2018 Award Winners

Advocacy Award – Mayor Teague and the Martinsville City Council 

The Advocacy Award is presented to a person or organization who has made significant improvements in animal welfare on a policy level.  This award recognizes those who influence and instigate changes within a private organization, to local ordinances, or to state or national legislation.

In late 2017, realizing that the vast majority of dog cruelty cases involved tethering, advocates set forth to improve their locality’s anti-tethering ordinance, which had proven to be largely unenforceable.  The existing ordinance only prohibited tethering for more than four hours a day.  The proposed ordinance would prohibit over-night tethering.  City council not only voted to approve the proposed change, but supported the addition of language prohibiting the tethering a dog when it is under 32 degrees or over 90 degrees, if the animal could become entangled or injured, or if the animal is sick, injured, or under 4 months old.  Violators will now face criminal charges and significant fines – even for the first violation.  This strong anti-tethering ordinance was made possible because of the hard work of advocates and the compassionate leadership of Mayor Gene Teague and the Martinsville City Council. We are honored to present the Mayor and Council with the 2018 VFHS Advocacy Award.



Ayrshire Award – Donna Belcher

This award was established in honor of Sandy Lerner, a philanthropist and animal welfare advocate who generously supported the goals and objectives of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies through funding from the Bosack & Kruger Foundation that she and her husband established.  This award is presented to an Active Member that has made a significant contribution to reducing unplanned births of companion animals through spay/neuter services and resources within the community.

This recipient has been working in animal welfare for thirteen years, starting out in daily animal care and advancing to facility manager.  Today, she is the rescue and spay/neuter coordinator.  She coordinates spay neuter clinics, engaging and educating the public and advocating for the benefits of spay/neuter.  Under her leadership, the Martinsville Henry County SPCA has increased the number of animals altered from barely 800 to over 2,000 per year.  We are very happy to honor Donna Belcher with the 2018 Ayrshire Award.

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Bravo Award – Lisa O'Neil

Former VFHS President Elizabeth Sills established the Bravo Award in 1992.  Liz became Vice President of the Federation in 1973 and a year later filled a vacated position becoming President.  She held that position until 1989 and was able to accomplish many things.  This award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated a commitment of outstanding service to promote animal welfare, who has been instrumental in making an impact within an animal welfare organization, and who is a reflection of the values and standards set by the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies.

While this recipient’s official title is “executive director” of a private shelter, she is so very much more. In addition to running a top-notch shelter, her organization’s mobile clinic travels into some of the most under-served rural localities in Virginia and West Virginia, providing vaccinations, preventative care, and spay/neuter services to countless numbers of companion animals.  She has also taken animals in from some of the most challenging neglect, cruelty, and fighting situations, and on top of all that, she runs and cares for livestock at a 200 acre sanctuary called Harmony Farm. This nominee is a true champion for companion animals, livestock, and the people who love them. We are thrilled to present this year’s Bravo Award to Lisa O’Neil.


Companion Award    

The Companion Award pays tribute to an animal who exemplifies the value and strength of the human/animal bond.  This award is presented to an animal who has made an extraordinary difference for a person or community by saving, preserving or improving human life.

Twinkie Schofield

This canine companion was originally Brandy Schofield’s foster boy, but it didn’t take long for him to become an official foster failure.  Brandy quickly recognized this pup’s exceptionally balanced temperament, and together, he and Brandy have become an asset to animal welfare.  He is regularly used to “test” dogs to evaluate their fitness for permanent placement, including those seized by the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force.  Twinkie is also a certified therapy dog who is assigned to a juvenile detention center through the Caring Canines program.  He is the epitome of an ambassador for rescue dogs, pit bull type dogs, and the canine species as a whole.  We are thrilled to present a 2018 Companion Animal Award to Tommy Twinkle Toes, also known as “Twinkie.”


Nick Blevins

This special companion came into the shelter with his siblings, in such poor health and horrible physical condition that you couldn't even identify them as poodles.  He was lucky enough to be taken in by a loving couple, where he, like Twinkie, was a complete failure as a foster dog.  He went on to become the first local dog to receive therapy dog certification.  He was part of the Martinsville Henry County SPCA Pet Therapy program.  He frequently brightened the days of senior citizens in retirement communities, and helped local school children learn to read.  When they saw him in the shelter, the Blevins looked past his appearance and gave him a chance to thrive, and thrive he did! Unfortunately, Nick passed away from cancer in December, but we are very thankful to have had him as true ambassador for rescue dogs, and are pleased to present Nick Blevins with this Companion Animal Award, posthumously.  

Compassion Award – Stacy Norris 

This award was named in memory of Pearl Twyne, who founded the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies in 1959.  This annual award is presented to an Active Member organization that has demonstrated strong leadership qualities and whose accomplishments reflect the VFHS Strategic Plan's goal of reducing the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats.

As the president of HOWS, or “Houses of Wood & Straw,” Stacy drives the organization's mission to construct and deliver wooden dog houses along with bales of hay and other necessities to outdoor dogs in need of shelter in and around Charlottesville.  She is never judgmental, always focusing on education and assistance in her work.  She provides care checklists to families of the dogs HOWS helps, and follows up with them year after year.  As one volunteer noted, “She is all about education and love.  She doesn’t criticize, critique, or tear down.”  We are delighted to present the Compassion Award to Stacy Norris.



Humanitarian Award – Sergeant Christine Boczar

The Humanitarian Award was named in memory of Jim Godwin, who was a driving force for new and expanded legislation in animal welfare.  He saved thousands of animals from the hands of cruelty and contributed tremendously to the advancement of animal welfare.  This award is presented to an animal control officer who has made a significant positive impact on the image of the animal control profession within his or her community, established positive relationships within his or her community, and demonstrated overall excellence in the performance of his or her job.

As a sergeant with the Powhatan Sheriff’s Office for 11 years, this nominee has directly contributed to a dramatic reduction in the number of animals euthanized in the area.  She frequently reaches out to private rescues for assistance with vet care, spay/neuter, shelter, and anything else she doesn’t have access to.  She often works during her free time to meet with potential adopters, transport dogs to rescue, and help with behavior evaluations.  She knows how to strike the perfect balance between citing irresponsible owners and seizing animals in imminent danger, and working with owners who are willing to make changes so that the animals can live comfortably and humanely in their current situations.  It is our pleasure to present the Humanitarian Award to Sgt. Christine Boczar.



Longevity Award – Susan DeFazio

The Longevity Award is presented to an individual or organization that has shown dedicated service to animal welfare for more than a decade.  The recipient’s contributions may be in working for policy change, sheltering, reducing euthanasia, or any other efforts which exhibit exemplary dedication to improving the lives of companion animals over a significant amount of time.  I am thrilled to tell you that we are presenting TWO Longevity Awards this year.

After moving to Richmond in 1989, Susan opened a clinic called “In The Company of Cats.”  Having always been an animal advocate, she used the proceeds from that clinic to found the first dedicated spay/neuter clinic in the Commonwealth, “Prevent-a-Litter” in 1999.  Her clinic not only provides services to individuals, but frequently works with jurisdictional shelters and local rescues that may otherwise be unable to fund spay/neuters.  This nominee’s clinic has also assisted in emergency situations, at times providing free veterinary care to animals in need.  Prevent-a-Litter has had a direct, tangible impact on the reduction of euthanasia in Virginia.  To date, Prevent-a-Litter has performed more than 100,000 low cost spays and neuters.  We are pleased to present this year's Longevity Award to Susan DeFazio.



Outstanding Volunteer Award – Emily & Sophie Bush

This award is presented to an individual who has devoted significant time and effort to improving the lives of companion animals through volunteer work in his or her community.  The recipient of this award exemplifies the value of compassion, and is tirelessly devoted to those animals living in unfortunate circumstances, whether they are in a shelter, on the streets, or in unfortunate private ownership situations.

These passionate girls may be young, but in their short lives, they have already done amazing things for animals.  They and their parents have fostered 38 puppies – many with medical conditions. They give baths, help house break and crate train, and of course, they dress them up.  Over the last five years, they have also helped transport livestock and companion animals from municipal shelters to rescue and sanctuary, done school projects about tethering, raised money for animal welfare, worked at adoption events, made stockings for animals at Christmas, sewed blankets for homeless dogs, and volunteered at shelters. They dream of not only rescuing dogs one day, but opening a livestock sanctuary as well. They are always excited for the next adventure, the next foster, and the next pig they can take to safety.  They are the future of animal welfare, and future life-saving heroes.  Emily and Sophie Bush are very well deserving of this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards.


TNR Hero Award – Dr. Christina Cottey

The TNR Hero award offers special recognition to those who work tirelessly to serve community cats.  This award is given to a person or organization that has devoted extensive time and resources to promoting participation in trap-neuter-return efforts in the Commonwealth.  I am pleased to say that we are presenting two TNR Hero Awards this year.

This recipient began her career at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington in 2011. She not only brought with her a passion for animals and people, but for living life to the fullest. Her desire to save lives was in large part due to her personal diagnosis with stage 4 cancer, after which she became the AWLA’s in-house veterinarian.  She was the only vet on staff and, under her direction, the organization performed 8,192 surgeries, many of which were TNR procedures.  She played a large role in writing TNR protocol for Arlington County, and worked with staff, ACOs, and caregivers to improve the lives of feral cats in her community.  She considered herself to be on call 24 hours a day, even when she had just undergone chemotherapy or radiation treatment.  Unfortunately, we and the animals, lost her in December.  We are honored to recognize her amazing contributions by presenting the TNR Hero Award to her coworkers, Christina Burnham and Charnita Fox, in remembrance of Dr. Christina Cottey.


Veterinary Partnership Award – Melinda McCall, DVM

The Veterinary Partnership Award was established to recognize a veterinarian who gives time and services to promote animal welfare in partnership with an agency that provides direct care to animals.  This award is presented to a veterinarian who donates services and support to a local animal care and control, animal shelter or rescue group.  We are thrilled to present TWO Veterinary Partnership Awards this year.

On November 29, 2017, the Louisa County Animal Rescue Team was called to a situation that would become the largest animal hoarding case in Virginia’s history.  Over 500 animals were removed from the property, including everything from guinea pigs to goats.  This veterinarian, who owns a private clinic and volunteers with Louisa CART, took time away from her practice to triage and advise on over 560 animals of 25 different species.  She ultimately devoted over 80 hours to the effort at their temporary shelter, and she charged only nominal fees.  For all of her hard work and devotion, we are pleased to present this year’s Veterinary Partnership Award to Dr. Melinda McCall.




Louisa CART Volunteers

This recipient organization is the only community animal response team in VA that is authorized to, and has, responded to emergencies outside the Commonwealth, and to set up and staff emergency animal shelters.  In 2017, it assisted the ASPCA in its large-scale response to hurricane Irma, and responded to a hoarding seizure from which over 500 animals were taken.  In addition to on-site support, they often provide food, water, shelter, and emergency care.  These are just a few examples of the time, hard work, and love that these volunteers dedicate to animals in need.  For all of these reasons, we are honored to present this President’s Award to the volunteers of the Louisa County Animal Response Team.





Matthew Gray-Keeling

This recipient has been a true friend to the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies and a champion for animals in the Commonwealth.  He is present each year during the entire General Assembly session advocating for legislation to improve the lives of animals and those who serve them.  He is respected by legislators and is a trusted ally to VFHS in our own legislative initiatives.  Because VFHS representatives cannot be present every day of Session, this award winner is often our pipeline to the most current information on bills which are important to us.  And he is always available to lend guidance when we hit a procedural roadblock in getting a bill passed.  Throughout the year, he is swift to respond to our members when an animal crisis impacts their locality.  He brings unique calm, and often resources to those emergencies.  For these and so many other reasons, we are delighted to present this President’s Award to Matthew Gray.



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