By Kim Barto Meeks
As the city of Martinsville’s Animal Control Officer for the past nine years, E.C. Stone has been a “champion for the voiceless animals of our community,” he said. Now, he will continue working on behalf of animals in his new role as Executive Director of the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA.
Stone is retiring this month after 20 years with the Martinsville Police Department and will begin his duties at the SPCA effective Oct. 21. He succeeds Leslie Hervey, who has filled the position on an interim basis since the beginning of the summer.
The search committee selected Stone out of 20 qualified local and national applicants, said SPCA Board President Tiffany Smart.
“We are elated to announce that E.C. has accepted this position,” Smart said. “E.C.’s community outreach and interpersonal skills, along with a clear passion he demonstrated for our mission, were key strengths. His experience in humane animal care and his strong ties to the public will undoubtedly provide us with important insight into the challenges faced in our area and how we can better assist families in need.”
Stone comes to the SPCA with extensive experience in animal welfare, shelter operations, and budget management. His work has garnered numerous awards, including the Virginia Humane Society Humanitarian of the Year, SPCA Director’s Award, SPCA Above and Beyond Award, No-Kill MHC Collaboration Award, Kiwanis Club Officer of the Year, and Martinsville Police Officer of the Year. He has also served on the Virginia Animal Control Association (VACA) Board for five years.
Stone describes himself as “a pretty big dog person.” Even before he moved from the patrol division to animal control, he said, “I’ve always been interested in animals.”
Working in animal control sparked his interest in combating animal cruelty. As part of his job, Stone assisted in the prosecution of between 150 and 200 animal cruelty cases but was frustrated at the lack of penalties for animal abusers.
“I was trying to get stiffer penalties for animal cruelty. I could see from the cases I was seeing in court that not much was being done,” he said. Even in cases where the person was convicted, “they weren’t doing much time.” He recalled one person serving six months in jail, and another serving two months, and those were relatively long sentences.
Until this summer, animal cruelty “was only a felony if the animal died.” If an animal was abused and lived, the person could only be charged with a misdemeanor. The Virginia legislature passed a new law that went into effect July 1, 2019 making cruelty a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Still, Stone said, “I would like to see things improve.”
In 2017, the SPCA said, Stone was “instrumental” in changing the city of Martinsville’s ordinance on tethering dogs. Many of the cruelty cases he saw involved dogs who were chained to a fixed place in the yard in all kinds of weather and often forgotten about. In September 2017, with advocacy from Stone and the SPCA, Martinsville City Council made the law stricter and easier to enforce. Dogs now cannot be chained to a fixed place between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., or during extreme cold or heat.
Part of Stone’s job in animal control was working with the SPCA to find homes for animals from the city pound.
“They come out and take pictures of the animals and put them on Facebook to hopefully get adopted,” he said. Stone is often pictured posing with the adoptable dogs. Though he is happy to see them find “forever homes,” he said, “I get really close to the dogs, and it’s hard to see them go.”
Stone’s dog for the past eight years, a Shih-Tzu mix named Booboo, came from an animal cruelty case. Originally, the dog’s fur was so matted that it took four hours to shear and groom, he said.
It takes a lot of money and time to rehabilitate animals who have been abused or neglected, Stone said. Even healthy animals come with a cost before they can be adopted out by the SPCA.
“People don’t realize that pretty much every animal comes through the door, whether it’s a kitten or a full-grown dog, costs the SPCA more than $300” to complete the required vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and other care, he said. Dropping off a box of kittens “may not seem like much,” he said, but one litter alone can cost thousands of dollars.
“A big part of my job is going to be fundraising,” Stone said. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I know a lot of people. I’m hoping to get people that aren’t current donors to get involved and help out.”
He also plans to use his connections on the state animal control board to transfer more adoptable animals to larger areas, such as Washington, D.C., where there are more families available to adopt them.
Stone said his goal over the next few years is to increase the space and capacity at the SPCA’s shelter.
“I would like to see this SPCA grow and expand, with more runs where we could take in more animals from the public,” he said. He also hopes to add to the existing staff with “a veterinarian, a vet tech, and a groomer on site one day. It would cut down on the cost of the spay-neuter program a lot, as well as the cost of transporting the dogs and cats.”
Board President Tiffany Smart noted that the SPCA not only provides “a safe haven for strays and misplaced pets, but we offer important services to the people of our community as well. Those services include low-cost spay/neuter clinics, wellness clinics, and educational programs.”
The SPCA was organized in 1974 to sponsor, promote, participate in and encourage interest in the welfare, health and life of all animals and all interpretations of their humane welfare; and to conduct educational programs to ensure its success. For more information, visit www.spcamhc.org.
The Martinsville-Henry County SPCA has selected E.C. Stone as the organization’s new executive director, effective Oct. 21. Stone is pictured with adoptable dogs from the city pound from his nine years working as Martinsville Animal Control Officer.