Started a quarter-century after the Civil War ended in 1865 and Henry Bergh in New York City kicked off the official U.S. animal welfare movement by launching the American SPCA (ASPCA) in 1866, the Norfolk SPCA was organized during a meeting of concerned citizens at the Norfolk YMCA on January 15, 1891.
A year later, the Norfolk SPCA was chartered by the Virginia General Assembly on February 12, 1892. The organization counts the chartering date as its official founding date.
note: all animals pictured here are up for adoption.
click on the images to learn more.
Started with a primary purpose of helping workhorses in the era prior to automobile transportation, the Norfolk SPCA initially sought to prevent these animals from being mistreated, overloaded and suffering due to lack of places to drink water in the city of Norfolk. During the 20th century, the main focus became companion animals. These days, the Norfolk SPCA takes in, finds homes for and provides medical care solely to cats and dogs.
After some years of inactivity during the Great Depression, the Norfolk SPCA revived itself in the late 1930s and after World War II became a stronger, more visible force in the community. Moving to its current location at the intersection of Ballentine and Virginia Beach boulevards in the late 1940s, the charity was run largely by the Norfolk SPCA’s superstar of the 20th century, Mary Frances Morrisette, otherwise known in newspapers of the day as Mrs. C. Dodson Morrisette (below, as shown in a courtesy photo).
A 1922 graduate of Maury High School who attended her first Norfolk SPCA meeting in 1935, Morrisette served as secretary of the board of directors for years. She was named executive director—a role created specifically for her—in 1964. She held the position until 1973, when she stepped down to run humane education programs in schools and appear on television with adoptable animals, as she had already done for years in Norfolk. Many longtime locals may remember her show on WVEC Channel 13.
Currently, the Norfolk SPCA annually adopts out hundreds of dogs and cats through its no-kill adoption center for homeless animals and assists thousands of pets owned by the public through its low-price veterinary clinic. Staffed with five compassionate, experienced veterinarians who are supplemented by a corps of relief doctors, the clinic offers the public an array of services for thousands of companion animals every year: spay/neuter, other surgeries including mass removals, basic exams, dentistry, heartworm treatments, and a walk-in vaccine clinic six days a week.
The organization also provides medical and surgical services for animals cared for by the City of Norfolk’s open-admissions shelter. This fee-for-service income is the only public funding the Norfolk SPCA receives.
Like all other SPCAs in Hampton Roads and nationwide, the Norfolk SPCA is an independent organization that is not affiliated with the ASPCA based in New York City. The shelter does not receive funding from the national group except when it is selected by the ASPCA through a competitive grants process also open to other U.S. shelters, whether they are an SPCA or not. Interestingly, however, the first newspaper accounts of Norfolk SPCA meetings show that the organization’s founders were aware of and motivated by the ASPCA’s efforts in New York City.
We are eager to reminisce with our friends on our twelve and a half decades of service to the Hampton Roads community, even during our busy days of saving and improving lives as we assist both animals and people.
The Norfolk SPCA is hosting a special gala early next year to celebrate its 125th anniversary serving Hampton Roads. Scheduled for Friday evening, February 10, the event will mark twelve and a half decades of helping both animals and people through programs including sheltering, adoptions, humane education, advocacy for animal-friendly public policy, and an affordable public veterinary clinic. The gala will take place in the Rose Garden Hall of Norfolk Botanical Garden at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are $125 each and tables with eight seats cost $1,000. Special sponsorship opportunities are available. Only 200 seats will be for sale. Tickets can be purchased through the NorfolkSPCA.org website, or by visiting or calling the shelter at 757-622-3319 ext. 106.