2010 Legislative Session

The 2010 legislative session in Virginia was a rather unusual one for animal issues.  It resulted in some strengthening of animal protection, and also led to the formation of a new group that will protect animals in the Commonwealth and provide a voice for open-access shelters.

The penalty for a violation of the minimum standards of care for companion animals (animal neglect) is now a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.  Up until July 1, 2010, it had been a Class 4 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $250.

The penalty for abandoning an animal becomes a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.  In the past, it had been a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $500.

The penalty for animal cruelty remains a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.  However, a conviction will now require a mandatory minimum of five days in jail and a prohibition on the possession and ownership of companion animals.

Those are very good additional protections, and we thank our local legislators who voted for the bills.  We also need to thank them for voting against a proposed bill that was seen as very dangerous for all open-access shelters, whether public or private.

The proposed bill, HB429, seems rather harmless at first glance.  It would have prohibited “any adoption or euthanasia decision to be based solely on breed.”  However, th4 wording of the bill would have prohibited municipal shelters from having any breed specific adoption policies.  For instance, we do not allow poodles, Yorkies, Chihuahuas, dachshunds, etc. to be adopted as outside dogs.  Other shelters do not allow Huskies to go into homes where there are young children or cats.

The bill was proposed by rescue groups and limited access shelters who felt that too many pit bulls and other “bully” breeds are being euthanized.  One group sued a municipal shelter in Northern Virginia because their policy stated they do not adopt out pit bulls, but they transfer them to groups who do.  The judge found in favor of the municipality, so the rescue groups decided to introduce a bill.

However, regulated shelters (public and private open-access shelters) felt that the unintended consequences of the bill would have put shelters at risk of lawsuits.  We were contacted by a couple of women who are heavily involved in legislation and asked if we could go to Richmond to testify before the House Agriculture Sub-Committee.

We testified that shelters can be held accountable for many things, but not for the numbers of animals that are received, the breeds of dogs received, and the breeds of dogs that more people want to adopt.

The patron of the bill even testified that shelters could be sued.  The judge would then look at the numbers of dogs euthanized for, perhaps, a six month time period, and if he determined that more pit bulls than dachshunds were euthanized, the shelter could be found in violation of the law.

Thankfully, the bill was defeated in sub-committee.  However, the supporters of it re-worded the proposed bill (not changing the meaning or intent) and brought it up the next week in the House Agriculture Sub-Committee.  We went to Richmond again, and it was defeated again.  The supporters became angry and posted comments on blogs about how the opponents of the bill should find other jobs, or how we should have been in charge of the Nazi death camps.  They persuaded Governor McDonnell to amend the anti-cruelty bill to include the prohibition against any adoption or euthanasia decision being based on breed.  The Speaker of the House ruled that it was not germane to the anti-cruelty bill and the bill died.

As a result of HB 429, several open-access shelters formed a group and named it the Virginia Alliance for Animal Shelters.  All open-access shelters, whether public or private, are being invited to join.  The open-access shelters are responsible for the vast majority of unwanted companion animals (reaching into the tens of thousands each year), and needed an organization that supports that vital work.

It was an interesting legislative session in 2010, and we suspect the 2011 session will be equally as interesting.

Cruelty Investigation

The necropsy of the pit bull found in the Oak Hill Cemetery revealed awful details of the dog’s death.  Her body was badly bruised, she had puncture wounds on her body, and she was shot.

There are many scenarios that could have taken place:  The dog could have been forced to fight, and then shot when she lost the fight.  She could have been beaten by her owner after the fight.  What we do know is that the veterinarian who performed the necropsy said the dog suffered greatly.

This is no longer an abandonment investigation; it is a cruelty investigation.

The Danville Area Humane Society has increased the amount of the award for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.  We now are offering a reward of up to $2,000.

Citizens with information are urged to call 799-0843.  All calls will be kept confidential.

Anti-Chaining Law

On July 1, 2010, a new law will go into effect in the City of Danville.

No companion animal can be chained for more than 4 hours in a 24 hour period.

If the temperature is 32 degrees or below, no companion animal can be chained.

No companion animal under the age of 4 months can be chained at all.

No sick or injured companion animal can be chained.

Companion animals cannot be chained to a single fixed point during the 4 hours. This means that they must be on a runner or the chain must be fixed to a swivel hook.

To help people who have their dogs constantly chained now, the Danville Area Humane Society has purchased 50 chain link dog lots. These lots are 10’X 10’ and are a very good quality. We purchased them for $200 each, and will sell them for $100.

To qualify to purchase a lot, dog owners must:

  • Provide proof that they are residents of the City of Danville,
    Pay $100,
  • Provide proof that the dog has been spayed or neutered. If the dog is not spayed or neutered, this must be done. The Danville Area Humane Society will pay for the cost of the surgery.
  • Provide proof that their dog has an up-to-date rabies vaccination. If the dog does not have a current rabies shot, the owners must update the shot.
  • Purchase a current city tag.

If you have any questions about this new law, please call 799-0843.

If you would like to purchase a dog lot (with the guidelines printed above), please call 799-0843.

City Council Members Contact Information

Councilwoman Ruby B. Archie
145 Westwood Drive
Danville, VA 24541
434-792-3652
rarchy@verizon.net

Councilman L. G. “Larry” Campbell, Jr.
368 Mowbray Arch
Danville, VA 24541
434-793-9493
Campbell862@aol.com

Councilman T. David Luther
129 Acorn Lane
Danville, VA 24541
434-799-1148
luther@ci.danville.va.us

Councilman Gary P. Miller, MD
209 Updike Place
Danville, VA 24541
434-799-0908
harthrob@gamewood.net

Vice-Mayor T. Wayne Oakes
388 Hawthorne Drive
Danville, VA 24541
434-799-2094
twoakes@yahoo.com

Councilman Albert K. “Buddy” Rawley
187 Acorn Lane
Danville, VA 24541
434-203-7868
brawley@dcc.vccs.edu

Mayor Sherman M. Saunders
115 Druid Lane
Danville, VA 24541
434-799-8737
smsaunders@pccainc.org

Councilman Fred O. Shanks, III
345 West Main Street
Danville, VA 24541
434-797-3355
fshanks@verizon.net

Councilman Adam J. Tomer
444 Woodlawn Drive
Danville, VA 24541
434-441-0389
adamjtomer@yahoo.com

Cruelty Investigation

The necropsy of the pit bull found in the Oak Hill Cemetery revealed awful details of the dog’s death.  Her body was badly bruised, she had puncture wounds on her body, and she was shot.

There are many scenarios that could have taken place:  The dog could have been forced to fight, and then shot when she lost the fight.  She could have been beaten by her owner after the fight.  What we do know is that the veterinarian who performed the necropsy said the dog suffered greatly.

This is no longer an abandonment investigation; it is a cruelty investigation.

The Danville Area Humane Society has increased the amount of the award for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.  We now are offering a reward of up to $2,000.

Citizens with information are urged to call 799-0843.  All calls will be kept confidential.

Heat

Life can be predictable. When the temperatures rise, we know that we are going to receive a lot of calls about pets that have been left in parked cars, as well as dogs that are chained outside with no shade and no water.

Situations like this can quickly lead to heat stress or heat strokes. In fact, warm temperatures are more dangerous for most animals than colder temperatures.

On a warm day, the temperature in a parked car can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with the windows partially open and even if the air conditioner has been on before the car was stopped. Dogs do not sweat; they cool their bodies by panting. If they pant in a parked car, hot air entering their lungs only compounds the heat problems. Brain damage, heatstroke, or suffocation can quickly result.

A dog that is outside requires adequate shelter, but in the summer a doghouse quickly becomes a hot box. Shade is required so a dog can be out of direct sunlight. Cool water must be available at all times.

If your pet has been exposed to high temperatures, look for signs of heat stress. The signs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, staggering, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue.

You must lower your pet’s body temperature immediately. Move the animal into shade and apply cool, not cold, water all over the body to gradually lower the body temperature. Apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck, and chest, and let the animal drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take the animal to a veterinarian.

If you see an animal in a parked car exhibiting signs of heat stress, or if you see an animal with no shade or water, you may be the only hope they have of surviving. If you are in a store parking lot and see an animal in a closed car, get a description of the car and the license plate number. Ask the manager of the store if he can help the animal, and then call Animal Control or the Humane Society.

Dogs chained outside with no protection from direct sunlight or heat, and those that have not been provided with cool water also need intervention. Call either the Humane Society or Animal Control.

Heat is a dangerous problem for animals, and it is the owner’s responsibility to keep all companion animals safe and secure from the weather extremes.

Facebook

We are on FACEBOOK!

Just search for “Danville Area Humane Society” and choose LIKE.

High Temperature Dangers

The high temperatures that we are currently experiencing are very dangerous for animals. In fact, warm temperatures can be more dangerous for most animals than colder temperatures.

A dog that is outside requires adequate shelter, but in the summer a doghouse quickly becomes a hot box. Shade is required so a dog can be out of direct sunlight. Cool water must be available at all times. This is the law. Cats and other companion animals must also have adequate protection from the sun, and they also must be provided a constant source of cool water.

On a warm day, the temperature in a parked car can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with the windows partially open and even if the air conditioner has been on before the car was stopped. Dogs do not sweat; they cool their bodies by panting. If they pant in a parked car, hot air entering their lungs only compounds the heat problems. Brain damage, heatstroke, or suffocation can quickly result.

If you see an animal in a parked car exhibiting signs of heat stress, or if you see an animal with no shade or water, you may be the only hope they have of surviving. If you are in a store parking lot and see an animal in a closed car, get a description of the car and the license plate number. Ask the manager of the store if he can help the animal, and then call Animal Control (in Danville, call 799-5111 and in Pittsylvania County, call 432-7937) or the Humane Society at 799-5306.

If your pet has been exposed to high temperatures, look for signs of heat stress. The signs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, staggering, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue.

You must lower your pet’s body temperature immediately. Move the animal into shade and apply cool, not cold, water all over the body to gradually lower the body temperature. Apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck, and chest, and let the animal drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take the animal to a veterinarian.

Heat is a dangerous problem for animals, and it is the owner’s responsibility to keep their pets safe, healthy, and secure.

Abandonment 2010

This past week, a large white rabbit was placed in our drop-off cage with a note that said that he had been found at a dumpster in the county. We assume that he was abandoned there, although he could have just wandered to the dumpster. Some people who purchase rabbits, ducks, guinea pigs, and other such animals grow tired of them and they wrongly believe that the animals will be able to survive on their own. So, they are abandoned in neighborhoods, parks and fields.

We will never know how the rabbit came to be at the dumpster, but we do know that when he was found, he had some problems. He was covered with fleas, seemed to be weak, and had lots of mats in his fur. He was taken to a veterinary clinic where they tried to save him. However, he had urine burns on his stomach and bottom (probably from where the fur was so matted) and had some kind of injury to his back legs. After being in the hospital for a couple of days, the only recourse was to euthanize him.

It always seems so sad to me that abandoned animals suffer and die, and we do not even know about them. That is why I included the story of the white rabbit in this column – so he will be known and remembered.

In the fall of 1992, after I had worked for the humane society for just a couple of months, an animal control officer brought in a dog that had been abandoned. His owners had moved away, and they had left him chained in the backyard. By the time neighbors called about him, he was emaciated and weak. I could not believe that anyone would do such a thing.

Unfortunately, I now believe that someone would abandon an animal, because we have seen it so much. Dogs are being left on chains in backyards, but frankly, those are the easier cases. The harder ones are when animals are left inside houses. We have had to rescue dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, parakeets, reptiles, and other species of companion animals. Animals are being left to die slow, lonely deaths where no one can see them. The fortunate ones are found by landlords. Others are helped when neighbors begin to hear noises in empty houses or apartments.

Some people simply take animals to isolated parts of the country and leave them. They may believe that the animals can survive on their own. They cannot.

Animals (mostly kittens) are placed in boxes, the boxes are taped, and the boxes placed in dumpsters.

A couple of years ago, the Virginia Legislature included companion animals under the litter laws. At first, this may seem offensive to group pets in with garbage, but it actually is a very good step.

Abandonment of an animal is a Class 3 misdemeanor. But, if the person is charged under the litter laws, the crime is a Class 1 misdemeanor. The law itself is very well-written: “It shall be unlawful for any person to dump or otherwise dispose of trash, garbage, refuse, litter, a companion animal for the purpose of disposal, or other unsightly matter, on public property, including a public highway, right-of-way, property adjacent to such highway or right-of-way, or on private property without the written consent of the owner thereof or his agent.”

Abandonment of animals in this area has become a serious problem. Each summer for the past several years, miniature pinschers have been abandoned on the Danville Expressway. A couple of years ago, ferrets were also abandoned by the side of the road in a cage

The problem goes on and on and on. We will pay a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone abandoning an animal in the City or in Pittsylvania County.

Under the Class 3 misdemeanor abandonment laws, a person can be fined not more than $500. Under the new Class 1 misdemeanor litter laws, a person can be confined in jail for not more than twelve months, and fined not more than $2,500, either or both.

If you know of anyone who has abandoned an animal, please call us. Abandonment is inhumane, cruel, and illegal.

$750 Reward!

We were very concerned to read the news report of the large African tortoise that was found in a backyard in Lynchburg.  The tortoise is now missing, and experts say that the animal will not be able to survive on its own.

The Danville Area Humane Society is offering a reward of up to $750 for the tortoise being brought to our animal shelter in Danville.  Lynchburg Animal Control Officer Louis Faust has indicated he will transport the animal to our facility.  An out-of-state tortoise and turtle sanctuary and rescue group has been contacted and will take the animal.

Humane Society director Paulette Dean said, “Although we do not know the complete story, we do know that this tortoise is in need of human intervention, and we are happy to help.”

Board president Lynn Shelton agreed, and said, “Exotic animals like this should not be sold as pets.  Unfortunately, pet stores do and the animals are the ones to suffer.”

If citizens of Lynchburg believe they have seen this tortoise, we urge them to call Lynchburg Animal Control at (434) 455-6105 or (434) 847-1602.

Cats

Cats are not having an easy time in this area. On May 19, we issued a news release about four very young kittens that had been abandoned at a dumpster. The top flaps of the box had been secured so no escape was possible; besides, the kittens were too young to have any hope of survival on their own. We offered a reward for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible.

The day after the news report, we received anonymous telephone tips. What I found alarming was that callers told stories of friends who had a litter of newborn kittens and those friends were threatening to abandon the kittens or to drown them. Neither litter matched the description of the kittens we had received, nor matched the description of the kittens described by the other callers. That told us we had more unwanted litters that were in danger. I suppose we already knew that from past history, but it was still a matter of concern.

The next day, we received a little kitten from a walker at Dan Daniel Park. He saw the mother cat and another kitten, but could not catch them. We set a humane trap to capture them, but have not been successful. There are many hazards for stray cats along the Riverwalk and the park, so we worry about them.

That same day, a man brought in a little kitten that had been hiding under his mobile home. The mother cat and several kittens had been brought to the shelter the week before, so this little kitten was thin, dehydrated, and very scared.

The next day, we received an adoption questionnaire from a man who wanted to adopt a cat because his other cat had been “eaten by a coyote.”

As I parked in front of the shelter one morning, I noticed a van with the hood up. A woman and an employee were looking into the engine. The woman said that a kitten had crawled into the engine the day before. At first, we doubted if the kitten would still be in the engine, but a gray kitten did drop onto the parking lot. The poor thing must have been so hungry, because it took less than two minutes for him to go into a trap baited with food.

Next, I received a phone call from a man who said he needed to report that his cat had been shot by a BB gun. The cat, thankfully, will survive, but whoever did that probably still has the gun. Some people do not like cats who wander on to their property, but the law does not allow people to be cruel to them.

We received 75 cats during a four day period at the same time all of these events were happening. We are bracing for a beyond-busy summer.

Cats are prolific breeders, and that is why we have such an aggressive spay/neuter program for cats. We also require cats adopted from us to be kept inside because we are all too aware of the dangers that exist.

Cats are wonderful creatures, and offer a special companionship for the people who are willing to offer them the care they need.