History & Accomplishments

The Federation's Beginnings

The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies was organized in 1959 by Pearl Rainwater Twyne, a woman of great vision and purpose. Born in Missouri, she moved to the Washington D.C. area in the 1920’s to work for the Department of Agriculture. Mrs. Twyne helped to found the Arlington Animal Welfare League in 1944 and served as its president until 1967. She was also involved in establishing the Humane Society of Fairfax County and the American Horse Protection Association. She was a former regional chapter president for Defenders of Wildlife and served on a presidential panel appointed to study the status of wild horses. Her testimony before Congress contributed to the passage of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1970.

Mrs. Twyne’s experience with animal welfare organizations in the northern Virginia area inspired her to establish a statewide organization to serve as an umbrella for animal-related agencies to work together toward common goals. Initially involving the northern Virginia and Tidewater areas, the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies expanded to encompass most areas of the Commonwealth.


The general objectives that were developed at the time of the Federation’s organization in 1959 are just as valid today as they were then – providing leadership and support for organizations around Virginia so that together the care and protection of animals will be improved. VFHS has been a leader in the animal welfare movement in Virginia. Among its accomplishments are:

  •     Ensuring the passage of the Animal Welfare Act of 1977;
  •     Establishing a humane investigator course, administered by the office of the State Veterinarian;
  •     Influencing the passage of mandatory rules and regulations for city/county pounds in Virginia;
  •     Holding annual training conferences for members, animal control officers, and humane investigators that include courses that qualified for animal control officer and humane investigator continuing education;
  •     Regularly alerting and educating members and the general public about problems relating to animal protection;
  •     Assisting in the establishment of Action 81, a Virginia-based organization that monitored and exposed pet theft nationwide;
  •     Assisting member organizations in planning new shelters and renovating existing shelters;
  •     Assisting member organizations in developing spay and neuter programs, fund-raising projects, shelter operations and volunteer programs;
  •     Working to improve the Comprehensive Animal Laws;
  •     Participating in the development of a model disaster preparedness plan for animal welfare organizations and animal control agencies.

In the past decade, one area of the Federation’s focus has been the Spay Virginia project, the goal of which was to develop resources for low cost spaying and neutering. Through the efforts of Spay Virginia, three low cost, high volume spay/neuter clinics have opened in Virginia and serve individuals and animal welfare groups in many counties. The Spay Virginia continues to be active and has turned its focus on providing information to the public about available low cost spay/neuter resources, as well as working with animal welfare organizations in Virginia to support their local spay/neuter programs.