RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Over the years, there has been no more vocal or passionate advocate for animal welfare, than Richmond's Robin Starr, who describes the death of her 16-year-old mix named "Louie," as a tragic accident.
"We have lost a member of our family that we loved very dearly," Starr said.
It was last Wednesday, when according to Starr, Louie was placed in the back of her station wagon, by her husband, Ed, who forgot to tell her.
Robin went to work, unaware of the deaf and half-blind dog that lay in the back. Four hours went by before she discovered Louie in the car -- and by then it was 91 degrees outside.
The dog died later that evening at the Veterinary Emergency Center in Carytown of complications from heat stroke.
"This sort of thing can happen so easily, to anyone, at anytime. And that, anytime you put a pet in a car, you need to be extremely alert, and you need to inform others," she said.
Starr says she's not resigning -- and not bowing to criticism from those who hear the story.
ANDY: "Especially the ones who have been the target of your criticism over the years?"
ROBIN: "I know that our wonderful staff and our wonderful Board of the Richmond SPCA and every single animal lover out there will have immense sympathy, and I know that I have their support. That have already indicated that to me and I am very grateful."
Indeed, the SPCA'S board chairperson said that Starr has "our steadfast support. We are fortunate to have her leading the SPCA. We hope that she continues to do so for many years in the future."
Even if all those years to come, carry a newfound level of grief.
"Anyone who has lost a beloved member of their family knows that grieving is something that you hope to be able to do privately. And we would've wished that to be the case here," Starr said.
The animal adoption and rescue foundation in Richmond is calling for Starr's resignation. But no one at the Richmond SPCA is acknowledging that as a possibility.
"It is our deepest hope that it can provide a learning opportunity for others," Starr said. "This sort of thing can happen so easily to anyone at anytime. And that anytime you put a pet in the car, you need to be extremely alert, and you need to inform others.
"Well, I guess, we all have to cope with grief at some time in our life. There is no one that doesn't cope with grief at some time in their life."
Robin Starr has been outspoken in the media about animal cruelty court cases. She released this statement in July when NFL quarterback and Virginia native Michael Vick was released from prison after serving time for his role in a dog fighting ring and killing dogs:
"Vick has not yet demonstrated that his remorse is sincere or that his irresponsible, cruel and criminal behaviors are likely to change."
She was also outspoken in June after a case in King William County where a man was convicted of starving 11 hounds, killing four of them:
"We are not really applying the laws that exist with enough faithfulness, that animal cruelty and neglect, starving 11 dogs, 4 of them to death will not be tolerated in Virginia," Starr said at the time.
In addition to his sentence of 70 days in jail, Cary Longest was given five years probation and was not allowed to have a companion animal during that time. Starr said Longest should never be allowed to own an animal again.
"That amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist, which is very troubling because it does not provide any sort of deterrent for people who might do the same thing in the future," Starr said.
Starr was born in Portsmouth and the biography of her on the SPCA website says she grew up in a family of animal lovers.
Starr became the Chief Executive Officer of the Richmond SPCA in 1997. Shortly thereafter, the Board of Directors adopted a progressive and ambitious plan for the future of the Richmond SPCA. It transformed the Richmond SPCA into a no-kill community and created a new humane center with an on-site spay/neuter clinic and educational facilities.
The Richmond SPCA claims to have saved more than 20,000 pets' lives since becoming a no-kill facility in January 2002.
Starr worked with board leadership to make that plan a reality over the next four years. In recognition of her contributions to the fulfillment of the plan, the Robins-Starr Humane Center at 2519 Hermitage Road bears her name.