A few weeks ago, every animal lover in our community was stunned and horrified to see four of the five members of the Henrico County Board of Zoning Appeals tell Susan Mills that she could no longer care for a small group of feral cats that she had been caring for without incident for many years. Many of you asked us what would be next in our efforts to protect these cats. Today, we are announcing our next steps to protect innocent animals in Henrico from this irrational and callous decision of the Board.
Jack Robb and Will Shewmake of the law firm of LeclairRyan have agreed to appeal this ruling for Susan Mills to the Henrico County Circuit Court and we are deeply grateful to them for their wonderful generosity and concern for the compassionate treatment of animals in our community. We believe that the ruling of the Board of Zoning Appeals is neither logical nor rationally enforceable nor humane. We expect that a judge will see this clearly on appeal and that the decision of the Board will be reversed. We intend to do everything in our power to assist Messrs. Robb and Shewmake in achieving this outcome and to protect the lives of these innocent animals, not to mention those of so many other feral cats in Henrico whose futures are threatened by the Board’s ruling.
We are distributing yard signs to residents of Henrico who want to make clear that they care about animals and want to see feral cats treated with compassion and respect for their lives. The yard signs say “Henrico Can’t Tell Me Not To Care” and provide a link to the page on our website that is dedicated to saving these cats. The words are a reference to the “violation” issued by the county to Ms. Mills which said that “caring for feral cats” in R-4 zoning is prohibited. Please put one in your yard if you live in Henrico and help us to get them placed in as many yards as possible around the county. They will send a powerful message to the county.
The decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals reflected ignorance about feral cats and an irrational and callous approach to their treatment. It also created a ruling that is not susceptible of logical enforcement and that demands that people behave in an inhumane fashion. I do not believe that the citizens of Henrico will put up with being told that they may not feed and care for innocent animals on their own private property. One of the worst things any government can do is demand that its citizens behave in a way that they find to be cruel and unethical. We live in a country that was founded on ethical principles and people will not comply with rules that require them to depart from their own ethical framework. As this matter unfolds, all of us who love animals, and everyone who just believes in decency and kindness, must make clear to the Henrico County government that we expect its behavior and the rules that it prescribes for its people to reflect a code of ethics that its citizens can and should embrace. We will stand up to Henrico, or any other government that does otherwise, because it is our responsibility to protect the animals and ensure that our community is humane.
Henrico residents can visit our center starting today, Nov. 17, to obtain yard signs to show their support and distribute to fellow animal lovers. We will keep you posted as this matter progresses and let you know how you can continue to help. The enormous supportive response that Ms. Mills has gotten from people all over this community who are appalled at the decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals has been wonderful. It is crucial for all of us to continue to work together to send a strong message to Henrico that we will not be ordered to stop caring for the animals we love.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.