In Defense Of The Rockbridge SPCA

DANNY, held by kennel supervisor Katelyn Smith, is one of the cats available for adoption at the Rockbridge Area SPCA.

DANNY, held by kennel supervisor Katelyn Smith, is one of the cats available for adoption at the Rockbridge Area SPCA.

The Rockbridge Area SPCA saved 459 of the 737 cats brought to its shelter last year. That’s a save rate of just over 62 percent. In addition to the 84 cats that were adopted out to new homes, another 375 were transferred to “no kill” rescue shelters outside of the Rockbridge area, including 55 that were taken out-of-state.

“If we did not take in feral cats, we would have a 90 percent save rate,” SPCA director Tara Rodi points out. Asked why the number of cats euthanized

Asked why the number of cats euthanized at the SPCA climbed from 14 percent in 2018 to 28 percent in 2019, Rodi explained that the numbers vary from year to year – “it’s a roller coaster” – because of circumstances beyond the SPCA’s control. For instance, the SPCA received 146 cats last year that were the result of six different hoarding situations. A lot of these cats were sick and had to be put down.

“We are not putting down healthy, adoptable pets – cats or dogs,” insists Rodi. “We haven’t since I’ve been here the past five years.”

Rodi was responding to criticism about the SPCA’s adoption and euthanasia rates for 2019, as reported by the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services. Two local residents recently approached Rockbridge area government officials to complain about the numbers, even suggesting that the local tax subsidies for the shelter be given to a different organization.

Rodi says she would have no qualms about the Rockbridge area governments redirecting the funding elsewhere, if another organization agrees to take over responsibility for accepting feral cats. “We would be more than happy to have the localities bid out the service of taking in feral cats,” she said.

In fact, she continued, “I’m putting together a policy to present to the [SPCA] board that we no longer take in feral cats. We’re going to look at this. This is so much of a headache for us. Staff would no longer be in danger [from being bitten or scratched]. The numbers [on euthanasia] would improve.”

All Virginia localities must have a designated shelter where feral cats can be taken. Unfortunately, many of these cats are diseased and/ or too wild to become pets. In such cases, there is no other choice but to humanely euthanize them. If another entity were to take on this sad task, it would have to do so in conformity with state law and report the numbers to the VDACS.

The SPCA has a well-trained staff and hundreds of volunteers who are trying mightily to address the complex issues that have been raised. It is our hope that everyone in our community who takes an interest in the well-being of stray cats and dogs would work together toward a common purpose.

Spaying and neutering initiatives have been and ought to continue to be at the forefront of these efforts. The SPCA has launched a new program in which it is offering financial assistance to pet owners who can’t afford the cost of spaying and neutering. Those who utilize this service must meet certain income criteria.

As we reported last week, another local animal welfare organization, Cats Unlimited, was able to spay and neuter 700 cats in the Rockbridge area last year. That is truly commendable. We hope these good works continue.

Our three local governments may want to consider adopting a cat ordinance that would require owners to have their cats vaccinated against rabies. Such an ordinance would encourage responsible pet ownership and help with the control of the stray population. Local animal hospitals periodically offer rabies vaccination clinics at reduced costs.

We are fortunate to have so many compassionate people in our community who truly care about the welfare of their fellow creatures. It is our hope that these folks not work at cross purposes.