The Supreme Court of Virginia issued its decision last Friday in the case of Susan Mills vs. the Board of Supervisors of the County of Henrico. This case began in 2011, when the county issued a notice of zoning violation, and finally Susan has prevailed before the Commonwealth’s highest court. The Richmond SPCA was with her every step of the way in this journey for justice.
The ruling was reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch last Saturday, and we share the hopes expressed by Susan’s attorney Will Shewmake, who was quoted in the story. He said, “In light of the court’s ruling and finding the notice of zoning violation was overbroad, we’re hoping that this ends the issue.”
However, another statement in the article attributed to Henrico officials needs to be addressed: “Henrico officials said Susan Mills of the Laurel Pines subdivision was feeding seven feral cats and there were complaints from neighbors, two of whom were bitten and required inoculations.” This brief paragraph leads the reader to the conclusion that there is a cause and effect relationship between Susan’s responsible care for feral cats and the neighbors who were bitten. In fact, the opposite is true. The cat that inflicted the bite was not one of the small group being cared for by Susan, as those cats have been spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies. If her neighbors fully understood the rabies issue, they should be praising Susan’s efforts rather than making complaints against her. And in fairness, many residents in Laurel Pines have supported Susan’s care for the neighborhood cats. Only a vocal minority have tried to disrupt her feeding of the cats she trapped, neutered, vaccinated and returned to the community they knew as home.
Misunderstanding of the rabies virus in cats is common, and those who care for community cats often face critics who argue against humane management of the cats on the basis of preventing the spread of rabies. In reality, TNR is the only solution that addresses concerns about this disease.
These pervasive myths about rabies are the focus of a presentation at our Robins-Starr Humane Center next Friday, Sept. 6, at noon. We are delighted to offer a “Lunch & Learn” seminar with special guests Peter J. Wolf, national feral cat expert who will speak on the topic of rabies, and Will Shewmake, of LeClairRyan, who will remark on the Supreme Court case and its ruling. We encourage both avid community cat advocates and those new to the concept of TNR alike to bring their lunches and hear from Peter and Will. There is no cost to attend. The Richmond SPCA will provide drinks. Please RSVP for this event on our website: www.richmondspca.org/feral_seminar.
Related: Peter Wolf has an announcement on his blog, Vox Felina, to support our Henrico Feral Defense Fund.
Tabitha Frizzell Hanes is the director of advancement for the Richmond SPCA. To read the biographies of our regular 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.