HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE: 6/27/17
A passionate crowd gathered tonight at Harrisonburg City Council to share their frustrations over the local SPCA.
Community members and the local group Advocates for Valley Animals asked council to consider Anicira Veterinary Center as the city's primary shelter for its no-kill policy, instead of the Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA.
The group wore white to symbolize the animals they believe were unfairly euthanized by the RHSPCA.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, both sides of the aisle spoke.
Former employees of the RHSPCA and community members said Anicira Veterinary Center meets the community's standards for animal care.
However, RHSPCA says they will continue to serve the same way in spite of the opposition.
"I hope they can see the community is very concerned about euthanasia here locally. And they can see that people do want better outcomes for animals in our community," said Melinda Csee with the Advocates for Valley Animals.
"We've had a great outpouring of support, said the RHSPCA's adoption and rescue coordinator Jo Benjamin. "We've actually increased in our fosters and we've got more rescue groups that we're adding all the time."
The RHSPCA says they are eager to work together with other local rescue groups for the sake of the animals.
Anicira Veterinary Center has already submitted a proposal to council about becoming the city's primary animal shelter, but council can choose to not accept it.
Council member Chris Jones invited both parties to present their sides to council in two weeks during the regular meeting.
A local group plans to speak at the Harrisonburg City Council Tuesday evening to push for change in how the city shelters animals.
The Rally for Rescue is happening at 6:30 p.m. outside of city hall.
The event is being organized by Advocates for Valley Animals. This local group stands behind Anicira Veterinary Center's plan to take the place of the Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA as the primary shelter for the area.
Just last month, Anicira submitted a proposal to the city for animal sheltering services. That was the second time since 2010 that they center submitted such a proposal.
Kelsey Cler, community outreach coordinator at Anicira, said they are against euthanasia and want to make the city a no-kill community.
They will be wearing white at the city council meeting in remembrance of the animals euthanized at the SPCA.
"It's just focusing on remembering the 1,232 animals that were euthanized last year at the SPCA and just getting that message out there to the community and to City Council that Harrisonburg is ready for change," said Cler.
No-kill is usually defined as saving all healthy, treatable animals. This means a higher than 90 percent save rate. Euthanasia is reserved only for animals with irremediable suffering.
She added that many people in the community are in favor of a no-kill shelter.
"They're doctors, they're teachers, they're everybody in the community that's there for the animals. There's all these different groups coming together to say 'Harrisonburg needs change'. We need to lower the euthanasia rate," said Cler.
WHSV reached out to Anne Anderson, executive director of the RHSPCA for her reaction to the rally. She said "It’s hopeful to know so many people are concerned about pet homelessness in our community. Perhaps by working together and pooling resources we can endeavor to solve pet homelessness and enhance animal welfare in our community. This can only be achieved, however, when there are respectful communications and collaborative efforts being made by all parties rather than the divisive vitriol currently underway."
Anderson previously told WHSV that the SPCA works with many different rescue organizations to manage their numbers, sending some animals to different states in order to increase their chances of being adopted..
She's also encouraged anyone with questions about how they handle business to come by the shelter and see how hard the staff works to ensure their animals are well cared-for.
Advocates for Valley Animals will also speak during the public comment portion of the Harrisonburg City Council meeting at 7 p.m..
WHSV will have additional coverage on the meeting during the 10 and 11 p.m. newscast on June 27.