Paving the Way to a No-kill Future

The Richmond SPCA wasn’t always a no-kill humane organization, although this is mainly what we are widely recognized for in not only the state of Virginia, but across the country as well. Our organization was founded in 1891, but it wasn’t until January of 2002 that we officially became a no-kill shelter; since then we have saved 45,956 lives (Richmond SPCA, 2017).  As with all things revolutionary, we were met with criticism and opposition when we announced our plans to become a vital part of the no-kill movement. Some people simply didn’t believe we could accomplish this task here in Richmond. Kim Campbell Thornton (2009), award-winning author, explains in her article about our decision that others feared “a disproportionate amount of unadoptable animals would end up at the city’s animal control shelter — possibly leading to more animal deaths.” But the outcome ended up being far from deadly. More healthy, homeless pets in the community found their forever homes and were no longer at high risk of losing their lives due to lack of space or resources to care for them.

To successfully accomplish this great task, we partnered with Richmond Animal Care and Control to stop the euthanization of adoptable pets in the city and instead give these pets the treatment they need and deserve. Through our new and improved no-kill philosophy, we adopted many educational resources and programs to share with the community. Sylvana Wenderhold (2004), Animal Welfare League of QLD President, states, “no-kill programs require comprehensive desexing and public education programs combined with strategies to prevent animals from coming to the shelter in the first place.” Our programs and resources are primarily designed to promote responsible pet ownership and encourage people to adopt instead of shop for pets. Clients who go through our adoption process also receive several benefits, such as the inclusion of age-appropriate vaccinations and access to low-cost veterinary care through our Susan M. Markel Veterinary Hospital located directly behind our building. Overall, we had to find that perfect balance between giving and receiving within our organization to be able to sustain our leadership in the no-kill movement.

From the time we initially became a no-kill humane society, the euthanasia rates due to lack of space and resources began to steadily decline. In last year alone, we did the greatest amount of lifesaving work than we have ever done before. Robin Robertson Starr (2016), Richmond SPCA Chief Executive Officer, stated in the Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report that “our lifesaving success rate for all of the animals that came into our care was in excess of 99 percent (and when I say all, I mean all — this percentage is based on every single animal coming into our care regardless of age or health condition).” We may not have been the first to take on the no-kill philosophy, but we remain the first organization to reproduce the original model for the no-kill movement in America. It wasn’t an easy road to success, but it was well worth it to see so many animals receive their happily ever after in the end.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own and do not represent the views and opinions of the Richmond SPCA.


Campbell Thornton, K. (2009, July 9). No-kill shelter nation? Maybe in 5 years. NBC News. Retrieved from

Richmond SPCA. (2017). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from

Robertson Starr, R. (2016). Message from our chief executive officer. Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report. Retrieved from

Wenderhold, S. (2004). No-kill shelters. Animals Today, 12(1), 22-23. Retrieved from


About Caitlin Stallings

I started out down a dark path, but I found the light in me that never goes out and allowed it to lead the way. Now it's gleaming brighter than ever before since I broke the vicious cycle of abuse. I'm a domestic violence survivor and advocate for the healing of the trauma we all experience in this lifetime. I've always aspired to be a healer and do something that touches the lives of others on a profound level. So far I've found that I can do this through my writing, but there's much more out there for me to learn. No matter what I end up doing for a living, I know that I want to give and help as much as I can to as many as I can. Here's to the reincarnation of myself — my best self!
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