General Assembly set to decide on animal welfare bills

The 2022 General Assembly session convened recently on Jan. 12. There are several bills related to animal welfare being introduced this year.

I’m outlining three proposed bills addressing significant issues, all of which we are asking legislators to support.

Ban Wildlife Killing Contests

One priority issue this year is a bill to end wildlife killing contests. These inhumane contests allow participants to compete for cash and prizes for killing the most, the largest or the smallest of a particular species. Coyotes, foxes and bobcats are the most often targeted species in Virginia.

This measure is not intended to affect responsible hunters; in fact, many hunters support a ban on these cruel contests. Participants of wildlife killing contests kill solely for winnings, and the animals are typically not used for their meat or fur.

This past summer, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources proposed a rule banning wildlife killing contests. Despite majority support from the public, the department’s board declined to take action, so now the issue is going before our state legislators, and we are asking them to step up to end wildlife killing contests.

Protect Animals Bred for Research Purposes

The second priority issue is protecting dogs and cats bred for research purposes. Virginia has been home to a massive breeding facility, Envigo, located in Cumberland, since about 1961. Each year, Envigo breeds thousands of dogs and sells them for research purposes worldwide.

A coyote in the wild. Coyotes are often the target of cruel wildlife killing contests where animals are killed for cash and prizes and not for their meat or fur. 2022 proposed legislation would ban wildlife killing contests. Courtesy of Wendy Keefover, The HSUS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently cited multiple direct and critical violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including abuse and neglect of the animals in its care. Routine inspections uncovered evidence that, during a six-month time period, hundreds of puppies died of “unknown causes,” dogs were denied veterinary care and suffered from treatable medical issues, and were kept in dangerous and inadequate housing.

The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966. It is the only U.S. federal law that regulates the treatment of animals used for research and exhibition. The AWA defines the minimum acceptable standard for animals used in research. Proposed legislation at the state level would build off the AWA and create better standards.

So far, there are three bills filed, SB 87SB 88 and SB 90. SB 87 and SB 88 are aimed at raising standards for animal care and increasing transparency and accountability in breeding facilities for research animals. Similar to the bill passed in 2021 for animal testing facilities, SB 90 would require breeders to offer dogs and cats no longer needed to a releasing agency such as an animal shelter for adoption prior to being euthanized.

Prohibit Sexual Abuse of Animals

Research shows that sexual abuse of an animal is the strongest predictor of child sexual abuse. Virginia’s current law on animal sexual abuse is vague, outdated and does not adequately address all instances of sexual abuse endured by animals.

Current law only applies in cases where physical evidence of injury to an animal is present. Many acts of sexual abuse to animals are filmed but are inadmissible without evidence of physical harm. Our current law doesn’t explicitly address the trafficking of animals for sex, and it fails to penalize individuals who aren’t the abuser themselves but solicit or allow their pets to be sexually abused.

The proposed legislation would strengthen the current laws on sexual abuse and create clear language to reduce loopholes currently seen. Stronger laws for animals would potentially help protect children who are at high risk of being sexually abused.

The legislation would likely prohibit engaging in sexual contact with animals with any part of the body or an object; prohibit promoting, advertising, offering or soliciting animals for sex and ban the creation and distribution of animal pornography. It could place restrictions on a convicted person’s contact with animals and require psychological assessment and counseling. This legislation would exempt veterinary procedures, artificial insemination, accepted animal husbandry and animal care, and conformation judging.

We expect more animal-related bills to be introduced, but these are the top priorities right now.

Your voice is powerful to legislators. If you feel strongly about proposed legislation, it’s vital that you reach out to your legislators. They were elected to represent their community, so they need to hear from you. You can quickly look up your legislator and their contact information online at The General Assembly session moves fast, so an email or a phone call asking them to support a measure is most effective.

Lacy Shirey is executive director of the Chesapeake Humane Society. She can be reached at

With proper care, rabbits can make great pets

Animal Connections
Published by the Virginian Pilot on 7-7-2021
Written by Lacy Shirey, Chesapeake Humane Society Executive Director

In the past two decades, rabbits have become the third most popular companion animal, after cats and dogs.

They can make great pets. However, they are a big commitment, so do your research beforehand to make sure it’s a good fit for your household.

Lola, a Double-maned Lionhead rabbit, enjoys the company of a kitten. If carefully socialized, rabbits can be a great addition to a multi-pet household. Courtesy of Kimberly Sherlaw

Rabbits are intelligent, inquisitive and social creatures, but they require daily interaction, a specific diet and regular veterinarian checkups. The Rabbit Welfare Association is an excellent resource for rabbit owners; it succinctly sums up the commitment required with its slogan, “A hutch is not enough.”

Kimberly Sherlaw, executive director of the Norfolk SPCA, has shared her home with rabbits for the past 16 years. She adopted her first companion rabbit in 2005 just as she entered the field of animal welfare.

“I was exposed to the number of unwanted and neglected rabbits surrendered to shelters,” she said. “It was apparent that there was a lack of knowledge about their care and behaviors. Both concerned and curious about this challenge in sheltering, I decided to adopt my first rabbit, a Holland Lop, fondly named William, and this is where my love for rabbits began.”

Sherlaw advises first-time rabbit owners do thorough research first. Rabbits need to carry out their natural behaviors, including running, jumping, digging and foraging. They are social animals, so they enjoy the company of other rabbits in addition to daily human interaction.

Rabbits also have special dietary needs. A proper diet consists of timothy hay supplemented with pellets and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Proper enrichment is essential for a happy and healthy rabbit. Sherlaw recommends toys and chews such as applewood sticks or willow branch balls to help keep their ever-growing teeth worn down.

Paper bags, cardboard boxes or boxes filled with shredded paper and treats are great ways to fulfill a rabbit’s curiosity, allowing them to explore, forage, scratch and chew. Or fill a paper towel or toilet paper roll with hay to give them more exciting challenges.

“A proper diet and proper enrichment are the key factors that help you build a friendship and trust with your rabbit,” Sherlaw said.

Rabbits require regular veterinary care, just like cats and dogs. You’ll need to seek out a veterinarian that specializes in small animals or exotics, as rabbits will need annual checkups and vaccinations.

The idiom “reproduce like rabbits” exists for a good reason. Rabbits can produce a large number of offspring very rapidly.

Because they are prey animals, this high fecundity rate serves them well in the wild and ensures their existence. But as a household pet, your rabbit should be spayed or neutered. In addition to unplanned litters, spaying and neutering reduces unwanted behaviors and can extend their lifespan by reducing risks of certain cancers.

If you are ready to add a rabbit to your family, please consider your local animal shelter. Adopting from a shelter or rescue ensures your rabbit is spayed or neutered, and they often have bonded pairs that are ready to go home together.

Just last month Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center took in 150 domestic rabbits from a household. These rabbits are friendly and used to being handled, so it’s the perfect time to adopt if a rabbit is a good fit for your home.

Local shelters regularly house rabbits and other small animals for adoption, including Chesapeake Animal Services, Chesapeake Humane Society, Norfolk Animal Care Center, Norfolk SPCA, Portsmouth Humane Society and Virginia Beach SPCA.

Please refrain from purchasing rabbits from pet stores. Similar to the puppy mill industry, pet stores source from pet trade breeders with inhumane practices, mass breeding rabbits in small, dirty cages. Pets that come from pet stores often don’t have access to proper nutrition or veterinary care. Shelters, rescues and reputable breeders are your best resource.

Chesapeake Humane Society’s New Building Will Have A Special Crisis Shelter

Click here to learn more about our Crisis Boarding program!

A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Friends of Chesapeake Humane Society, 

We are quickly approaching the one-year mark of modified operations and restrictions we would never have imagined feasible due to the pandemic. The care we provide to the pets in our adoption program and through our veterinary clinic is essential service so our team hasn’t skipped a beat over the past ten months. It’s been stressful and trying more often than not, however, we are grateful that we have not had to furlough or lay off any staff members as so many other companies have had no choice but to do so. 

Throughout the pandemic, Chesapeake Humane Society’s (CHS) services continue to be in high demand. We have seen a significant increase in adoptions and fostering as families are home more often. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have seen an increase in need for our low-cost veterinary services and pet pantry assistance as folks are financially impacted by the pandemic.

A little back story about CHS – as you may know, our sheltering model is a bit different from the traditional shelter model. Throughout the years we have refined our program to help shelters in our region as they need support with caring for homeless pets. We work to transfer animals in from our shelter partners as they need assistance due to space, behavioral needs, or medical needs. 

We often take in animals that require a lot of time and money to care for such as heartworm positive dogs, litters of kittens and puppies, and FIV+ felines, to name a few. All of these animals deserve a second chance at life and we are here to help provide that for them. 

This model works well for our region and we plan to continue building off this structure as we expand our shelter program. Last spring, we embarked on a plan to expand and by happenstance, we had an incredible opportunity presented to us by one of our long-time partners, The Las Gaviotas Pet Hotel and associated Animal Assistance League here in Great Bridge. It’s an opportunity many organizations only dream of – the gift of a building and property.

 It was certainly a poignant moment as they brought their operations to a close and turned the building over to CHS. The Pet Hotel and Animal Assistance League was a staple in our community for nearly 30 years.  We are committed to put the property to good use and save the lives of many shelter pets. Our mission is aligned with that of Animal Assistance League and we vow to build on the good work that they’ve accomplished in our community. 

 In the coming months, we will be doing some renovations to our new building located at 1149 New Mill Drive to suit our programmatic needs. We hope to be open to the public later this year. Once renovations are completed, the New Mill Drive location will serve as a dedicated sheltering facility for CHS and our location on Battlefield Blvd will continue as our low-cost veterinary clinic.

This new building will greatly expand our shelter program and we plan to offer a new, much-needed service in our community for crisis-based boarding. We are currently exploring partnerships with local human service organizations to offer pet boarding to individuals and families escaping domestic violence or facing other hardships such as displacement from a fire or boarding needs due to unforeseen medical procedures. Our new crisis-based boarding program will help pets stay with the ones they love at a time when that human-animal bond and companionship is so important.

Whether you are familiar with CHS or not, I invite you to get to know us better over the coming year. We have a lot of exciting goals ahead of us and I hope you’ll continue to support us in our venture.

If you’d like to make a gift to support our expansion project, please reach out to CHS Executive Director, Lacy Shirey, at 757-401-6201 or


Warm Regards,

Lacy S. Shirey, Executive Director

Chesapeake Humane Society

Crate Training a Beneficial Tool

Animal Connections
Published by the Virginian Pilot on 01-06-2021
Written by Lacy Kuller, Chesapeake Humane Society Executive Director

All three of my dogs were adults when I adopted them, and they all lived their lives outside before being welcomed into my home. One of them was pretty scared of everything in life when I first took her in, and the other two were not housebroken at all. I mention that only to prove that crate training can be used with dogs of any age and with a wide range of backgrounds.

In their first six months or so with me, I implement crate training methods consistently. Usually, it’s harder on me than it is on them.

Having a routine and remaining consistent with any training is often the most important factor. It’s also hard for me because when I say good night to them and tuck them into their crate, I secretly wish they were snuggled up with me in my bed. But it’s worth it. The result is that they see their crates, or their dens, as a safe place.

And don’t be fooled because I work with animals — my dogs are not the most trained or well-behaved dogs. Thankfully, they were housebroken pretty quickly, but they bark more than I’d like (they are hound dogs), they jump up on people when they are excited to see them, and my bloodhound will dig a giant hole in my backyard if I turn my back for too long while he’s outside. I’m not perfect, and neither are they.

After the initial training is over, I leave their crate doors open for them to come and go as they please. To this day, some nights they snuggle up with me in bed and some nights they curl up in their crates — both of those scenarios make me happy.

Foster puppy from Portsmouth Humane Society working on crate training!

They rarely get closed in the crate, but if I do close them in, they are comfortable, not anxious, and I know they are safe. If a thunderstorm rolls in or if fireworks can be heard, I often find my dogs in their crates that’s where they feel protected. If I have a contractor in the house who isn’t fond of dogs, I know I can put my dogs in their crates without causing them stress.

I never use a crate as punishment. Their association with the crate should always be positive. I feed my dogs in their crate, which helps with creating a rewarding experience, especially if you have a food-motivated dog.

I have certain toys that only come out when they are in the crate, making it exciting for them. The toys I use for crate training are very durable, like a large Kong or a Nylabone, so I know they won’t destroy and swallow parts of a toy while unattended. I never use plush toys or rope bones unattended as those could easily be ingested and lead to a harmful blockage.

I’m careful to close my dogs in their crates for different scenarios so they don’t associate going into the crate with me leaving the house. So when they are being trained, they’ll periodically have crate time for 20-30 minutes at a time while I’m still home. This helps to build their independence and can help with or prevent separation anxiety — especially since many of us are home more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I will mention, I have worked with dogs that just don’t do well in a crate. Despite working with them in a positive way, the crate causes them so much anxiety that they are physically harming themselves in an attempt to escape. In my experience, this has been with dogs that have extreme separation anxiety or have a negative association with a crate from previous experiences.

Thankfully, this is not the case with most dogs, but it is something to keep in mind. If you are having issues to that extent with your dog, hopefully you are working with a behaviorist and your veterinarian on that behavior.

If your dog continues to be anxious in a wire crate, try covering half of the crate with a blanket or try using a more enclosed airline crate. For some dogs, this simple trick makes a world of difference in making them feel comfortable, so it’s worth trying if you are struggling with crate training.

Lacy Shirey is executive director of the Chesapeake Humane Society. She can be reached at


Chesapeake Humane Society on WCTV

Chesapeake Humane Society’s Executive Director, Lacy Shirey, joins WCTV to talk about two dangerous diseases pet owners need to be aware of: heartworm disease and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Plus, she shares information about a fun new cat cafe in town! Special guests George and Carob also make an appearance.

Girl Scout Council of Colonial Coast

Community Service Spotlight: Chesapeake Humane Society Giving Tree
Posted: 12-08-2020 

Girl Scouts love helping others and the holiday season is an especially busy time of year for Girl Scouts doing community service to help their community friends, including the four paw friends!

Girl Scout Brownie Troop 382 in Chesapeake, led by Carolyn Engler, decided to create a Giving Tree to support animals cared for by the Chesapeake Humane Society. The Brownies identified the need in the community to help animals. They took action to research what the animals most needed and then set about developing a plan. They contacted a nearby animal feed store in Chesapeake, Tractor Supply Co. located on Centerville Turnpike, and asked if they could place a holiday tree in the store with wish list ornaments. The answer, yes!

The girls then set about making ornaments. Each ornament is made of paper but unique in design, and each has a written item from the Chesapeake Humane Society’s wish list. The girls’ goal was to have customers and community friends pick up an ornament and then place the gifts they purchased or made under the tree.

Each week, the troop checks on the gifts and arranges a pick-up. To date, they have collected more than 100 pounds of food and items to donate!

Whether you’re out shopping or celebrating with friends and family, don’t forget your furry friends this holiday season! Check with your area animal shelters or animal services to see what they might be in need of and then take action!

Each ornament has a wish list item

Picking up donations from the tree

Loose Balloons Wreak Havoc on Environment



Animal Connections
Published by the Virginian Pilot on 12-07-2020
Written by Lacy Shirey, Chesapeake Humane Society Executive Director

The practice of releasing balloons is still considered an acceptable practice by many, but, as Sir Isaac Newton said, what goes up must come down, and the impact on the environment and wildlife can be detrimental.

Balloon releases are often done as a tribute to a loved one who has died or sometimes they’re part of a festive event or celebration, but no matter the reason, they all result in litter. This litter often ends up in our coastal areas and accumulates on shorelines. Even litter that originates far inland can make its way to the coastal region since stormwater lines and all waterways eventually lead to the coast.

A study conducted by Clean Virginia Waterways of Longwood University collected litter data from five remote beaches in Virginia from 2013 to 2017. The researchers found a total of 11,441 balloons or balloon fragments or pieces, including ribbons. Since the research areas were uninhabited and not open to the public, these findings illuminate how far litter can travel and the significant impact it has on our environment if left unchecked.

Any litter in our waterways and on our land has the potential to cause harm to wildlife; however, balloons are particularly dangerous because, in the water, they can resemble jellyfish or squid, which are food sources for marine wildlife such as sea turtles. Once ingested, balloons can cause fatal blockages, and the balloon ribbon can cause entanglement.

On land, balloons are a known problem for birds, wild horses, livestock and other species of terrestrial wildlife. In addition to ingesting balloons or balloon pieces and getting entangled in the ribbon, birds have been observed building their nests with balloon strings and balloon debris and other pieces of trash.

Virginia’s current law allows up to 49 balloons per hour to be intentionally released. But even one balloon released has the potential to harm wildlife. Strong efforts were made to change the law but ultimately were not successful in this year’s legislative session.

A bill introduced by Del. Nancy Guy (D-Virginia Beach) to ban all intentional balloon releases died in committee. Another bill by Sen. Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach), which would have reduced the number of balloons that could be intentionally released from 49 to one per hour, was continued to 2021.

We expect a strong push again in next year’s legislative session to change the law, with many organizations right here in Hampton Roads providing support. You can provide your support by contacting your local and state legislators and encouraging them to support a balloon ban.

In the meantime, choose responsible alternatives to honor a loved one or celebrate an event without doing a balloon release. Some ideas include blowing bubbles, planting a native tree or making a charitable gift in honor of your loved one.

Alternative resources and ideas can be found at, a campaign created by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and Clean Virginia Waterways of Longwood University to reduce helium balloon releases and balloon litter.


Lacy Shirey is executive director of the Chesapeake Humane Society. She can be reached at

Helping Animals and the People Who Love Them

Animal Connections
Published by the Virginian Pilot on 11-11-2018
Written by Lacy Kuller, Chesapeake Humane Society Executive Director

What an honor it is to fill in as a contributing columnist while Phyllis Stein is on hiatus to handle important family matters. I certainly have big shoes to fill!

I met Phyllis and Tony Stein in 2008. Since the 1970s, they had worked diligently to shape how our community treats and respects animals. They filled me in on the conditions of Hampton Roads animal shelters and how far we’ve come since that time. Phyllis, a wonderful storyteller, described what measures she and Tony took to make a difference, be it helping a kitten or changing legislation.

In honor of Phyllis and in memory of Tony, this column is dedicated to the area’s compassionate animal welfare providers – and to the hard work still to be done.

I have volunteered and worked in animal welfare for over 10 years now. There is still a lot to learn. It’s not just about basic animal care, although that is certainly an important component. To be successful in this field means building a team of staff and volunteers who have excellent customer-service skills and are knowledgeable in animal behavior and training, shelter medicine, fund development and marketing strategies just to name a few elements.

I’ve found that those in this field don’t just work with animals, they dedicate their lives to improving the lives of animals. When it’s time to clock out for the day, more often than not, they head home to provide around-the-clock care for a foster animal or two … or more.
Animal welfare professionals also serve the people who help animals.

Chelsea Tracy Photography

That’s done through programs that provide low-cost veterinary care and pet food pantries; match appropriate animal companions to families; instill compassion for all living things in our younger generations; and serve as an important resource when people can no longer care for their animals.

If you look at the websites for our local animal shelters, they mention people, humans and community: “…help pets and the people who love them find each other and stay together”, “…eliminating animal suffering while increasing human compassion”, “…promote the human-animal bond.”

The message, in short: In order to create a community that embraces our companion animal residents, we must work together. Shelters are dependent on support from the community, and in many ways our community is dependent on the vital, life-saving programs and services that animal welfare organizations provide.

So the next time you visit a shelter or meet someone who volunteers or works with animals, thank them for their dedication. And I thank all of you who support the good work we do and/or provide a loving home to a companion animal.

I’d love to hear what animal-related topics you would like to learn more about. Please don’t hesitate to share feedback and suggestions with me.
Lacy Kuller is executive director of the Chesapeake Humane Society. She can be reached at

Russell’s Heating and Cooling Helps CHS Prep for Storm

September 18, 2018

Chesapeake Humane Society is tremendously grateful to Russell’s Heating and cooling for helping us prepare our building for Hurricane Florence. The Russell’s crew stopped by to work on our HVAC system but was unable to complete their work due to the impending storm. Instead of getting back to business, they offered to assist with securing our building! Hurricane preparations that would have taken our staff the entire day were completed in just hours.

Thank you, Russell’s, for this kind and unexpected gesture!

While we were lucky to miss the storm, Hurricane Florence has devastated our neighbors to the south. Please join us in keeping our sister shelters and the communities they serve in your thoughts.