At the 2017 Annual Conference, VFHS was proud to launch the new program “SaveVaPets – Crossing the No Kill Finish Line.” The creation of SaveVaPets was the culmination of months of study by the board. As a leadership team we recognized that we and our member organizations were leading the effort to save all the healthy and treatable pets in the state. With an 83% save rate for 2016, it was clear that achieving at least a 90% save rate for the state was entirely within our reach.
Overall, VFHS is about bringing people and organizations together, working on policy/legislation, and providing comprehensive training in animal welfare best practices; whereas this initiative – SaveVaPets – is laser-focused on what is needed to save the last 10-20% of homeless animals in the state. The initiative aims to bring specific training and support, collaboration building, and exploring all available funding streams to bring resources to areas where funding is lacking, and in areas where funding is less of an issue to bring the expertise which will improve shelter outcomes.
Entirely in keeping with the Best Friends recent declaration of a No Kill US by 2025, VFHS leadership believes that we can and should lead on this issue in Virginia. We know that the lowest performing areas of the state are southwest Virginia and Hampton Roads and we are committed to exploring all possibilities of what can be brought to those areas to lift them up.
Currently, there is robust transfer of animals out of southwest Virginia by many member organizations including Angels of Assisi, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, Lynchburg Humane Society and the Richmond SPCA. The aim is to reinvigorate High Five Virginia such that even more transfers occur.
VFHS Board Members Sue Bell (Homeward Trails Animal Rescue), Makena Yarbrough (Lynchburg Humane Society) and Alice Burton (Alley Cat Allies) offered two presentations on best practices for community cats in southwest Virginia in late April, the attendance at both events was significant, even bringing in some folks from TN and the enthusiasm of those present was inspiring.
Homeward Trails Animal Rescue has instituted a significant partnership with Wise County. Lynchburg Humane Society and Angels of Assisi are working in partnership to provide affordable spay-neuter services to southwest Virginia. The Richmond SPCA regularly transfers dogs and cats into its care from the Danville Area Humane Society.
Hampton Roads poses an entirely different challenge because the obstacle to lifesaving in that area is not an absence of resources; rather, it is the intractable resistance to embracing progressive programming in most Hampton Roads shelters. In her presentation on the power of data at our Annual Conference, Executive Director of the PETCO Foundation identified 10 shelters in Virginia with the highest number of pets euthanized. Five of those 10 shelters were in Hampton Roads. Based upon our research, in 2015 of all the dogs and cats killed or euthanized in Virginia’s sheltering system, 25% of them lost their lives in Hampton Roads. In 2016, that number rose to 31%. The work in Hampton Roads is focused on surrender prevention and on encouraging lifesaving programming such as TNR. The Lynchburg Humane Society and the Richmond SPCA are working in partnership with VFHS members in Hampton Roads to effect change in that region.
Ten years ago, saving all the healthy and treatable dogs and cats in Virginia’s sheltering system was a far off dream. Today it is absolutely within our reach. But, what we know is that the last stretch of any laudable goal is often the hardest. SaveVaPets is not simply a VFHS leadership initiative, it is a project which needs the strategic thinking and action of every one of us. Fortunately, VFHS members have demonstrated incredible generosity to others in the state, our individual and collective commitment is powerful and together we will indeed Cross the No Kill Finish Line.
UPDATE: Since launching SaveVaPets and focusing programming on this initiative, based upon VDACS Annual Reports, the save rate for dogs and cats in 2017 in Virginia’s sheltering system was 86%. Reaching at least a 90% save rate by 2020 is clearly within our reach!