2017 Award Winners

Advocacy Award – Fairfax 

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.

There were several recipients of the 2017 Advocacy Award:

Fairfax County Police Department

Fairfax County Animal Shelter

Fairfax County Animal Services Division

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney

Dr. Suzanne Broadhurst

All of these individuals pulled together to hold Dreamy Puppy, a pet shop in Chantilly, Virginia, accountable for selling puppies to the public who had serious health issues due to the lack of a responsible breeding  and providing adequate care.  These individuals and organizations pulled together to successfully bring a civil proceeding against Dreamy Puppy, leading to successful seizure of 46 puppies who were rescued from the store that had become, in the words of Judge Tran, “a breeding ground for disease and parasitic infection.”  It truly took a village to accomplish what these individuals and organizations did!  Shortly after the seizure hearing, Dreamy Puppy closed down in Chantilly, and in a storefront it had recently opened in Fredericksburg.  Additional criminal charges are pending against Dreamy Puppy’s owner.



Ayrshire Award – South Central Spay and Neuter Clinic

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.

It is rare thing to see a clinic staff that makes high-volume, high-quality spay/neuter look easy —but that’s just what this award winner does. The dedication, compassion, and efficiency of the clinic staff is truly unparalleled, and their friendliness to clients is genuine.

The clinic is part of the Lynchburg Humane Society, which could not have reached its all-time high save rate of 96% without them.  In 2016 the clinic fixed 6,681 animals solely for Lynchburg Humane.

The clinic also offers high-quality, affordable services to surrounding areas. Since 2006 they have performed over 50,000 spays and neuters. They have also reached out to the community to help the public, the Animal Control Officers, and the shelters in communities with limited resources.  This clinic has figured out how to use compassion, education, and respect to better the lives of animals and the people of Virginia.  It is our pleasure to present the Ayshire Award to the South Central Spay and Neuter Clinic.

South Central


Bravo Award – Bev Wisser

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.

This award winner has spent countless hours and days driving across Virginia, and even out of state to help pets in need.  She transfers animals who are at risk of euthanasia to Lynchburg Humane, which is a no-kill shelter so they are certain to find loving homes.  She shares her experiences with friends and associates, which has brought many new volunteers to the animal transport world.  In 2016, a local news station went on a transport trip with this person to get an inside look at high-euthanasia shelters and the help that she provides.  That trip resulted in both an article and a local newscast which raised awareness of the plight of sheltered animals.  This award winner drives almost all the way up the east coast to Pennsylvania to deliver pets to their new homes on behalf of other animal rescues.  She also advocates for adoptable shelter pets and the importance of spay and neuter surgeries, and has been known to stock local shelter shelves with peanut butter, to keep the dogs entertained with their Kongs.  We are delighted to present the Bravo Award to Bev Wisser.

Bev Wisser

Compassion Award – Humane Society of Warren County

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.

The winner of the Compassion Award is an example of what is possible when you combine a dedicated staff, a talented leader, and a burning desire to become a no-kill community.  Since Lavenda Denney started in 2011, the save rate at the shelter she leads has risen from 52% to 95%. The organization achieved this astounding increase through successful fundraising campaigns, new community outreach programs such as “Hand in Paw,” which helps owners in financial need keep their pets, and a new TNR program for community cats.

Lavenda credits much of the success to the community and to her staff, but her exceptional leadership is a factor that cannot be overlooked. She is an inspiring and creative leader who knows how to achieve results. When she came into the shelter as director, there was only $310 in the operating fund. With no money and true determination, she immediately began saving more lives than ever before in her community.

Under Lavenda’s leadership, her shelter has received numerous awards, including Best Animal Rescue in Warren County (in the Northern Virginia Daily’s Best-Of Edition), Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce Community Impact Award, and Best Non-Profit/Community Organization in Warren County (in the Northern Virginia Daily's Best-of Edition).  It has also received ASPCA grants in two consecutive years.  We are pleased to present the Compassion Award to the Humane Society of Warren County.

HS of Warren


Humanitarian Award – Sergeant Erin Brogan

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.

This Animal Control Officer has been in law enforcement since 2007, and currently works in the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office where she has been in charge of the Animal Control Division since April of 2016.  Since that time, she has significantly ramped up enforcement of the state animal code in Shenandoah County and has actively built relationships with local animal welfare organizations to benefit all animals in critical need of help.  She worked closely with the Humane Society of Shenandoah County to facilitate the surrender of over 65 - of 75 - cats from a home in Strasburg, VA that had been a known problem for several years.  All of the cats removed found placement in no-kill shelters, rescues and homes thanks to the leadership and compassion of this Officer.  She has also assisted animals from at least five other hoarding situations and one property that had over 100 animals including dogs, horses, and geese.  She has partnered with the Humane Society of Shenandoah County in several other cases, including rescuing cats from a condemned house and freeing penned and chained dogs.  She is a huge lover of animals and works very hard to make sure that all animals are taken care of in the community. Through her efforts, a light has been shined on areas that were ignored in the past.  Educating the public is very important to her.  She believes that by focusing on teaching people how to properly care for their pets, we will significantly decrease the neglect, abuse, and abandonment of companion animals in our communities.  We are delighted to present the Humanitarian Award to Sergeant Erin Brogan.



Longevity Award – Mary Babcock

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.

This award winner just stepped down from the Norfolk SPCA’s Board of directors after more than 10 years of service. She has volunteered for almost 20 years.  She has a deep compassion for animals and has fostered and adopted many over the years.  She has devoted her time to TNR, and is a strong advocate for ensuring that the SPCA’s affordable public veterinary clinic assists as many low-income pet owners as possible.   This person collects donation boxes from local business, which brings in thousands of dollars each year.  She participates in multiple community organizations and is connected to many key public officials, which facilitates the Norfolk SPCA’s strong and positive relationship with members of local government. She also started the shelter’s recycling program.  This award winner has been an inspiration for years and has led many others to volunteer.  It is our pleasure to present the Longevity Award to Mary Babcock.

Longevity Award – Corena Huffman

This award winner is well known throughout the states of Virginia and West Virginia as a true animal advocate.  She is a Licensed Veterinary Technician, winning the 2008 Virginia Association of Licensed Veterinary Technicians’ Veterinary Technician of the Year.

In 2005, she became the lead vet technician at the newly opened Shenandoah Valley Spay and Neuter Clinic (now Anicira Veterinary Services).  For the 10 years she worked there, the clinic grew from an organization that provided 5,000 surgeries per year to over 15,000.  In 2012, she and two others founded Highland County Humane Society, a home- based foster care rescue which has taken in over 1,300 animals.  This winner also runs a rural transfer program which partners with dozens of rescue organizations and provides veterinary care and transportation to get animals to safety.  Under her presidency, Highland County Humane Society’s intake rose from 197 animals in 2015 to 352 last year, with the majority coming from pounds in neighboring counties.  341 of them left the shelter alive when they wouldn’t have stood a chance if they hadn’t been pulled and transported.  We are delighted to present this Longevity Award to Corena Huffman.



Outstanding Volunteer Award – Carole Edson

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.

This award winner has been volunteering with the Lynchburg Humane Society for over 12 years, racking up over 18,000 hours.  She comes in six days a week and makes it her mission to walk almost every pet in the building - about 20-25 a day.   She has spearheaded play groups that provide dogs with necessary socialization and exercise time. She has also worked tirelessly over the years to find the animals the best possible homes,  has a special place in her heart for the seniors, and has adopted some of them herself. This person’s spirit and love for the animals and Lynchburg Humane is an inspiration to everyone who has the pleasure of meeting her.   It is our pleasure to present the Outstanding Volunteer Award to Carole Edson.


TNR Hero Award – Janice Groff Stevens

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.

A few years ago, Barn Cat Buddies was desperate to get help for an elderly couple in Bedford who were feeding 20 cats outside their home. They had been cited by Animal Control and their Hospice Nurse called Barn Cat Buddies directly for help. The man was dying of a brain tumor and the woman had dementia. A plea for help was made on Facebook and this hero jumped right in!  She went out morning and night and transported all the cats to safety.  A year later the man passed away and the woman was placed in a nursing home.  She has also helped at various dumpster sites, waiting in her van until the wee hours in the morning and at great risk to her own health due to a medical condition. Other groups in Bedford began reaching out to this person and she rarely says no.  Her work is literally lifesaving and many in SW VA don’t know what they would do without her. We are delighted to present this TNR Hero award to Janice Groff Stevens.


 TNR Hero Award – Page Paws

This award recipient is a small, grassroots organization dedicated to supporting animal welfare in Page County directly, and in collaboration with other organizations. Initially, it supported other programs rather than operating its own.  But when it became apparent that the number of dogs in shelters in that area had declined, yet the fate of cats remained dismal, this organization decided to start its own TNR initiative.  Since April of 2016, its 6-member TNR team has trapped, neutered, and returned 752 cats.  They have also transported 95 owned cats to Anicira to be altered.  This organization accomplished all of this while not actually owning any traps of its own - they were all borrowed from other groups - making the work even more inspirational.  We are thrilled to present this TNR Hero Award to Page Paws.



Veterinary Partnership Award – Karen Murphy, 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.

This veterinarian has volunteered with the Prince William County Animal Shelter for 5 years, providing endless services at her own clinic as well as visiting the shelter once a week to perform veterinary exams on animals before they are placed for adoption.  In November of 2016 Prince William County lost its veterinarian, leaving the shelter in a serious bind.  This veternarian agreed to step in during the interim.  For 4 months she came to the shelter 3 days a week to provide health exams and advise on various medical conditions.  She also put time aside in her own clinic environment to meet with fosters and provide much needed veterinary care, and to meet with Animal Control Officers to examine sick or injured animals.  Without her support and care for the homeless animals of Prince William County, the county shelter would have been unable to provide necessary, life-saving medical care for the animals without facing a significant financial burden.  We are delighted to present this Veterinary Partnership Award to Dr. Karen Murphy.

Dr. Karen

Veterinarian Partnership Award – Peaks View Animal Hospital

The doctors and staff of this veterinary clinic have been, and continue to be, an integral part of the Lynchburg Humane Society’s no-kill success.  In 2009 they started donating $1,250 each month in veterinary care.  And, their compassion for shelter animals extends far beyond providing routine treatment as they also perform specialized procedures to increase life-saving and quality of life of those saved. 

Just one of the many examples of the generosity and life-saving efforts of this clinic was a dog named Captain. Captain was hit by a car and had severe pelvic fractures and the left rear femur was the worst fracture these vets had ever seen. He was anemic from the massive bleeding that had occurred and became septic from the severe leg wounds. Unfortunately his rear femur had to be amputated.  He then received daily physical therapy as well as laser treatment. The clinic soon discovered that Captain also had nerve paralysis to his left front leg. With his emergent care, major surgery, physical therapy, and neutering, his veterinary bills would have cost the Lynchburg Humane Society an immense amount of money that would otherwise help several animals. The doctors and staff of this clinic continue to provide Captain’s physical therapy.  Without this kind of support, the shelter would not be able to do so much of the life-saving work that it does.  We are pleased to present this Veterinary Partnership award to Peaks View Animal Clinic.

Peaks View



Victoria Kirby

For over 35 years, this person has played a vital role in animal welfare in the Northern Virginia area.  She volunteered as a State Humane Investigator for a period of twenty-five years.  Her determination and knowledge of the job led to the successful prosecution of over 250 cruelty and neglect cases.  She has served on the board of the Humane Society of Fairfax County since 1979, and as the President for 30 years.  During that time she took the organization from deep debt to having assets of over $6 million. 

Under her leadership, the Humane Society has expanded to include a farm with a 9-stall horse barn, state of the art 19 mini-suite dog kennel and caretaker house.  She also led the effort to reconstruct two offices totalling 9,000 square feet and the renovation of the large Thrift Store in Fall Church.

This award recipient has implemented the largest animal food pantry in the area.  She established a grant program through which families who cannot afford emergency veterinary care can receive it through Humane Society funding.  She increased the volunteer base of the Humane Society, led fundraising such that the Humane Society could acquire a moble Spay/Neuter Clinic and built many partnerships with small, rural shelters to bring animals to Humane Society.  We are delighted to present this President's Award to Victoria Kirby.

Daun Sessoms Hester

VFHS members actively advocate for animal legislation during the General Assembly.  Some years we work very hard to get good legislation passed, some years we have to work just as hard to fight bad legislation and some years we have do both.  The days can be very long and the strategies required to be successful are varied and complex.  We have been blessed to a have a particular Delegate as our friend and often coach in navigating the General Assembly.  This legislator is enormously respected by her colleagues and serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee.  She has been a champion for the underserved her entire adult life.  She is a lifelong educator and previously served on Norfolk City Council.   We were privileged to have her co-patron SB1381 in 2015 and, along with her equally dedicated Legislative Aide, Ann Fitzgibbon, work very hard for that bill’s passage.  This Delegate has generously allowed us to use her office as our own when we are lobbying at the General Assembly.  The welcome and the expert advice we have been given has contributed mightily to our success.  It is our heartfelt pleasure to present this President’s Award to Delegate Daun Sessoms Hester.  Accepting the Award for Delegate Hester is her Legislative Aide, Ann Fitzgibbon.

Ann for Daun