Humane Society Marks 50 Years of Helping Loudoun Strays

Winston S. Churchill’s tribute to the pilots of the Battle of Britain in World War II that “never has so much been owed by so many to so few” could be applied to the mistreated cats and dogs cared for by the volunteers of the Humane Society of Loudoun County throughout the past 50 years.

In 1966, three individuals formed the society to seek out and tend to lost and abused cats and, later, dogs, of Loudoun and to find loving homes for them. On July 29, 1966, Ross L. Wagar of Hamilton, W. Scott Mahoney of Waterford and Rebbie DeButts of Leesburg formally filed Articles of Incorporation with the state, ushering in a half century of selfless animal care that continues to astound.

Former president Cindy Mellott recalled her time with the society. She started volunteering about 25 years ago, became a board member in 1994-1995 and served as president in 2000-2001.

“I loved every minute of it,” Mellott said in a recent interview, calling the society a “much needed organization.”

She said she was proud of how the nonprofit has increased its efforts in recent years.

“We tried some of those things, but the community wasn’t ready. You have to wait and bide one’s time,” she said.

Kathy Brice has been president three times, between 2003 through 2010 and a volunteer since 1999. “I wanted to do something for the community and I’ve always loved animals,” she said.

She noted the organization has expanded efforts to include more dogs to foster and adopt and there are more events and more fundraising. It’s always been somewhat up and down for the nonprofit, which at most times numbers between 20 and 25 volunteers and maybe five board members.

Brice recalled that for many years the revenue from Virginia’s animal license plates always went to the animal shelter. “But we made a plea and called the county on that, back in about 2008-09,” she said. “So they put it out to bid and we were able to use that money for about five years.” The money needed to be used by somebody, Brice said. “It was about $35,000 and it was just sitting there—we pushed to make it happen.”

Juanita Easton has been with the nonprofit since 2001. Since then she served in a number of board and volunteer positions, before stepping up to the presidency in March.

She is proud of the organization’s independent stance and its no-kill philosophy. The society takes in animals from a high-kill shelter in southern Virginia and finds foster and then permanent homes for them.

Dogs do not stay long in foster homes.

“People in Loudoun are dog hungry,” Easton said, laughing. And, at a recent adoption event at the Loudoun County Animal Shelter, “everyone of the nine cats were adopted.”

“We are and have always been an all-volunteer, no-kill, foster-based organization funded only through donations and grants,” she stated.

Another big program is trapping, spaying and neutering wild cats before finding them new homes. “They breed twice a year—you can get 150 cats in three years,” Easton said. “We and others are working hard to limit those numbers.”

Longtime volunteer Laura Lieberman recalled helping to feed a feral cat colony that used to live outside at the east Leesburg shopping center and would came out at night for feeding. “We also fed a colony behind the Leesburg Outlet Mall in its early days,” Lieberman said, who also has helped address Lovettsville’s large feral cat population.

While many people want to work directly with animals, board volunteers are also needed to plan, organize and direct the operation, Easton said.

The organization is totally funded by donations. “We do a lot of fundraisers, as well as direct mail solicitation,” Easton said, adding “people are very generous.” Veterinarians also help out with care costs, particularly for those who cannot afford to pay much.

Leesburg resident and former president Michelle Zebrowski has volunteered with the society for about eight years. She helps out with donor relations and increasing the donor base through direct mail campaigns and grants. Her biggest focus is on the low-cost spay-neuter program.

“It’s always been my view that the Humane Society should focus on filling that gap. Tons of people are doing rescue, but my aim is to go to the source so unwanted animals aren’t being born,” she said.

Last year, volunteers found homes for more than 100 kittens, cats, dogs and puppies; provided its Trap-Neuter and Release program for more than 200 cats and kittens; helped provide more than 10,000 pounds of pet food for the Loudoun Pet Pantry; and conducted low-cost spay/neuter programs for more than 400 Loudoun pets.

Easton said a Feb. 22 kick-off party is planned at Ristorante Palio in Leesburg to announce a year-long roster of birthday bash events.

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