The lead editorial on the editorial pages of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday, April 24, articulately and appropriately took the City administration to task for their “indifference” to the life-saving services that our organization has provided to the homeless animals of Richmond and to the immense success of the partnership that we formerly had with Richmond Animal Care and Control in saving an ever increasing number of homeless animals’ lives every year. We are deeply grateful to the editorial page writers for their perceptive piece which challenges our City leaders to act with greater responsibility and sincerity with regard to animal welfare than they have done to date.
Our Board leadership and I worked for more than 20 months to seek to re-establish with the City the working public-private partnership that we had with them starting in 2001. That partnership reached its highest degree of effectiveness when Jody Jones headed the Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) due to her progressive philosophies and sincere desire to partner with us effectively to save animal lives. Our partnership had expired by its terms in 2008 and Jody worked with us to try to get the City administration to work out a new partnership agreement between our organizations. The City’s lack of support for RACC and their hostility toward the Richmond SPCA and reluctance to re-establish our partnership were among the main reasons for Jody’s decision to leave Richmond. An issue of crucial importance now is whether the City will undertake a true nationwide search and will hire replacement for Jody who has progressive philosophies and will truly prioritize saving animal lives.
Even though City Council authorized the City administration to enter into a new agreement with us, the City never did so and, in fact, someone introduced into the draft agreement that went to Council for its approval a paragraph that we had never seen and never agreed to. This introduction of a new paragraph without bringing it to our attention was unethical and no one with the City administration would ever discuss the addition with us. We made more than 30 documented attempts to get the City administration to create a new working partnership with us and were consistently ignored or rebuffed. Then, last month, CAO Byron Marshall went before City Council and was asked if the partnership with us had been signed. He told them that it had been. Clearly, this was a misleading and disingenuous statement for which we have heard no explanation yet having been offered.
While it is clear that the City of Richmond has no sincere interest in partnering with us, that does not mean that the Richmond SPCA will desert the homeless animals of the City of Richmond who need us now more than ever. Despite the absence of a working relationship with the City, we took in nearly the number of animals from RACC in 2011 that we did in prior years. Despite our help, whether desired or not, the City of Richmond saw a significant decline in its live release rate from RACC’s shelter in 2011 over the prior year. Calendar year 2011 was the first year in many that the live release rate for the City did not improve. According to annual shelter statistics submitted by RACC to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, RACC took in fewer dogs in 2011 than it did in 2010 but nonetheless took the lives of more dogs than it had in the past. RACC is now taking in more cats than it used to do when Jody was actively supporting and promoting Trap-Neuter-Return programs for feral cats. Consequently, more cats are also losing their lives. The outcome was that their live release rate declined by about 7%.
On the other hand, the Richmond SPCA worked energetically in 2011 to save more animals from a greater number of shelters in and around our community. We have done this in order to be sure that we utilize our resources effectively to save as many animal lives as we possibly can. The outcome for us is that we saved more lives of precious homeless animals in 2011 than in prior years – in fact, we saved 9% more animal lives in total in 2011 over 2010.
Our life saving is going in the right direction and that of the City is not. They may not want our help but we know that the animals want it and need it. And, we will be there for them no matter what. The animals are the focus of our mission, not any local government entity. Please do all you can to express your concern for the lives of homeless animals to those in City administration and on City Council. If, as anyone would surmise, the inaction and disingenuousness of City administration reflect their belief that the people of Richmond do not care about the lives and well-being of companion animals, then they are very mistaken. We need to let them and the members of City Council know that loudly and clearly.
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.
April 12, 2012: What is going on with our City? Questions about partnership raise issue of credibility
April 9, 2012: Setting the record straight before City Council regarding the partnership agreement with the City