November 1, 2013

Welcome Friends

Hi Lisa-
While I have you up on e-mail... Just a gee wiz question??
I was under the impression you all provided services only to patients who were spayed or neutered as this was part of you mission.  I have noticed several times recently that we have shared patients who are receiving your services that are intact and some of them actively breeding their dogs.  Just curious if your policy or mission have changed.

I received the above email earlier this evening from a local Veterinary clinic that we communicate with often. We're always open to questions and suggestions, and here's the answer to this one.

Our main mission has always been low cost, easy access, spay and neuter services. It was where we started back in 2001, when over 9,000 homeless animals were being killed in Roanoke each year. Since then, Angels of Assisi has performed over 82,000 sterilization surgeries on dogs and cats, and last year, the number of animals who lost their lives at our local pound was 1,718. Still too many, but we are making progress.

When the Angels of Assisi wellness clinic opened several years ago, only animals who were already fixed were allowed. However, as we learned more about the process and embraced the needs of our community, we realized that if we welcomed people in who did not have their pets altered, it gave us a tremendous opportunity to talk to them about the benefits of spay and neuter- for the health of their pets, and for the health of our community.

Offering low cost wellness services to unaltered pets is also a good way to ensure that these animals receive preventative health care. Many of the family pets we treat would never make it to a full service vet clinic. By taking away some of the barriers, these dogs and cats are able to be examined by a Veterinarian, receive their vaccinations, remain healthier, and with an ultimate of goal of being sterilized. It usually works.

Although not widely known, we also have a pet food pantry and give out bags of food to needy individuals. A young guy arrived last week, and needed puppy food for his mama dog and 3 week old puppies. I could feel the tension in the room when he told us that they were pit bulls, the number one type of homeless dog killed in Roanoke. Instead of chastising him, we readily gave him the food, and talked nice and easy about the health needs of his puppies and the importance of bringing them in for their shots. He may or may not have had a plan for his dogs, but he left with a little more knowledge, and was open to it. He'll be back for more food, and we'll have continued, nice and easy conversations about getting the puppies into good homes, updated on shots and fixed, and also about getting his mama dog spayed.  If we had nailed him with euthanasia stats and the how dare you attitude, he would not have returned.

Most of our clients are Average Joe people, and most of their animals are sterilized. For those seen in the wellness clinic who are not, we lower the barriers for them to come back, both financially and by having them feel comfortable with our staff and services, along with the most important aspect of educating about the benefits of having their pets spayed or neutered. Not pointing fingers, but sharing our expertise. An over-riding expectation of the Angels of Assisi staff is that people need to feel safe when they enter our building- both for the physical needs of their animals, and the emotional needs of the people.

Angels of Assisi does not want to be the rescue who judges and shakes our fists over the irresponsible public. We want people to come, use our services, and leave with an open mind, a bigger picture, and a positive experience on what animal rescue is. They may have had an unplanned litter of kittens, let's make it easy for it not to happen again. If we pound them into the ground when accidental things happen, why in the hell would they ever want to come back? If animals are bred without planning, or to make a quick buck, we will offer alternatives and solutions while they are being seen in our clinic.

Our goal is to make wellness visits, spay/neuter, and adoption a no brainer, positive, everyday part of life.

Finally, my personal position on breeding: I believe there are such things as responsible breeders in the world. These are the folks who take complete responsibility for the lines and health of their animals, who do not have litter after litter, and who have a lifetime commitment to the lives they have helped bring into the world. These people are not our enemies. and we have found over and over again that they will help us with breed specific foster needs and breed specific medical cases. Think about it... if the truly responsible breeders and the rescue groups, instead of fighting each other, joined forces, what a powerful team we could be against the backyard breeders and puppy mills who are the cause of so much heartbreak.

We have many battles to fight in the animal welfare arena, but they are not with the people who enter our building. To those who come to us for help, we will do our best to keep your animals safe, and show you, to the best of our knowledge, how to do it. The path to a healthier community for our animals is not by putting up barriers, but by taking them down.

For more information, please join us for 
Behind the Scenes Day on November 9th. We are looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones, and will welcome your input and stories as we share ours.

With much admiration and respect for all who support the animals with open minds and generous hearts-



  1. well said Lisa!!!! again making me so proud to be friends with and support Angels!!

  2. Outstanding!