The Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter (PRAS) is a collaborative venture supported by four separate Hampton Roads communities: Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson, and York County. This “open-admission” shelter contains a full-service veterinary clinic for the shelter animals as well as the animal control offices. The mission at PRAS is to rehome the needy, reunite the lost and reeducate when needed.
Welcome to the ARPA Animal Shelter of the Week podcast where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.
The Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter. P R. A s, located in Virginia, opened its doors in 2015 as a collaborative venture supported by separate Hampton Roads communities. The shelters top priorities are to hold straight animals until they can be reunited with their owners. Re homeowner surrendered pets and facilitate pet adoptions. Hence their mission statement. Re home the needy. Reunite the lost and re educate when needed. Hi, Birgit. Welcome to the show. Hi. Thank you so much for having me. Of course. I’m so excited to have you here with us today and, you know, learn a little bit more about your organization. So you’re the shelter coordinator for the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter in Virginia. Is that correct? Yes. So we are located in Newport News, Virginia, but we do serve four jurisdictions in our area. Okay. Wow. So you guys work with a lot of other people and everything like that. So can you tell me a little bit about your organization and how you got started there? Sure. So we actually opened our doors january 5th of 2015. So we’re not quite five years old yet. And we took over for what the peninsula SPCA had been doing for many, many years. Probably 30 plus years. I’m taking in the public animals strays, owner surrenders Thea Animal Control Court holds. And that’s for Hampton Newport News, your county and cosign. And so the SPCA. Was finally able to become a private nonprofit facility much, much smaller in size. And we open our doors. It is a multi jurisdictional, but Newport News does kind of spearhead the facility, and we’re 30,000 square feet and we can hold up two out 300 animals in our facility on any given day, and we certainly are that fool most of the time. So you had mentioned that you guys were able to become a much smaller part of them. But you guys still serve four jurisdictions. Is that kind of like a hard thing to do? Or do you guys just find it? Just a Z Z is before the SPCA. Which is in the same city that we are. They were. I’m sure I didn’t work there when actually worked for animal control of the time. But I didn’t worker that location. So I’m sure we’re incredibly tight on space because they were so small. I know that they had to have their owner surrenders on a wait list and then they would know when they could be brought in our facility because it is so much bigger than Ayers. We don’t have a wait list. We do accept under surrender seven days a week. That does become an issue with base at sometimes. But we do have lots of rescue partners and fosters and volunteers. So we try our very hardest to get the animals out the door in a positive way. You know, it sounds like you guys have a good setup and you guys kind of know your community pretty well in the needs. So I’m kind of interested in that a little bit because I know that you have brought up that you guys except the owner surrender seventies a week. So it strikes interest in me. That that could be a common issue that you guys have within your community. Can you kind of share a little bit about that? Is that a challenge for you guys? Or how do you go about handling that with us being the upper end of what we call Hampton Roads? We are probably one of the largest, if not the largest military areas in North America between Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Newport News and then just in our small area, we have many military bases, so military deployment and moving and degree location. You know, whatever the case may be, that is probably one of our big hang ups with people having to surrender, You know, even when they’re going overseas. And I’m an army brat. So I know the military will move your animals for you. I do know there’s quarantine stipulations and you different Something have to arrange. But I’m finding more and more. And I’m sure you hear this often with pimples. They’re banned in some countries. I don’t think any military installations take them at all. That’s an issue that we have. The two military bases we have just here in our city do not accept pickles on based, so that definitely is the problem. And while we’re trying to work through with the head of military out here and then also general underserved areas not having funds to find housing that allows pets and even if they do, can they afford the pet fee, the deposits and just general, that care your general triaging vet care? A lot of people can’t for that. And so, in lieu of the animal not getting any medical attention, they’ll surrender, which is probably in the long run, the better thing for the animal, that is all programs that were eventually gonna work towards on helping people keep their animals. That’s new for me to listen to in here about because we always hear, you know, the pit bull epidemic right now is just It’s crazy. I will say it seems like it’s getting a little bit better. I find it kind of fascinating because I haven’t heard a challenge that kind of relates around the military, and it’s interesting to me because this is an issue that we hear about very often, and for me, I was not aware of stuff like this. So thank you for sharing that, and I’m happy that you guys are aware of that. So what is the community like for your organization outside of the military aspect? Are you more rule? Or do you guys have, like, a lot of overpopulation issues? We have your county and coast in which that’s a little more on the rural side, you have larger acreage homes. There tend to be a little bit higher income in those areas. We don’t see nearly as much cruelty cases or running at large animals that are brought in the strays. There are a sprinkling of handsome, like lower income areas out there, but not much when you get into Hampton New four News, there are some areas that everyone so bad. And then there’s the downtown, and that’s where you know, at least when I did animal control. Both cities now have a no tethering law, but when I was animal control, that was not the case. Those were kind of the areas that government assistance and dogs out on chain than trying to get the community to accept help, you know, and not that the dog catcher was coming to take your dog, you know, trying to get past those barriers and offer help and assistance and education. That’s probably the biggest thing is education. So it’s really a mix, and we do have a course. I would probably say about 80% of the dogs that would take them are of some sort of hit breed, the best big community based with pickles. They’re obviously very much valued. Is the community out here then you get into when we try to adopt them out a lot of like break restrictions on rentals, So that’s definitely hang up. There’s not a need for them or a want for them. We certainly have plenty of people that come in wanting people’s. It’s that challenge and herbal of getting over. Well, landlord won’t allow it with leasing office for apartment and then hunting dogs. We do have a lot of hunting is big out here, and so we do get in beagles and the walker hounds. So those were probably the biggest group, so dogs that we get in and then lots and lots of cats We’re kind of split on that, too. With our four jurisdictions. We have two jurisdictions that are okay like government winds. They are okay with the TNR and the cats being self sufficient. As long as there’s no medical care being provided on radio shots and things like that, you know you can’t just run rampant. But then Newport News in Hampton. There’s definitely a lot of challenges with the government allowing and by that any like City Council, when there’s laws and ordinances allowing tnr. So we’re starting to make some changes in a better direction. It’s just the cities have never had a government run shelter before, so everything’s new for everyone. And so now we get to kind of make things the way we would like to see it go. We’re trying to work towards that direction, and we’re getting a lot of community support with that. Whether it veterinarians are spay neuter clinics, just local council people that are huge animal rights activists to help with that because at this point we take in feral cats and a lot of shelters don’t do that and we d’oh! So a huge amount of our cat numbers are fuel pats. And so, rather than just like taking them in and taking them and, you know, it would be nice to kind of stop that cycle, and so that would be Spain Neutering. So we’re working on that issue. I kind of want to back up just a little bit because I know that you had mentioned that when you guys go and you know you’re trying to educate some of these pet owners with some of the issues, people are seeing that they are possibly either mistreating their pet or not aware of something like that. When you say that you educate them, is that a program that your shelter offers? Our shelter in South has three mission. Three home reeducate reunite. So the reeducation part is everything in lieu of animals being surrendered to our facility. Let’s say it’s a behavior problem. The dogs chewing something up, the cats spraying. So we provide education. Whether it’s written material, you know, just a phone conversation like myself are animal behavior coordinator on some tips and tricks. Have you tried this? Have you thought about taking them to the vet? We have trainers that are willing to donate their services. So we cut a field through what the needs are of that specific person in that specific animal and see what we could provide. And when I was out in the field, which animal control does work out of our facility? They are their own separate departments, but they do work in our shelter, so we work hand in hand. But when I was out in the field and they still do this, whatever I could d’oh to keep that animal in its home safely. There are certainly some situations where that animal needs to be removed 100%. But if it’s a matter of lack of education, lack of money like maybe they weren’t aware that the doghouse that they had wasn’t legal, you know things like that like they’re trying. And maybe this is a dog or hat that would not thrive. Well in a shelter may not be a great adoption candidates, at least to the average person from outsider looking in, you know, like maybe they shouldn’t own an animal is probably not. But that animal, maybe all that time has, and that person might deal and so breaking families apart with never my intention what I could do to keep everybody safe, happy, healthy and stay within the legal guidelines. And, you know, sometimes people do have a lot of pride. They don’t have a house for help. They don’t know there’s how offered. And I mean, we even have programs in our area that offer free spaying and Neutering. Oh, wow, transportation to that surfaces. I mean, there’s all kinds of stuff, but a lot of people don’t know to act, so they don’t know that those air service is that are provided. And so we offer those links on a website anybody can call us. And if I can deter people from surrendering their pet and give them other options that they didn’t know existed, you know, just like when people have financial issues with family or her kids and they know there’s churches, that they can go to food banks. I can go. Yeah, social service is, and there are surfaces like that furry animals. You just have to know where to look and what I ask. And we do have those in our area. The fact that you guys take the time to try and educate these pet owners too keep their families together because ultimately that’s what we want. And, like you said, a lot of people don’t realize the type of education that’s kind of needed. When you care for a pet, it really warms my heart to hear that you guys are really trying to make a difference in your community and the pet owners and the fact that you guys offer if somebody needs, you know, pets it for a night or something along those lines. Is that something that’s offered by you guys? Are you guys just kind of have, like affiliates that, you know, people that, like that kind of helped to pet owners? Both. So the Peninsula pet pantry, which is on when I say this side of the water. We have the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel that kind of divides the east and west of Hampton roads. So this side of the water that were located on the peninsula pet pantry offers, and it’s not just food, it might be transportation to the vet. It could be a flea and tick medication. It could be the little lady that has meals on wheels that can’t get out and get her animal where It’s so the hope with all of that and our shelter also takes and donations for the pencil a pet pantry. So if somebody comes in and let’s say in lieu of surrendering animal, they just need a couple packs of dog food. You know, we give them what we have and crates and rooming supplies coats for dogs and in pita, which their headquarters, Air National Reporters, is right on the other side of the water. They provide straw for dogs that stay outside is that’s, you know, still very legal dogs that stay outside that care. They can also provide free euthanasia service’s, which that’s the bigger needs. Then I think a lot of people know because it’s very expensive to euthanize your animal at of act at a private jet. And so there are people that need that service provided for their animal rather than letting the animal die a very terrible, painful. So Peter does offer those service is at a very discounted rate, if not free. If the folks that need it can’t afford it, and they service this whole area here, so that is a huge resource that we send to people, too, and then on the other side of the water, they have plenty of resources down there. We do get phone calls from lots of people in the area just needing how, especially if they’re local. S P C A or Humane Society does not accept owner surrenders. So they’re kind of stuck in a rut of what are they supposed to do this animal that they can no longer keep? And so even though our facility is not service their area, we certainly still give them plenty of resource is on how to help. I know that you shared a little bit of some of the challenges, but what issues you say is the top challenge for your organization. Share with me a little bit about that, I would say it fits way. We are tax funded, so we are able to meet at least are very basic needs in the shelter, which is often. But we are not a fiber one t three. So fund raising at times can be quite challenging, so we are in the process now. I think one of our volunteers just submitted paperwork to become a non profit, and so we’re gonna have a friend’s off the peninsula region animal shelter. So yeah, so we will be able to fundraise and do a lot more things in the community that folks that aren’t necessarily affiliated with shelter in a financial way can. D’oh, we’re it up with the board of People so they can kind of speak independently from the shelter but still provide a lot of support. So I think that that probably has been the biggest challenge in the last four years that we’ve been open is our fundraising is very limited. Careful on how we ask for things so you know now will be ableto branch out and so many more ways than they’ve ever been able to before and do a lot more of the community outreach, which is what I’m passionate about personally. So helping people that need our help in lieu of Just bring it to the shelter. And then now it’s the taxpayers responsibility. Thio, take care of these animals and, you know, ultimately and this is something that I had to wrap my head around an animal control. Yes, I can take that animal we from that owner. But what is stopping them from getting another? It’s just going to be this cycle. And should some people only animals 100% not, But there’s nothing stopping that from happening. So what can I make sure that if they’re going to get another one, that it’s done properly this time? And how can I better educate? And so community outreach and for writing community assistance for people And some people do get evicted or, you know, whatever the situation is. And then now they have to come up with this $300 pet deposit. That’s like they don’t have money for groceries. Yeah, we’re gonna come up with that money and these people come into our shelter. I mean, Ryan, this is not like, you know, I’m just returning my T shirt, you know, they’re crying like this is their baby. They have for 10 years or whatever, and they can’t take it because they don’t have the money. And it breaks my heart that we can’t help them with that. So we’re kind of hoping that are 501 C three can now fund raise four things like that. You know, maybe maybe they can apply, you know, And there might be some things that they have to dio maybe show income, stuff like that. But there’ll be an application process to help with things like this. So, you know, maybe there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. That sounds like it would be an amazing program for people. Because when you move in somewhere and it seems like the pet deposits are getting Maur and more expensive Oh, yes, that’s like asking somebody to pay for their kids to live there. And it’s terrible, and it is a huge issue right now. I’m excited to check in with you guys and see how you know if you guys were able to get the fiber one c three and I think that would be an awesome program for you guys to offer. So I know that you had said that you were a previous animal control officers. So clearly you’ve got some background in the animal rescue field. Do you have any type of memorable stories that you can share with us? That kind of pushed you on your journey to get the role that you’re in now? I started volunteering with my local Humane Society back Isaac 14. So that’s where I wanna grew up with the animals. So that’s where my passion it started. And then I got into course rescue. And I’ve been with, you know, humane societies, animal welfare leagues, animal control department and each job kind of lead into the next one. And so my passion was animal control in the sense of I mean, you certainly saw the worst of the worst. But the community outreach, that is where my passion is. And when I left to animal control in this city, I transferred over to a position at the shelter. We hadn’t even opened her shop. Then it was brand new, and we were going to be able to make it whenever we want it. You know, like however we wanted to be present in the community. All of us that got hired with our different backgrounds were excited to get that started. And very soon after I started in that position, my current position became vacant, and it was the media and the marketing and the community outreach, and I was like, Oh, this is that it really is the perfect marriage of all of my back round because I get to work with animal control directly and the animals that were brought in as a result of that, plus folks needing help. And then I get to see the happy side to the animal adoptions. So I do get to do both. And I am try to be judgment free you when I talk to people that need help. I mean, it’s hard, we’re humans. And, as you know, after hearing the 20th story for the day, I kind of get, you know, a little warm down with it. But I have to remember that these people are calling because they have nowhere else to go. And I might be the only person that saves the day, you know, and maybe I don’t give them the answer they were hoping for, but at least they know what I’m saying. And I will never put an animal in a situation where they get dumped on the side of the road or abandoned in an apartment that they’ve been evicted out of because people didn’t think they had an option. So I make sure I let everybody know what their options are, and it may not be the answer that we were hoping for. but at least they know what they need to. D’oh! So it just one cannibal job just kind of let into another. And I just kind of grew as I got older and got along in life was the career path. And so I’ve been able to kind of merge all of my freak. It’s jobs kind of into one. I’m happy that you can share stories like that because I feel like it kind of shows hope for other animal lovers out there that you get involved in smaller ways and then you build up from there. So thank you for sharing that with us. Oh, you’re very welcome. I do. I am very lucky that my job is my career and it is my passion. Absolutely. Do you have any type of future vision for this organization that you’re currently with? We’re still really new usual a baby. So every year we try to add to our programs and we’re still tweaking a lot of things. Like we just recently had a staff meeting and we were talking about possibly restructuring how our shelter operates with different management, taking over different programs. So we’re still trying to figure all of it out. What’s gonna work best? You know, when we first opened, I think our first year we did like 1000 adoptions. And now we’re almost doing 2500 year. Yeah, so it’s by value. We have just exploded intakes, but also in adoption. So having to manage these programs during the volunteers on board, we actually just got $100,000 grant from Petco to start up a foster program. We have been doing fosters, but not in the numbers that we need. So our grant funded position, we’re gonna be hiring a foster coordinator, that that’s what they dio on getting animals in and out of our shelter as quickly as possible and then potentially getting them a doctor from Foster so we can take more in, have a lot more positive outcomes. And, you know, some of these animals don’t show Well, yeah, in the shelter environment. And that alone is the reason they’re not getting adopted because their breed or their age or their behavior, because they could be amazing in a home. But you put him in a scary kennel and act a certain way totally different. Yep, it’s a deterrent for people and then, like checking that box. It’s like they’re a pit bull, and now they act like this in the kennel, and this isn’t this. So a lot of people just kind of pass over them. So if we can put them in a home environment and showcase them what they look like in a home with a family, it’s gonna The album’s gonna be completely different, and that’s gonna be happening very sick. So that’s probably the newest thing that we have going on. And then I’m always running. Our adoption promotions are events, and community connections were always partying with other city departments. We have a huge police departments were fantastic with, um, and so we’re always like How do we make it work for both of us and getting more eyes on our animals? I am always having group’s reach out. How can they help him? And one of our local pinup groups, called the hepcat honeys. They do a lot of like our vintage car shows around here, like they dress up in their little yeah, here and they go out. So they asked, How could they help the shelter? And so They came and did a photo shoot of our animals and made a calendar, and they asked me to be in it. I was super excited. I miss November, and so they donated their time. Their service is, and so we finally got those Turn it off and they’re 2020 calendars and all the proceeds go right back to the shelter. So you see, I mean, it was so cool. Toe have always have, like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. And, you know, we have like these on schools. They’re always wanting to partner. But it’s really cool when somebody thinks outside the box. So how can they help? And so we have been getting a lot more a musician asked about featuring our shelter in a music video. We get all kinds of really neat request, and so little by little, we’re starting to get out there and even get like, nationally known. We get phone calls from other states. We have people from Canada reach out. How come the adopt? So it’s kind of cool that is so awesome to hear because I literally, like you said, like a pinup calendar typing, and you don’t hear about stuff like that. So that is really me. And I think that that helps you guys stand out in a unique way. We have things in the works right now for potentially a drag show. You need trained dogs. I’m like, you know, I’m trying to get in with every community with how can we get people from certain aspects of our community trawl them into gender? And so we’re thinking drag show. We do have a very strong LGBT Q community out here too. So we’d love to get them involved with the shelter. Yeah, I think that that would be a perfect way to do that. So I’m curious. When I was scrolling through rises Facebook a little bit. I clearly see you guys have dogs. You have cats I saw in there that you guys have fish and also a duck is Well, what kind of animals do you guys take it over there? Oh, my goodness. So everything that way we don’t turn anybody away. So if we couldn’t make it work with Dio, we don’t accept wildlife. Although in extreme circumstances we have taken them in. But we do have wildlife free Havers. Of course the vet and our park rangers. In the localities, you handle wildlife. If somebody brings him Alan, let’s table that was hit by a car, something we will also taking it. But we take in farm animals with goats, pheasants and turkeys, and I have the list goes so many bizarre things that you would ever think. And then the fish thing. We don’t normally take fish like over the counter. We don’t take fishing. However, if animal control has to, Dio lets a conviction or some sort of, you know, somebody was arrested and they have to go in and take the animals the fish come to. So that’s usually how we end up with fish and then horny. He’s is that is another one. Usually all the animals were removed in the home, so it could be 80 rats. It could be a sub side from cats and dogs. We’ve taken in lots and lots of rats mice, and I think that is just really uncontrolled breeding iguanas, all kinds of reptiles. Unfortunately, if you can buy in a pet store or online, you know, eventually it’s probably gonna come in. But we do get like, really cool things like ferrets. And that’s sugar lighter. Yeah, eso isn’t like a jack of all trades over there with all the animals that baffles me. Can you guys entertain such a variety of pets over there? Well, the neat thing is, and I will have to say every single staff member that we have Although we have a lot in common, we all have very different backgrounds. Quite a few of our staff have zoo background, so that has helped a lot with some of our exotics. A couple of our staff actually have, like, degrees in different, like biology, zoology, reptile. So we seem like to always have somebody in the building who is well versed on whatever it is that we may have. Farm animals are kind of my saying, Like I said, I did horse rescue for a long time, so I’m very comfortable with that. Aside from dogs and cats, reptiles not my thing. We’ve had, like, bird what I would consider a bird expert. But for us, and then our veterinarian has a slew of critters at home, including some exotic. So she’s well schooled in the care. So we seem to make it work. we have taken in some very bizarre animals that almost immediately went to some sort of rescue or education because they weren’t gonna be good. Adoption animals actually organization out here called Viper, and they do a lot of public education with reptiles and exotic. So we can’t always seem to have some sort of resource around here that we’re able to reach out to. We have the Virginia Living Museum and then Virginia Zoo here as well, too. So we were really lucky that way to have a lot of resource is for help Before we wrap things up a little bit, how can one go about getting in touch with your organization? Whether Izzy to adopt or to volunteer, what do they need to know about getting in contact with you guys are wet sign in insula animal shelter comb. IEDs do run that site, and I keep it up. Two dates is possible. Vikander’s clickable Lee. There’s all kinds of ways to get in touch with us, whether it’s phone number email. I do also run our Facebook page, and I’m usually the one that answers that Facebook messages so you can certainly get ahold of organization that way, and then our phone number is 757933 89 100. And then there’s a phone tree to get you where you need to go from there, and we are open seven days a week from 8 to 5 for folks to look for their lost animal. Turn an animal in. We’ll bring the straight and they have found. And then our adoption hours were open every day. But Tuesday so six out of seven days were open for adoptions from noon to five, and we’re always keeping our doors open. You know, like if we’re going to take them in as often as we are, we have is amounts often, and we’re always willing to help me somebody if somebody just really needs help with whatever the animal problem is. Of course, we can’t offer that met home help because we’re not vegetarians, but we can certainly help point people in the right direction. But there’s always somebody in our building that as well schooled and whatever the issue is and help, and I think a lot of people they just need someone to talk to and not feel judged, don’t want over The problem is a lot of the issues that I think people run into our financial, and that’s embarrassing for a lot of animal and especially they don’t want to feel like they’re doing the wrong. We want them to bring their animal to us. We want them to ask for help, and so I don’t want people to ever feel like that’s not an option for them. We know how tough it is, and I think a lot of us in the animal field have been there. I didn’t make the smartest decisions when I was younger with, you know, it’ll be an Aston No looking back. I’m like I did some knucklehead things, you know, back in the day and knowing what I know now, you can’t judge people for things they did. Yeah, it’s a learning process to Yeah, there’s ignorant centers education and you know, some people just don’t know and they need help now. So anybody is welcome to call and ask questions or ask for help or how we can help them, and they don’t even have to live in the four cities we serve now. They do have to live in the four cities for us to take her animal guess, but they don’t have to for help. We can certainly or even get them in touch with whoever’s in there. Look, house, You know, maybe we know who to ask or where to look to get them. The whole thing, you It’s amazing that you guys are even willing to offer that, you know, even know these people may not be in your community or anything like that. The fact that you guys were still willing to help them truly makes you guys stand out and it makes you guys unique and especially you. I can tell you have a passion for helping people and helping animals. And I thank you for that. And I think that you are gonna go very far. I think you already have. I would love to check back in with you in a few months and see how you’re doing. Absolutely. That would be wonderful. I would love to see how far we are able to with things and how fast we can get the ball rolling in. That because we all have a lot of great ideas, were ready to get off the ground. Yeah, I would say so. So, Bridget, is there anything else that you’d like to share before we wrap things up? Just follow our baseball page very active and anything that who we knew with us or how we are in the community. It’s going to be on there, so definitely follow our business. Alrighty. Well, our listeners heard that, and we look forward to connecting with you in the future. All right, thank you so much. I really appreciate you looking into our animal shelter and hoping, of course, thank you for joining me.
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