earlier than usual to go to the park to meet April and a combination of her shelter-adopted dogs for a walk before work. Lynn joins us on his days off. I cook ground turkey and chicken now, even though as a vegetarian, that’s very distasteful. I have to stay up later so Wally can outside for a final time and sleep through the night. I can’t leave anything down on the floor anymore.
Wally still spends his days in the shelter office, and goes home with me. My life, time, energy, and budget have all been stretched and changed. And Wally is worth it.

2012 Goals

My New Year’s Eve celebrations usually come to an end long before midnight. I enjoy time with family members, and then spend time thinking about the year past and the year future. I have usually chosen my theme for the New Year a couple of weeks in advance, so I think about how the theme can positively impact my life during the coming year.
This New Year’s Eve, though, I may stay up until midnight, not necessarily to usher in 2012, but to make sure 2011 leaves us. It has been a hard year.
However, the Danville Area Humane Society is facing an exciting 2012:

1. Very soon, we will officially open the new “no-kill” adoption center. This will not solve all the overpopulation problems in Danville and Pittsylvania County, but will provide us more space to hold the adoptable animals. We will still be an open-admission shelter, which means we will not turn away animals. Once an animal comes into the shelter, and they become our property through state law, they will be evaluated for behavioral and health issues. As space permits, they will be accepted into the adoption center, and will be held until they are adopted or transferred to another group (as long as they remain healthy and non-aggressive). We are thrilled to be able to build this center, through the generosity of many donors and supporters, as well as the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust, and give it as a gift to the City of Danville.

2. We will continue to help residents of Danville and Pittsylvania County pay for the spay/neuter surgery. Frankly, larger shelters with the combination of more adoptions cannot solve all the problems of overpopulation and abuse. Only spaying and neutering to reduce the number of unwanted animals can solve the problem. Since 1993, we have helped 20,000 dogs and cats in Danville and Pittsylvania County, spending about $500,000, again mostly through the generosity of the E. Stuart James Grant Charitable Trust.

3. We will expand our volunteer programs. We have a large group of dedicated people who enjoy serving the animals. People can serve on our fundraising committee, or they can serve as shelter volunteers. Shelter employees stay busy taking care of the basic needs of shelter animals, and we love for volunteers to help exercise the animals. With our adoption center opening, we will rely on volunteers more than ever. In fact, we hope some people will be able to help us clean the cages!

4. We will continue our 24 hours a day, 365 days a year work of helping the animals. We conduct neglect and cruelty investigations and help rescue animals.

We hope that 2012 will be a kinder one for all animals, and we look forwarding to serving all the wonderful creatures with whom we share this earth.

Earthquakes and Hurricanes

In a one-week period we experienced both an earthquake and a hurricane.  Thankfully the effects of both of these natural disasters passed us by relatively unscathed.  However, wishing on luck to avoid the inevitable is a dangerous proposition that may eventually leave us in a precarious position.

This weekend I was able to travel to some of the coastal areas that were affected by Hurricane Irene to assist with debris cleanup.  I spent about eight hours at Harker’s Island helping to clean out flooded homes, clear debris and fallen trees, and help in any way that I could.  As I worked with the residents of this small community I asked about their pets.  Most of them were evacuated with their humans; although I was saddened by the Lost posters that decorated the community playground where we ate lunch.

In talking to the people we helped I learned some things about disaster preparation that I’d like to pass along.

Some natural disasters, such as a hurricane, allow time for a limited amount of planning.  Others, such as a tornado, an ice storm that limits power, or a damaging earthquake, provide no advance warning.  Thankfully, the same advanced planning will work for most scenarios.

One thing to remember is that emergency shelters may only accept service animals.  For those of you that think you’ll simply pack up Molly in your small dog carrier and take her with you, this might prove to be more of a problem than you might anticipate.  Will your options be more or less limited if you show up at the shelter with Molly than if you took alternate actions before you arrived?  Remember, it may be too late to return home or difficult to locate your neighbor who could have watched Molly at her cousins house 100 miles away.

Obviously boarding your animals might not be a great idea either.  If you board them too close to the event, such as a hurricane, you may run the risk of a shelter full of animals but unattended by people.  Some boarding facilities may fill up quickly or stop accepting new animals as landfall draws close.

There is no perfect way to answer these questions.  Furthermore, these questions become compounded as you factor in multiple pets.  There are; however, some simple things that you can do to ease the burden for you and your animal loved ones.

Whenever possible, make plans to take pets to animal-friendly loved ones.  For example, my wonderful wife loves and cares for our two house cats.  Although she is capable of dealing with a canine overnighter, her welcome would surely wane after several days.  My mother; however, would welcome Pekingese visitors every day of the week.

Know the location and phone numbers of pet-friendly hotels.  This requires a little time up front, but in the event of an emergency this knowledge will make your evacuation a little less stressful.

I’m a big believer in 72-hour emergency kits for humans, and believe this practice should be extended to our pets as well.  Your pet kits should include a three day supply of food and water (don’t forget the can opener if you pack cans instead of a dry mix), bowls, collars and leashes , litter boxes, photographs  of you with your pet, and a week’s supply of medications that your pet may be taking, including instructions (in case you and your pet are separated), and copies of your pet’s latest vaccinations in case you need to board them.

With a little advanced preparation, you can lower the stress of taking care of your pet during a natural disaster or local emergency.  You can also rest a little easier before one ever occurs with the knowledge that you have already done something to prepare.

Matthew Clark is a guest contributor and has volunteered as the Danville Area Humane Society’s webmaster for the last 10 years. Matthew is a Danville native currently living in Fayetteville NC. He can be reached at