JCC Police partners with shelter to cuddle homeless pets — and the chief was up first

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Chief Brad Rinehimer petting Isla, a cat displaced by Hurricane Florence. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Heritage Humane Society)
Chief Brad Rinehimer petting Isla, a cat displaced by Hurricane Florence. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Heritage Humane Society)

For several months, Williamsburg Police have been giving homeless dogs the chance to put their paws to the pavement and meet potential adopters.

Now, some shelter cats and more dogs at Heritage Humane Society will also be getting some attention from local law enforcement.

It all started last week with the James City County police chief visiting — and cuddling — the cats in Heritage’s cat colony room.

Chief Brad Rinehimer can be seen carrying and playing with some of the shelter’s longest residents in several photos posted on the Heritage Facebook page Friday.

The program is new at Heritage Humane Society, and called PetPals.

Once each week, an officer or police department employee will visit the shelter to socialize with the cats or dogs, depending on their personal preference, Heritage Humane Society Director Kimberly Laska said.

The employee or officer will be photographed, which will be shared on both the shelter and county Facebook pages every Friday.

“It’s good for both of us,” Laska said of the two organizations. “There are times when an animal who’s been here a while sometimes gets looked over.”

Chief Brad Rinehimer holding 15-year-old Viv. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Heritage Humane Society)
Chief Brad Rinehimer holding 15-year-old Viv. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Heritage Humane Society)

Laska said the idea for the program came about after James City County Police asked about how they could get involved and help the shelter animals.

“We decided to focus on our longer residents a bit,” Laska said.

James City County doesn’t have as many busy and populated areas like downtown Williamsburg, so police and the shelter decided to take a different approach than a doggy ride along, Laska said.

Public information officer Stephanie Williams, Officer Ben Woodhouse and Investigator Leslie Sten met with Heritage staff to develop a plan for the program.

“We’re a group of people who really love animals,” said Williams, who is also scheduled to visit the cats in mid-May.

Some employees with James City County Police are also active fosters for the humane society, Laska added.

The chief helped launch the program last week because he is an “animal advocate” and owns some cats himself, Williams said.

“Most people who know the chief know he’s a huge cat lover,” Laska added.

Laska said the PetPals program is one of several the humane society has recently launched: others include the Dog for a Day program with Williamsburg Police, dog training, dog play groups and behavioral classes.

Chief Brad Rinehimer blowing bubbles for Poe. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Heritage Humane Society)
Chief Brad Rinehimer blowing bubbles for Poe. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Heritage Humane Society)

Laska hopes the PetPals program will help the animals “be seen in the light we see everyday” at the shelter, and increase adoptions. Overall, Heritage has a 95.1 percent live-release rate, meaning only 4.9 percent of animals brought into the shelter are euthanized instead of being adopted out.

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