2009-12-09 / Front Page

Animal shelter moves toward no-kill policy

Board of Supervisors
By Greg Pearson STAFF WRITER

Stegmaier Stegmaier Chesterfield County is revising its policies and procedures to adopt a “no-kill policy” for healthy dogs and cats at the Chesterfield Animal Shelter and considering new requirements that all dogs and cats be spayed or neutered prior to adoption.

“We’re close to a no-kill policy,” County Administrator Jay Stegmaier said at last week’s board meeting. “We’re developing options for a 100 percent spaying and neutering program.”

Stegmaier’s remarks came after seven citizens spoke during public comment periods asking for changes at the county shelter. Board Chairman Art Warren asked Stegmaier to speak for the board.

Some board members seemed puzzled since the state Web site shows Chesterfield took in more dogs and cats (4,788 compared to 4,403) last year than Richmond and euthanized fewer (1,351 to 1,446) than Richmond. Richmond has a “no-kill policy.”

Stacy Turner (right) gets a kiss from Sugar, a 3-year-old Beagle/Basset Hound mix, as she visits with the dogs up for adoption by Heavenly Hounds at PETCO on Hull Street Road last weekend. Ann Herndon (left) operates Heavenly Hounds, a nonprofit that regularly rescues dogs from the Chesterfield Animal Shelter and finds new homes for them. Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer Stacy Turner (right) gets a kiss from Sugar, a 3-year-old Beagle/Basset Hound mix, as she visits with the dogs up for adoption by Heavenly Hounds at PETCO on Hull Street Road last weekend. Ann Herndon (left) operates Heavenly Hounds, a nonprofit that regularly rescues dogs from the Chesterfield Animal Shelter and finds new homes for them. Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer “We have heard loud and clear what the citizens have told us,” added Stegmaier. “Because they [Richmond and Hanover County] have a classification in place, they can say they don’t euthanize any healthy animals. Right now, we don’t have a classification system, so we can’t say that.”

Stegmaier’s comments seemed to imply that Chesterfield was already being more humane than the jurisdictions that have a “no-kill policy.” A “no-kill policy” allows animals to be euthanized if they are sick, too aggressive or seriously injured.

Bermuda Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle provided a chart that compared Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties and the city of Richmond. The overhead projection of the chart was too small to read for those at the board meeting so Warren asked this newspaper to print the chart (see below).

From 2005 to 2008, Richmond euthanized 5,811 dogs and cats – 319 more than Chesterfield. Matoaca resident Bob Herndon thinks the difference may be that the pets in Richmond are unhealthier and possibly more aggressive because of the differences in household demographics between the city and the county.

“According to the data, there are no unhealthy animals being killed in Richmond,” Herndon said.

During the past four years the Chesterfield shelter has taken in 14 percent fewer animals since it changed its procedures by having adopters sign a pledge promising to have their new pets spayed or neutered within 30 days of adoption. Several citizens called for mandatory sterilization, like Richmond and Henrico do, before adoption to reduce the number of animals coming back to the shelter.

At the Nov. 18 board meeting, the Richmond SPCA and the Richmond Animal League (RAL) in Chesterfield offered to work with the county toward a “no-kill policy.” Stegmaier was scheduled to meet with the SPCA last Monday and also plans to meet with RAL. He said he hopes to bring recommendations back to the board by the end of this month.

Relations between animal advocates and county officials are more cordial than five years ago when other citizens clashed with the police department, which oversees the shelter, and the previous board. Former board members criticized some of those citizens, and a Henrico resident threatened a lawsuit against the county. But procedural changes were made, including euthanizing animals by injection instead of using a gas chamber.

Addressing the board last week, Bob and Ann Herndon, Ginger Gobble, Jane Weisenfels, Yvonne Royster, Jo-De Davis and Shelia Kenny urged the supervisors to make changes in the operation of the shelter. In addition to a “no-kill policy,” they suggested setting up a citizen committee to work with the shelter, accepting help from the SPCA and RAL, developing better efficiencies and using more volunteers to aid shelter staff.

Lt. Col. John Austin of the police department told the board 24 volunteers have contributed 7,500 hours at the shelter so far this year.

Ann Herndon and Gobble questioned if shelter animals are receiving adequate care. Gobble cited some shelter dogs as having “kennel cough,” an ailment that’s common among dogs and cats when kept in close proximity.

It is time “to call for a moratorium on killing healthy dogs and cats,” urged Ann Herndon. She said animals are put to death at 8 a.m. on Wednesdays.

Bob Herndon believes the Chesterfield Humane Society (CHS) is too close to the shelter operations, referring to a relationship between the shelter’s manager and the president of the CHS. He said a veterinarian, who provides paid services to the shelter, also serves on the CHS board.

“A veterinarian vendor overcharged the county by $2,800 in FY09 [which ended June 30],” he said.

Comparison of local animal shelters

  Dogs/cats Dogs/cats Percent dogs Dogs/cats Percent  
  received adopted/ and cats adopted/ euthanized euthanized  
    returned returned      
2005            
Chesterfield 5,564 3,210 58% 1,356 24%  
Hanover 2,842 1,570 55% 1,217 43%  
Richmond 3,966 2,304 58% 1,371 35%  
Henrico 3,185 1,388 44% 1,679 53%  
2006            
Chesterfield 5,192 3,224 62% 1,289 25%  
Hanover 3,142 1,626 52% 1,454 46%  
Richmond 4,373 2,559 59% 1,592 36%  
Henrico 3,312 1,567 47% 1,633 49%  
2007            
Chesterfield 5,046 3,152 62% 1,496 30%  
Hanover 2,863 1,610 56% 1,215 42%  
Richmond 4,042 2,439 60% 1,402 35%  
Henrico 3,387 1,353 40% 1,720 51%  
2008            
Chesterfield 4,788 3,188 67% 1,351 28%  
Hanover 2,829 1,622 57% 1,036 37%  
Richmond* 4,403 2,904 66% 1,446 33%  
Henrico 3,713 1,941 52% 1,562 42%  


Source: Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Online Animal Reporting Site and the Maddie’s Fund Animal Statistics Table*

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