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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.