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In Virginia, Challenging the Status Quo

The Richmond SPCA engages its community as a partner in the quest to get to zero euthanasia

  • Dog Jog and 5K Run at the Richmond SPCA

    With events like its annual Dog Jog and 5K Run, the Richmond SPCA promotes the idea that pets should be treated as members of the family. CAROLINE RADOM

As pet lovers, most of us see our animals as furry children. It’s a notion that suggests a deep commitment—after all, most new parents wouldn’t drive their baby back to the hospital, ask for the obstetrician, and say, "I’ve had it!" after the kid’s first bout of earache or sassiness.

The problem continuing to drive relinquishment, according to Robin Robertson Starr, CEO of the Richmond SPCA, is that many people still don’t think of their pets as true family members. "It’s become too pervasive in our society to see pets as disposable. We don’t kick family members out of our families for unwanted behavior—although we may want to," she laughs.

To that end, when the Richmond SPCA went limited-admission in 2002, the shelter switched to an appointment-based relinquishment system—there’s a waiting list to surrender animals—and initiated its Project Safety Net, a series of programs and services designed to reduce animal relinquishment. By offering services in behavior and training, helping owners find pet-friendly housing, assisting low-income families in meeting their pets’ needs, taking in transfer animals from municipal shelters in the area, and—most importantly—involving the community as a partner, the Richmond SPCA aims to create a philosophical shift in the region it serves.

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