Anicira has been around since 2005 and has become an opportunity for JMU students to adopt and foster animals. 

Local nonprofit veterinary center Anicira focuses specifically on ending medically and behaviorally unnecessary euthanasia, which many shelters practice on unwanted animals. The center has had only 10 euthanizations in the three years its adoption center has been active compared to 1,333 adoptions.

Anicira began in 2005 as the Shenandoah Valley Spay and Neuter Clinic. Over the past 14 years, the clinic has expanded into a full-service veterinary center that takes in stray, abused and unwanted dogs and cats in addition to providing care for pets in the Valley. The center offers various types of medical care including dentistry and preventive care, a foster and adoption center and a sensory garden for dogs to play.

These services help provide affordable amenities to local pet owners. Anicira’s operations coordinator Dan Chavez said grants from numerous foundations such as PetSmart Charities, the Petco Foundation and the ASPCA have allowed the center to offer lowered rates for certain clients. In addition, Anicira provides reduced-cost spay/neuter procedures to Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents with income at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level.

“There aren’t that many clinics that offer the full services in the array that we are able to provide,” Chavez said. “We’ve continued to see an increase in need of financial assistance. Most of the time, if people don’t have financial assistance, the only option is euthanasia or surrendering to a shelter.”

Anicira relies heavily on members of the JMU community who choose to foster and adopt pets through its center. In 2018, 788 animals were saved due to the utilization of approximately 350 foster homes. 

Chavez said student use of social media is a critical component for Anicira because when they share their foster and adoption experiences, it can spark interest in other students and members of the community and encourage others to do the same.

“We live in a very fortunate community that has been willing to step up, many of them being our JMU community,” Chavez said. “JMU has been such a critical component to our foster and adoption program. Without their services, we would not be as successful as we have been.” 

JMU health administration major Emily Grigsby began fostering in the middle of the fall semester with the help of her roommates, including junior communication sciences and disorders major Caroline Collier. Grigsby said after completing the initial foster training, students can comment on Anicira’s adoption event Facebook posts which dog they’d like to foster, then go and pick them up along with any supplies they need. Anicira has utilized the Facebook foster group since the start of its adoption program in 2016. 

“They were all really friendly,” Collier said. “Dogs end up learning at a younger age how to socialize, and that just makes happier dogs, more well-behaved dogs, instead of dogs that are used to being kept in a kennel all the time. I think every community should have a rescue program.”

Ever since she stepped on campus, sophomore kinesiology major Ashleigh Cummiskey wanted to adopt a dog, and after the start of a difficult semester, she turned to Anicira for help. 

The week before Thanksgiving break, Cummiskey adopted a lab-terrier mix named Gilbert who had been abandoned by his previous owners at a high-kill shelter in southwest Virginia before arriving at Anicira.

“Last semester was awful, and so that’s why I looked into getting a dog, because I thought it would help me, and it definitely has,” Cummiskey said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything because I’ve always had a passion for animals, and they just make me happier. So whenever I’m stressed, having him next to me makes it a lot easier and manageable.”

Cummiskey said, because of the help of Anicira’s staff, the adoption process was quick and smooth. She admires the focus Anicira has on its animals and the comfort that pets can bring to JMU students.

“They do a lot of events on campus where they bring the dogs so you’re able to have that interaction, which I think is really nice because a lot of people have dogs at home, and they can’t see them, so it’s a little bit of home away from home,” Cummiskey said. “I think Anicira is just special because of how they try so hard to have college students foster. I definitely would recommend them to anyone looking to adopt a pet.”

Chavez said Anicira has played a big part in reducing the number of strays in the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County areas. Due to this decline, fewer animals are being euthanized in high-kill shelters.

“Before we had opened up, we had an increase of animals entering the shelter, and over the last decade, that number has had a dramatic decrease,” Chavez said. “There are fewer animals entering our shelter, and more services can be dedicated to those animals who are there. It has dramatically cut those euthanasia numbers in half.”

Contact Kamryn Koch at For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.