New animal shelter faces ‘no kill’ push

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – A new animal shelter in Newport News is set to open this summer because the SPCA said it needed to change the way it’s doing business.

The Peninsula SPCA has been in a contractual agreement for decades with the cities of Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson and York County. It required them to euthanize animals against their fundamental principles, but in accordance with state law. So their decision in 2010 to stick to their guns and become a no-kill shelter lead to one solution — a new shelter had to be built and the concerns for the lives of animals would end up there.

They’re down to the finishing touches, things like painting and lighting, at the 30,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter that should be open by mid-July. It’s been years in the making and causing a stir from the start.

“The city leaders would have much more enthusiasm from the community if they step up and step out and declare what their goals are to the community and are completely transparent about that,” said Debra Griggs, President of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies.

On Wednesday, Michael Poplawski, who’s the Newport News Director of Parks and Recreation, began that conversation.

“We may not ever make the numbers to qualify as a guaranteed adoption facility, but we’re sure going to work toward that goal,” Poplawski said. “The four jurisdictions were very clear that the philosophy would be employing euthanasia only as a final resort, where all other options fail.”

Guaranteed adoption or “no-kill” facilities put a cap on the number of animals that can be put down: 10 percent. The Peninsula SPCA that has always done business with several municipalities has seen that number stay at about 50 percent or more, and realized something had to change.

So, they decided to give up nearly $1 million in revenue a month and let the cities they’ve worked with know that they needed to work out a plan of their own. That plan is still coming to fruition. Poplawski said they’ve invested $7 million in the new facility, $2 million of which has adoptions in mind.

“It’s an adoption friendly shelter as opposed to a more traditional shelter, where people may come in and find an animal they can adopt, but for the most part the vast majority of animals may be euthanized,” Poplawski said.

He said their goals are going to be very similar to a no-kill or guaranteed adoption shelter without the hard fast percentage. But that’s the issue that’s still not sitting quite right.

“Their absence of any declaration causes us to wonder,” Griggs said.

Griggs said there are 10 jurisdictions in Virginia that are open admission facilities, like the one in Newport News, taking in all animals and they’re saving over 90 percent of the animals. She said since it’s being done elsewhere, and leaders need to look at those other communities and replicate what they’re doing.

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