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 which began in mid 2016. 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 82% 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. VFHS provides resources to remove barriers to transfer through High Five Virginia which facilitates the transfer/transport of animals from under-resources areas to jurisdictions where adoption chances are greater.
Hampton Roads has historically posed an entirely different challenge because the obstacle to lifesaving in that area is not an absence of resources; rather, it has been resistance to embracing progressive programming in many Hampton Roads shelters. In her presentation just a few years ago on the power of data at the VFHS Annual Conference, the 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 shelters. By the end of 2019, that percentage rose to 27%, but over 4,000 fewer animals lost their lives. Progress is being made. The work in Hampton Roads is focused on surrender prevention and on encouraging lifesaving programming such as coordinated entry and TNR. VFHS member organizations in Hampton Roads are deeply committed to saving the lives of all healthy and treatable animals and to improving outcomes for the overall 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 85%. It was 87% for 2018 and rose to 89% for 2019. Reaching at least a 90% save rate by the end of 2020 is clearly within our reach!