Southside SPCA — Where Best Friends Meet

The Southside SPCA is a place where best friends meet — and volunteers and volunteer programs make it happen.

“Mondays are always busy at the shelter,” Volunteer Coordinator Carolyn Hudson explains as she towel-dries a medium-sized brown and white dog with floppy ears and soft brown eyes. “This is Awful Arthur — he just came in from animal control — and he smelled awful,” Hudson chuckles. “We had to give him a really good bath.”

After receiving a vaccination, Arthur, who has settled comfortably into his new caregiver’s arms, is carried to the kennel to meet the other dogs waiting for adoption. In the kennel each dog has a roomy space equipped with dog-sized cot, blanket and a few dog toys. Several volunteers are also on duty, making sure the dogs’ spaces are clean and comfortable.

Resident dogs, as well as cats in their own room down the hall, have “all the comforts of home” with one exception — they need a home. This SPCA is dedicated to finding “forever” homes for every dog and cat that comes through the door.

“Of the 1,102 animals that we rescued in 2016, 1,049 were adopted into good homes or were transferred to other non-euthanizing organizations,” Fundraising Coordinator Steve Smelcer says. “Those still with us will remain in our care until good homes can be found.”

Smelcer started volunteering with the SPCA six years ago.

“My wife Mary has a hair salon, and I had an idea to hold a fundraiser there for the SPCA,” Smelcer says. “That was our first Holiday Donation Drive.”

Smelcer was asked to join the SPCA’s newly-formed COOLE, Committee on Outreach and Local Events, and he’s been volunteering ever since. He organizes SPCA fundraisers such as the recent “Third Thursday Wine Down with the Southside SPCA” at the Virginia Tasting Cellar and “Bark around the Park” at a Longwood baseball game.

Southside SPCA programs include:

  • Homebound Hounds that transports approximately 30-45 puppies to Massachusetts for adoption twice a month
  • Pen Pals/Fetch A Cure that partners selected inmates at Virginia prisons with SPCA dogs for training to make them more adoptable
  • ADOPT (Adult Dogs Offered Professional Training) — a program placing difficult-to-adopt dogs in training
  • PAWS animal sponsorship program
  • The Pet of the Month featured in local newspapers

The SPCA also offers a free spay/neuter program. The Southside SPCA serves 12 counties: Amelia, Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward.

Recently the Southside SPCA expanded its adoption programs, held every Saturday, to the Richmond area. Dogs and cats are transported to the Pet Smart in Midlothian for adoption events. A second location for cat adoptions was also added in Mechanicsville.

Volunteers and volunteer programs have always played an important role in the Southside SPCA. Sandy Wyatt, current director, started volunteering over 25 years ago. Money and volunteers were scarce in those days, but Wyatt never wavered in her devotion to the homeless, neglected and abused animals of Southside Virginia. She kept the Southside SPCA going even when it appeared at times that it would not survive. Wyatt also helped develop contacts with the local veterinary clinics that currently provide services at discounts or at no charge and help reduce the surplus of unwanted pets through the SPCA’s free spay/neuter program.

Audrey Sullivan, owner of Red Door 104 Art School and Studio, recently got on board as well. She recently hosted her third paint party to benefit the SPCA. “Steve Smelcer walked in one day, and we started talking,” Sullivan says. “I suggested we have a ‘Paint Your Pet’ party.”

The first two paint parties, which were sold out, netted $1,800 for the SPCA.

“It’s a little thing, but it’s something I can do to help,” Sullivan said. “When it comes to animals — especially homeless animals — there’s really nothing I wouldn’t do for them.”

Smelcer expressed a similar sentiment.

“Volunteering for the SPCA is my way of giving back to the community,” he says. “We want all our animals to find good homes.”

Walking through the dog kennel and cat room, it’s easy to see that best friends come in all shapes and sizes. The Southside SPCA is ready and waiting to make introductions.

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