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Is it time for a new animal-welfare organization in Suffolk?

Does Suffolk need a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals?

More than 30 residents, who gathered at the Suffolk Animal Shelter Wednesday evening, believe it does.

The informational meeting, facilitated by Sharon Q. Adams, executive director of the Virginia Beach SPCA, was held so interested residents could learn more about establishing, funding and running such an operation. Adams also gave those in attendance an opportunity to tour the VBSPCA’s latest acquisition, the Neuter Scooter, a specially equipped mobile spay and neuter bus.

Adams said while the city’s animal control unit does an exemplary job, their efforts are all geared toward enforcing the laws of the city, leaving many areas of animal welfare untouched. Those include the education of both the residents and animals, putting together a spay-and-neuter program and focusing on adoption rather than destruction of the animals in the shelter.

She told the audience that to have an SPCA all they have to do is ask themselves, “What do you want to do (for the animals); what are your goals?”

“This is perfectly doable,” she said, telling the audience the story of the VBSPCA and how it came to be. “You just have to decide what it is you want to do.”

Adams offered some data on the numbers of animals, both domestic and wild, that are taken into shelters across Hampton Roads, a figure that exceeds 37,000 each year.

And she spoke on the importance of being able to find homes for as many of those animals as possible.

“I don’t want to see animals euthanized anywhere if they are adoptable,” she said. “I think it’s right for this kind of thing to happen (in Suffolk).”

She said there needs to be an organization that is more than a policing agency, one that is an advocate for the animals. And that’s what the SPCA, humane society, or whatever the organizers want to call it, can be.

When asked how they should start, Adams said by first deciding what they want to do and then acting on that. Other things, such as fundraising and eventually securing a building will come later.

“You also need to change attitudes, to change people’s perceptions,” she said. “These other things may not be as sexy as a building, but they are just as important.”

She even suggested the group could join with the existing animal control facility, perhaps sharing their facility and other resources while building their own foundation.

Each of the attendees was given a survey, asking such questions as why they attended, what kind of humane organization do they want to have, what are the issues and problems surrounding animal welfare in Suffolk, and what do they believe to be the most important animal welfare or protection issue in the city?

Once completed, they will be forwarded to Adams and the data will be compiled for later distribution.

Then, she said, the group should begin to meet on their own to talk about their future.

“We’ll assist you in every way we can,” she said, offering the experience and expertise of her organization. “But we can’t make it happen in your community. Only you can do that.”

For more information on this plan, or to find out when the next meeting will be, contact Adams at 427-0070, Ext. 12, or email her at executivedirector@vbspca.com. That agency’s Web site is www.vbspca.com.

doug.grant@suffolknewsherald.com