Blog / Lifestyle

Suffolk Humane Society: A Pet Cause Close to My Heart

Margie Wiley at the Suffolk Humane Society

If you’ve been to my Freedom Street Partners office, you’ve probably met Audie. My rescue dog has been my shadow since he was 10-weeks-old. I adore him even if prefers to sleep up against my husband rather than me in our bed.

I’ve loved companion animals all of my life, and I think Audie knows he’s one lucky dog. But not all of them are — one reason why giving back through the Suffolk Humane Society is a pet cause close to my heart.

Kerri Shallcross is the executive director, and this will tell you all you need to know about her heart. Last July when she was handed a flea-infested emaciated puppy that a veterinarian gave a 0% chance to live, she took her home. She fed her a syringe of water every 15 minutes for 48 hours before transitioning to food.

Today that dog, a thriving 55-pound pit mix named Hope, is a candidate to be a therapy dog. Kerri has fostered 35 dogs. Hope is the 36th. The sign on her desk reads, “Home is where the dog is.”

Margie Wiley and her adopted dog Audie at the Suffolk Humane Society

The truth is Kerri and Suffolk Humane give hope to animals in need every day of the week.

Suffolk Humane doesn’t have the space to house dogs, so it’s largely cats who make their temporary home in the Kings Fork road facility that sits on three acres. Maybe you read about the shelters being emptied during the pandemic, when so many people adopted a dog or cat for company. Suffolk Humane adopted out 681 animals in 2020 — up from more than 100 from 2019. They adopted out 60 this past April alone.

Even with adoptions being up, 2020 was a painful year.

Suffolk Humane doesn’t receive any funding from the government. Kerri has to fight that misperception often all the time. Everything is donation-based, and both of the traditional fundraising events, Mutt Strut and Paws for the Arts, weren’t held last year due to the pandemic. That’s $65,000 in revenue lost.

Suffolk Humane makes it work despite only two staff members. They rely on volunteers — in fact, Suffolk Humane was conceived by volunteers in 2007 — and they could always use more.

My role is behind the scenes. I help with events and work with Kerri to find grants that can bring in additional funding.  We partner with other local organizations such as the Suffolk Foundation, which handles our endowment and I serve as a liaison with them.

The Suffolk Humane vision is so simple that it’s only one sentence: to foster a passionate, educated community of responsible guardians for companion animals. The mission encourages adoption and foster program and offers affordable and accessible spay and neuter programs to prevent overpopulation.

Kerri’s reward is watching the animals go home with their new families. She shares those moments with me, and creating more of them is important to both of us.

Anybody who knows me understands that I value investing time and money to improve your own community. I choose causes that align with my passions carefully. Suffolk Humane is at the top of my list.

I was raised to be comfortable around animals, but not all children are. I’m hopeful that Suffolk Humane can help with that. If we can better educate children who interact with their pet about the right way to do it — standing on a dog, for example, is never OK — we can prevent many families from having to rehome animals. Education is KEY!

I believe all of us benefit from a connection with animals.  It is why Suffolk Humane worked so hard a few years back with City Council to outlaw tethering in our city.  This is the act of having an animal tied up all day and night outside, usually with limited access to food, water or shelter. Since then, many other cities in Virginia have followed suite.

The Suffolk Humane Society continues to need resources to make progress on a wish list of sorts. They’d like an outdoor run for dogs so they wouldn’t have to rely solely on a foster program. They’re finishing up a small indoor space that will house sick animals so they don’t infect the others.

I’ll do my part to bring that wish list to fruition. Companion animals are lifelong friends. The best part of my day is my morning and evening walk with Audie.  It’s time I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I could say something similar about the Suffolk Humane Society. Volunteering on their behalf is time well spent. It’s a cause I believe in, I support and I encourage others to discover. Whether you can foster or be a volunteer, attend Mutt Strut this fall or find a way to make a donation, I promise you the funds will be put to very good use. Even small ways can make a big difference, whether it’s raising money from a lemonade stand or cutting coupons for pet supplies and dropping them off at Suffolk Humane.

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. – St. Francis of Assisi.

Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Suffolk Humane Society.