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Animal Shelters Seek Two-Legged Support

What You Can Do

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The Richmond SPCA - Central Virginia Humane Society last week announced an $8 million fundraising campaign to buy a larger facility for expanded animal care, adoption and public education programs.

Now groups are asking the community's pet owners — and would-be pet owners - to help reduce pet overpopulation and otherwise raise the quality of life of animals here.

The new focus "shifts the emphasis to the human problem. We have to shift - we are in the people business," says Richmond SPCA Chairman Emerson Hughes. He adds that improving awareness, attitudes and action among Richmond's two-legged citizens is essential to the well-being of the city's four-legged friends.

Atop the holiday wish list for animal activists is that more people get their propagation-prone pets sterilized. "Spaying and neutering is first and foremost," says Richmond SPCA Executive Director Robin Starr. "There are simply but so many homes."

Because most of the excess animal supply ends up at municipal and nonprofit shelters, Virginia Federation of Humane Societies Co-President Teresa Dockery asks that residents looking for a furry loved one check out those "public and private shelters first. And there are a lot of pure-bred animals who end up in these facilities," Dockery adds.

The holidays, however, are far from the best time to make a major pet decision — either shelter adoption or private purchase — authorities say. "Don't do it. It is not a good time for a million and one reasons," says Denise Deisler, Richmond SPCA director of community affairs. She and others note that erratic holiday schedules, spur-of-the-moment decision-making and even easily devoured seasonal decorations can quickly result in new-pet regret. Instead, they suggest, get a gift certificate for a pet to be selected at a saner time (and make sure adults, not children, make the decision about the right creature for one's castle).

While financial support is always welcome, shelters say they also need donations of pet supplies and they welcome volunteers to help feed, bathe, walk and provide basic obedience training to animals. At the Richmond SPCA, volunteers also are needed to serve as "adoption counselors" to make good people-pet matches; to aid the shelter's foster care program, which offers personal attention to sick and injured pets and to mothers and their weaning litters; to support outreach programs such as taking animal ambassadors to hospitals and nursing homes, and for Pets on Wheels, a joint venture with Meals on Wheels in which helpers check on the pets of homebound owners and take the pets to their respective

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