Presentation of the Ellen Glasgow Award for Humane Service to Robin Starr
At our second annual Fur Ball 20 years ago, my predecessor Robin Starr—in looking for a meaningful way to recognize and celebrate people who had done extraordinary things for the benefit of animals—created an award. She named it the Ellen Glasgow Award for Humane Service to honor one of our greatest benefactors, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Ellen Glasgow. Miss Glasgow was a mighty force for the Richmond SPCA for nearly a quarter of a century, and her dedication to our organization inspired more compassionate care for animals communitywide.
It is fitting that tonight we recognize another mighty force for the Richmond SPCA for nearly a quarter of a century—the same woman who dreamt up this important award two decades ago and who, in the intervening years, has done more to protect and save the lives of animals than anyone could have imagined possible. That woman is my mentor and dear friend Robin Starr.
When Robin became the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA more than two decades ago, the landscape for animal welfare in our community was bleak. Half of the animals entering shelters were losing their lives—including those in the care of the Richmond SPCA. But Robin never accepted the idea that taking the lives of animals was necessary to control their numbers. Nor did she ever believe that it was ethical. So, together with our Board, she adopted a bold vision for the future—one where no healthy or treatable homeless dog or cat would lose her life. Where we would create state-of-the-art facilities to serve as models nationwide. Where we would partner with other shelters to transport vulnerable animals to the safety of our humane center. Where we would invest in developing progressive programs and services to prevent pets from becoming homeless. Where we would provide crucial medical treatment to sick and injured animals in order to get them well and adopted to loving homes. And where we would foster a community that sees itself as part of the solution to resolving pet homelessness. That work, she knew, would require significant resources, would not always be easy or popular and would involve overcoming dozens of obstacles along the way. But Robin remained committed to her theory of change—that if we stopped accepting killing as a means of pet population control—we would unleash the creativity, the innovation and the will to save animal lives. Because that is what they needed and deserved for us to do. And so, that is what Robin fought to make possible. Her vision, courage and principled advocacy led us to where we are today—a much different landscape than existed 22 years ago. Now, the Richmond SPCA saves 99 percent of the homeless animals in our care, and citywide, more than 94 percent of homeless pets’ lives are being saved.
Robin, thank you for inspiring our community, and our field to do the right thing. Because of your enormous efforts, the Richmond SPCA is a national leader of the no-kill movement. And we will continue to be thanks to the foundation you built and the important lessons you have taught us along the way.
As the CEO of the Richmond SPCA, Tamsen oversees the development of our organization’s short- and long-term strategies to achieve maximum lifesaving and fulfill with integrity the Richmond SPCA’s mission.
When she’s not busy working alongside our talented and dedicated staff, Board and volunteers, Tamsen enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, as well as their two cats and a dog—all of whom they adopted from the Richmond SPCA.