Regional animal welfare group starting up
Warm Springs, VA – Representatives from animal welfare groups in Pocahontas, Bath and Highland counties held a conference on May 12 to discuss the feasibility of a regional organization. The result of the conference was a decision to move forward with creation of a tri-county coalition.
The idea was the brainchild of Jean Von Shilling, of Warm Springs, founding member of the Bath Animal Welfare Foundation, the BAWF. In 2001, Von Shilling and a group of friends held a yard sale to raise funds for animal welfare efforts. The group became the BAWF, which created an adoption program for homeless dogs that has virtually eliminated the need for euthanasia of adoptable dogs in Bath County.
During opening remarks, Von Shilling tells the group that a new organization could succeed, if the assembly decided if it was in the best interest of animals.
“As we come down to what we want to do, and we do decide that it is going to be in the best interests of the animals, then we will figure out how we do it,’ she said. “That is another step in the process. But it isn’t that we can’t do it – we can do it and we are able to do it. It’s just a matter of getting it organized and doing it.”
The representatives considered whether a multi-county coalition would help, or compete with, smaller, local groups. Karen Brower, with the Highland SPCA, says a coalition should play a different role than local groups.
“I’d like to see a regional group be more of a supportive group, rather than doing the same things we’re doing,” she said.
Dorothy Terry, of Monterey, says animal welfare groups in Jacksonville, Florida formed a coalition that helped raise more money than the various groups acting separately.
“They then looked into the community at all the organizations that were trying to do the same thing,” she said. “They formed a coalition. They used that coalition to apply for grants. They used that coalition to seek funding in all different kinds of ways. Different portions of that coalition support different functions.”
Sherry Turner, with the Pocahontas County Humane Society, said her local group was too small to obtain larger grants and that a coalition offered exciting potential to gain strength, and money, in numbers.
The group decided to organize a multi-county coalition to be governed by an elected board of directors.
The group will meet in Highland County in June, during which it will choose a name and elect a founding board of directors. A third meeting will be held in Pocahontas County in July, when members will elect a regular board and draft bylaws. Anyone interested in joining or serving as a board member for a regional animal welfare coalition should contact Jean Von Shilling at 540-839-8666 or Geoff Hamill at 304-799-2637.