CVAS History

The history of the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter (CVAS) is a rich tale full of a number of local animal-lovers.

More than likely, there has been “animal control” in the area for as long as Franklin County existed. Until the 1970’s, animals most likely were informally traded among friends or neighbors, often farms, and were probably “controlled” through burlap sacks and bullets. We’ve come a long way, and the progress took a humane turn in the 1970’s. The records we have discussed the people who comprised a board during the 1970’s. They tried to organize a shelter and did a pretty darn good job. Especially since they didn’t have a building.

The building arrived after negotiations for the Lesher Farm, near where Carter Lumber now resides.

Gloria Keyser and Mike Scalia became the first paid employees when the organization got a temporary Manpower grant paying two people about $4 or $5 an hour. Under the direction of dedicated board members, they created an organization, provided education, printed up four pretty good newsletters each year and even adopted some pets using Eyerly’s and Nichols’ Department store display areas on the weekend. This organization kept the faith but never quite believed they’d find about $100,000 more to build a shelter on this land they had the foresight to purchase.

Forward to 1979. The organization’s records show lots of hope and the ordinary frustration that challenges every board.

The records end at 1979, but actual sheltering didn’t occur here until about 1980. Business was transacted using volunteers and phones in the homes of volunteers long before the Internet and e-mail. These “pioneers” kept dogs and cats in their homes. And adoptions took place while Cumberland Valley Humane Society (CVHS) lived in a Chambersburg Post Office box.

A really interesting part of our history is the Helen Collier Trust, begun in 1957 under the management of a Washington, D.C. bank. The trust continued to grow until 1979, when the Franklin County Court delivered a compromise verdict, splitting the funds of the Helen Collier Trust between CVHS and Antietam Humane Society.

With their portion of the trust, CVHS was able to erect the first shelter at our present location.

All non-profit boards experience enormous frustration and we suspect that a lack of income and probably some internal board member disagreements led the Cumberland Valley Humane Society to tire out and agree to give Chambersburg’s shelter to Harrisburg in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, that arrangement didn’t work.

New people with similar thoughts and much energy had the same idea. They got together in 1994 and said, “We are pioneers, too. We’ll take the shelter back from Harrisburg.” Their dedication brought the shelter back under local operation in 1994. But humane animal care really started in the 1970’s and before in northern Franklin County.

After all the hard work, dedication and fundraising, it was the Mildred Kuhn estate that gave this group of animal caretakers lots of hope and some rest. Her estate allowed them to rehabilitate the original shelter building that had been the prize sought decades earlier; Mrs. Kuhn’s estate provided for the expansion of the shelter.

In 1995, during our annual Christmas Open House, Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter proudly demonstrated not just a shelter, but a completely rehabilitated old building offering more space, more programs, and demonstrating a commitment to a new 21st century when Franklin County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott announced the unveiling of a live website available at That’s a day that made us all quite proud of our association with such a great organization.

Many wonderful people are remembered with gratitude for having shown the same compassion for animals that Helen Collier and Mildred Kuhn did. Other outstanding supporters whose estates have carried us forward through their love and care for animals include Betty Eyer, Dick Michaels, et al. Their bequests have enabled the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter to continue to shelter and adopt companion animals in the fine facility you see today.

Gloria Keyser’s records ended with about 5 pages of assessment and provided a great history of the ups and downs that volunteers undergo trying to serve deserving animals. What was true then is still true today and will always be true with a volunteer board of non-profits. They wondered whether they should apologize for being accused of being a group of “fiercely dedicated people.”

When future history is written, the members of the board, shelter staff and volunteers will be proud to share in that accusation. We are “fiercely dedicated” and “fiercely proud” of the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.