Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

The Chesapeake Humane Society Story


Strengthening the human-animal bond by serving homeless and underserved animals

by Rob Lauer

Executive Director Lacy Shirey

Executive Director Lacy Shirey

In 1972, Chesapeake resident Phyllis Stein witnessed a kitten being thrown from a car. Horrified by the cruelty of the act, she hurried to the poor animal's rescue and then began investigating what city resources were available to help homeless, abused, and neglected animals. Convinced that such services were at that time woefully inadequate, she became a passionate vocal advocate for better resources. Her efforts led, later that year, to the founding of the Chesapeake Humane Society-a non-profit organization that does not receive government subsidies but is funded by private donors. The Society supports the homeless and underserved animals of Chesapeake by providing low-cost veterinary services, operating a shelter for dogs, cats, and small animals, and serving on the Chesapeake Animal Services Advisory Board.

"Our mission is to do what we can to strengthen the human-animal bond and keep pets with their people because we believe they're stronger together," Executive Director Lacy Shirey says.

For most of her life, Lacy has enjoyed that bond with animals. "I grew up with animals and studied biology in college," she explains. "As a college student, I worked at the Virginia Living Museum. Later, I owned a small business, but in 2012, I sold my company and filled in as the Humane Society's interim executive director. I was able to bring the skills I developed as a small business owner and my experiences with animals to the Humane Society's mission, but the most amazing aspect of this job has been witnessing the dedication of the staff, how hard they all work caring for the animals, and how much they enjoy that work. We all love what we do. When I came on board in 2012, the annual budget was less than half a million; now, it is 1.3 million. I've enjoyed helping to grow the organization and adding programs and services that meet the needs of our community."

"We're now celebrating 50 years of service," Lacy continues. "Originally, the Society was volunteer-run by the board of directors, who were very involved in all aspects of its operation. Then in 2008, we opened our veterinary clinic on Battlefield Boulevard, and paid staff was brought on. Our vet clinic offers spay and neuter surgery, dentals, vaccines, and flea, tick, and heartworm prevention to anyone. Soft tissue surgeries are offered based on financial need. It's vital that animals in the community receive the medical care they need. The COVID pandemic led to understaffing shortages in many veterinary practices, including emergency services. Often there are still long wait times, even for emergency procedures. Our staff didn't stop working at any time during the pandemic. They were there for families who couldn't otherwise afford veterinary services."

" Recently, the Chesapeake Humane Society
expanded its operations into a second location...
With that addition has come
a new program: crisis boarding
... temporary boarding for pets
of people undergoing a crisis."

Recently, the Chesapeake Humane Society expanded its operations into a second location. A new shelter opened earlier this year on New Mill Drive, just off Cedar Road. With that addition has come a new program: crisis boarding. This program-the largest such in Hampton Roads-provides temporary boarding for pets of people undergoing a crisis, such as losing their home, medical emergencies, or leaving domestic violence.

"We also have a foster home program," Lacy explains, "which is vital because some pets have needs that can't be met fully in a kennel setting. Such pets include puppies and kitties who are very young and need to learn socialization, as well as animals who have undergone surgery and need a home in which they can recover for a few weeks. To those who volunteer to foster an animal, we provide all the food, medical care and supplies-everything they would need to care for the animals. What these voluntary 'foster parents' supply is the care and the love. Our volunteer program has just reopened after closing because of the COVID pandemic. We've revamped our program to now include online training in addition to hands-on experience for volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering can visit our website to find more information and apply."

"We also have a pet pantry program," Lacy says, "so people experiencing hard times don't have to choose between feeding themselves or their pets. We have had people come to us saying, 'Last week I had to decide whether to buy food for myself or my pet.' The comfort we find in a pet is so important when we're going through difficult times, so this program has helped many people preserve that bond with their animals. We partner with companies that provide food for our pantry, and we have volunteers who pick up the food. We also accept food donations from individuals. All donated food must be unopened and still within its expiration date."

"One thing that makes the Chesapeake Humane Society unique from other area shelters," Lacy points out, "is that we do not accept stray animals or owner surrenders of pets. We transfer animals from other municipal shelters that need help or are looking for homes, but we rarely take transfers from other parts of the country so that we can focus on animals here in Hampton Roads. We have a medical fund program for animals in our shelter that people can donate to. This fund is essential in caring for our shelter animals; it covers the costs of medical services such as heartworm treatments, which is a long process and very expensive.

"We give our shelter animals the best care we can," Lacy continues. "They get walks twice a day. We have play groups so that we can observe how they interact with one another. When it comes to adoptions, having this information helps us determine what type of home and family would be a good match for each animal. If someone is looking for a pet, our shelter staff knows each animal, and can help guide an adopter to find the best fit for their family."

Whether one is looking to adopt a pet, foster an animal in need, volunteer, or make a donation, the Chesapeake Humane Society invites everyone who loves animals to contact them and put their love into action.

Chesapeake Humane Society

123 Battlefield Blvd. S.
Chesapeake, VA 23322