Coming into Our Own

As an Adoption Counselor for the Richmond SPCA, I’m used to people asking me a lot of different questions about the pets in our care and our organization in general. But the one I hear most often is about our assumed “other” locations. I’ve noticed that many people are under the impression that our organization is not only a part of other SPCA’s in the area, but also other local humane societies and government shelters. While we work very closely with these shelters and humane organizations, it is important to recognize that the Richmond SPCA operates as an individual entity. We are a private humane organization, which also makes us quite different in many ways from some of the shelters we work with. The work we do is unique and lifesaving; the way in which we promote the principle that every life is precious is entirely our own and a result of our dedication to saving as many lives as we can.


As mentioned previously, we work with other shelters and humane societies in the area to prevent them from resorting to euthanasia, which occurs primarily due to lack of space. Through maintaining these relationships, our organization receives about 80% of the pets in our care (Richmond SPCA, 2017). The Admissions team is responsible for transferring in such pets from local shelters and humane organizations. The remaining 20% of pets come from owner surrenders, which the Admissions team deals with as well (Richmond SPCA, 2017). When we have the space available, in some cases we can take in pets that owners can no longer care for. However, we do our best to provide resources through Project Safety Net for owners in this predicament that would keep their pets out of the shelter environment, such as re-homing options and behavior assistance. We find that this often works too.

Another key difference between our organization and a lot of the shelters we work with is that we are a private humane society, not a public animal control agency. This essentially means that we do not receive government funding, enforce laws relating to animal welfare, or accept strays directly into our care. Instead we are a no-kill, non-profit humane organization. The “no-kill” portion means that we do not euthanize pets based on their health status, length of stay, certain behavioral needs, or lack of shelter space. Because of the generous donations we receive from the community, we have the resources to take in many sick and injured pets that require extensive veterinary care and find them loving homes best suited for their needs. Unfortunately, not many shelters have the funding available to them to put towards pets requiring ongoing medical care like we do. Our goal as an organization is to save the lives of pets in need and in doing so treat them compassionately.


The distinguishing characteristics of the Richmond SPCA best explain how our organization carries out its practices as a separate entity from other humane societies and shelters. Still, we work diligently alongside local animal welfare organizations to save as many lives as we can. While there are marked differences between us and them, we are all advocating for the same thing: our wonderful, lovable, furry companions. Our organization would not be able to accomplish the work we set out to do without the community’s support. And for that, we are forever grateful. The programs, resources, and principles we have adopted are what make us the leading organization in animal welfare and the no-kill movement emerging across the nation.

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.


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

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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

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