(Updated at 6:00 p.m.) The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is strapped for cash and it says it’s time for the Arlington County Board to honor its responsibility to animals in the area.
“There’s a point at which we have to say ‘you’ve got to step up here’,” AWLA CEO Neil Trent told ARLnow.com today. “If you want to maintain the high level of animal welfare in Arlington, you have to give more.”
Every year, Trent said, the animal shelter — which is the county’s contractor for all animal control services — gives the county a budget for how much it costs to maintain its level of service.
In FY 2016, the difference between AWLA’s budget and the money allocated in County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget is $365,000. Donnellan has allocated a total of $1.37 million to AWLA.
“The county has never provided the amount of money we’ve asked for. Never,” Trent said. “Every year, they come back and say ‘this is what it is … this is what you’re going to get.’ It’s never been negotiable.”
For the first time, AWLA is asking for help to pressure the County Board for money. Yesterday, the shelter sent an email to supporters asking them to contact Board members by March 24, and “tell them that as voters and taxpayers, YOU WANT public health and animal welfare to be a budget priority and ASK the County to provide AWLA with an additional $365K to continue to keep pets and the community safe.”
AWLA employs four animal control officers who work in shifts to have coverage 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Trent says he did an analysis, and the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria covers less area, a smaller population and employs five officers, all of whom are better paid than their Arlington counterparts.
On Sunday, the one control officer on duty fielded five calls from 11:20 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., including a German shepherd running in traffic that the Arlington County Police Department had to use a Taser on to subdue. Another dog had to be given shelter after its owner attempted suicide. It was busier than a typical day, Trent said, but not by much. Earlier this year, AWLA officers spent 70 hours investigating poisoned sausages that were left around north Arlington.
The lack of animal control resources in a county of 220,000 residents sometimes takes a toll. Arlington police officers have at times had to wait upwards of an hour for an animal control officer to finish up one call and respond to the animal-related police call they’re on.
In AWLA’s contract with the county, according to Trent, the shelter is required to care for injured wildlife; quarantine sick animals; take in animals whose owners have been injured or whose houses have suffered a disaster; rescue animals from abuse or neglect; and investigate public health concerns.
Also in the contract, Trent said, is a County Board-set goal of saving 90 percent of the dogs and 85 percent of cats taken in, despite the national shelter average save rate of 60 percent.
Last year, Trent said AWLA signed a 10-year extension of its animal control contract with the county, but every year the contract comes up for review. Last year, the county upped its contribution to the shelter by 1 percent, but the three years before that, the rate was flat. Meanwhile, AWLA’s costs rise about $60,000-$90,000 a year, Trent said.
“Name an award, we’ve received it,” he said. “It seems to me that we probably shot ourselves in the foot because we continue to maintain such a high standard of care that the county says ‘they’ll get on with it.’”
Trent said if AWLA doesn’t receive any additional funding, the board of directors will have to discuss which services it can scale back. He said, as CEO, the welfare of the animals in the county “is my responsibility, and I’m really concerned about the level of service. It’s not the County Board that’s going to be affected, it’s some kid that’s bitten or scratched by a rabid animal.”
And while he understands the County Board has plenty of items to fund, Trent is saying “enough is enough.”
“It would be a smack in the face from the county if they didn’t acknowledge our need,” Trent said. “You’ve only got to get one rabid raccoon in the middle of Arlington and you’ll see who’s needed most.”
An Alcova Heights resident called Arlington animal control officers earlier this month to report the sound of animals screaming.
While the man thought the animals might be in danger, an officer determined that it was most likely the sound of foxes mating. From the Animal Watch files of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington:
May 6, 2014 – 4000 block 8th Street South
Animal Control received a call from a man who was concerned about the sound of animals screaming, fearful that they might be injured. An Animal Control Officer spoke to the caller and gathered a description of the noises he was hearing. It was determined that it was likely fox. Fox commonly make screaming sounds when socializing and mating; behavior that is common this time of year.
Meanwhile, in the Arlington Ridge and Pentagon City neighborhoods last month, on two separate occasions animal control was called for a report of a “lethargic” squirrel.
April 30, 2014 – 1500 South Fern Street
Animal Control received a call about a squirrel, described as “dying” on the sidewalk in the torrential downpour. An animal control officer responded, and impounded the cold, lethargic, juvenile squirrel. The Officer provided the squirrel with heat therapy, and then offered some formula. Within 2 hours the squirrel was bright and alert, trying to escape from its box. The squirrel was transported to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for continued recovery, and eventual release.
April 21, 2014 – 2400 block South Lynn Street
Animal Control received a call about a baby squirrel, observed lying on the sidewalk. An Animal Control Officer responded and picked up the juvenile squirrel, which was quite lethargic, for transport to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
In the Courthouse area, meanwhile, another young squirrel got itself into some trouble after climbing into a washing machine. It was treated for eye ulcers caused by laundry detergent.
April 28, 2014 – 2300 block 11th St. North
Animal Control received a call about a squirrel, confined in a washing machine. An Animal Control Officer responded and found a juvenile squirrel in the machine, covered in laundry detergent. The squirrel was impounded, bathed, and transferred to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for care. The rehabilitator reports back that the squirrel is receiving medical treatment for ulcers to his eyes, a result of the detergent. He is recovering well, and will be released back to the wild once recovered.
Lyon Park Bat Turns Out to Be Something Else — A Lyon Park resident called animal control officers late last month after a startling discovery: a bat inside his or her home. There was only one problem — the responding animal control officer found that the “bat” was actually a sweatband. It’s not the first time something like this has happened. Previously, a balloon had been mistaken for a bat, a ski hat lying on the road was mistaken for a dead cat, and a “mangy, emaciated cat” turned out to be stuffed animal. [DCist]
GOP Trying to Find Candidate for Special Election — The upcoming County Board special election to replace the retiring Chris Zimmerman could give Arlington Republicans their best chance of winning a seat on the Board since the late 1990s, the last time any non-Democrat served as a Board member. “We could really pull a surprise,” said Arlington County Republican Committee chairman Charles Hokanson. [Sun Gazette]
County Seeking Food Donations for AFAC — As part of County Board Chair Walter Tejada’s “Moving Forward Together” initiative, Arlington County is collecting food items to help stock the shelves at the Arlington Food Assistance Center for the winter. Drop-off points have been set up at Arlington community centers and libraries. [Arlington County]
Mary Bono Selling Arlington Condo — Former California congresswoman Mary Bono is selling her two-bedroom, two-bath condo in the Eclipse building, near Potomac Yard, for $569,000. [Washington Post]
Lustron Home for Sale — A “rare and historic” Lustron home in south Arlington is for sale. The prefabricated two-bedroom, one bathroom home is all steel and was considered a “[marvel] of modern efficiency and style” when it was built at the end of World War II. It’s listed at $499,000. [Preservation Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
It’s a part of Virginia law that mostly pertains to rural areas, crafted to protect farmers and their livestock. But it could also potentially apply to Arlington, should the county allow residents to raise egg-laying hens.
Virginia law section § 3.2-6552 allows for citizens to kill any dog caught in the act of killing or injuring poultry. After the fact, Virginia courts have the power to order animal control officers to kill any dog found to be a “confirmed poultry killer.”
The little-known law may be a deal-breaker for dog-loving Arlington residents, should the county follow a task force recommendation and require potential hen owners to first win the approval of adjacent property holders.
“That could really cause some problems between neighbors,” said Jim Pebley, of the group Backyards, Not Barnyards, which opposes urban chickens in Arlington. “This just adds another reason why relaxing restrictions on raising poultry in residential areas is not a very good idea.”
Asked about the law, supporters of backyard hens didn’t seem concerned, however.
“Thankfully, dogs, people and hens co-exist happily in Baltimore, Richmond, Raleigh, and hundreds of other urban communities across the country that embrace henkeeping,” said Ed Fendley, of the Arlington Egg Project. “We are confident that in Arlington, too, we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”
Other states have similar laws on the books. Two weeks ago in the San Francisco area, two dogs were killed by the owner of chickens the dogs had just killed. The killing of the dogs would be legal under California law, unless the dogs “suffered unduly” and animal cruelty charges can be brought.
The Virginia law is as follows:
It shall be the duty of any animal control officer or other officer who may find a dog in the act of killing or injuring livestock or poultry to kill such dog forthwith whether such dog bears a tag or not. Any person finding a dog committing any of the depredations mentioned in this section shall have the right to kill such dog on sight as shall any owner of livestock or his agent finding a dog chasing livestock on land utilized by the livestock when the circumstances show that such chasing is harmful to the livestock. Any court shall have the power to order the animal control officer or other officer to kill any dog known to be a confirmed livestock or poultry killer, and any dog killing poultry for the third time shall be considered a confirmed poultry killer. The court, through its contempt powers, may compel the owner, custodian, or harborer of the dog to produce the dog.
Any animal control officer who has reason to believe that any dog is killing livestock or poultry shall be empowered to seize such dog solely for the purpose of examining such dog in order to determine whether it committed any of the depredations mentioned herein. Any animal control officer or other person who has reason to believe that any dog is killing livestock, or committing any of the depredations mentioned in this section, shall apply to a magistrate serving the locality wherein the dog may be, who shall issue a warrant requiring the owner or custodian, if known, to appear before a general district court at a time and place named therein, at which time evidence shall be heard. If it shall appear that the dog is a livestock killer, or has committed any of the depredations mentioned in this section, the district court shall order that the dog be: (i) killed immediately by the animal control officer or other officer designated by the court; or (ii) removed to another state that does not border on the Commonwealth and prohibited from returning to the Commonwealth. Any dog ordered removed from the Commonwealth that is later found in the Commonwealth shall be ordered by a court to be killed immediately.
The Arlington County Board is considering making tethering a dog for more than three hours illegal.
At its Sept. 21 meeting, the board will vote on whether to hold a public hearing on the issue on Oct. 19. Under the ordinance change, dogs would not be allowed to be tethered in a yard for more than three hours in a 24-hour period, or attached to a running cable or trolley system for more than 12 out of 24 hours.
County staff, in its recommendation, said that tethering dogs for an extended period of time “can put the animal’s health at risk if the animal cannot appropriately access food, water or shelter. Tethered animals can also develop aggressive behaviors as a result, which may endanger others.”
The Animal Welfare League of Arlington and its animal control officers support the proposal, according to the staff report. The ordinance would state that, if a dog is observed tethered once and then again three or more hours later, the presumption will be it has been tethered continuously for that period of time.
The proposal does state that the tethering is allowed if the owner is physically within reach of the dog or the dog isn’t tied to a “chain, rope or line of any kind that is too short to enable the dog easily to stand, sit, lie down, turn about, and make all other normal body movements in a comfortable, normal position for the animal, and reach shade as necessary.”
This week’s Arlington Animal Watch blotter includes a belated but somewhat amusing holiday-related item from December.
A Westover resident got more than she bargained for when her Christmas tree came with an unwelcome visitor. From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington:
12/2/11 — 1400 block N. Kenilworth St. — A resident purchased a Christmas tree and when she brought it in the house, a wild animal, thought to be a squirrel came out of the tree. Animal control set a trap for the squirrel overnight, and the resident propped her front door open so the animal could exit. The animal did not go into the trap and is no longer in the home so it is believed it ran through the open door.
Older Arlington Residents Give County High Marks — Arlington scored well above the state average in a recent survey of older Virginians. “People over 50 years of age in Arlington say they have a high quality of life, feel safe and secure, and are happy with their access to healthcare services, educational opportunities and recreational activities,” according to a county press release. [Arlington County]
‘Hairspray’ Actor Is Local TV/Radio Personality — Local WETA on-air personality Robery Aubry Davis is playing the role of Edna Turnblad in the Signature Theatre production of ‘Hairspray,’ which opened in Shirlington last week. [Sun Gazette]
Fighting Deer Cause Ruckus — According to an Arlington animal control blotter item, a pair of fighting bucks crashed through a glass patio window in the 3600 block of N. Monroe Street earlier this month. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
According to police radio traffic, the young female deer was walking right up to Glebe Elementary School students today before school — a behavior much more reminiscent of a lost puppy than a wild deer. In days past, kids had been spotted feeding the deer in a local park.
Arlington animal control officers are reportedly aware of the deer and are trying to capture it.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
On a fishing expedition to the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, located between Crystal City and the GW Parkway, local fly fishing guide Rob Snowhite made a surprising discovery: a group of wild chickens that has apparently taken residence in the sanctuary.
Snowhite wrote on his blog this morning that shortly after parking in the Roaches Run parking lot (across from Gravelly Point, the lot is frequented by limo drivers waiting for airport arrivals) an animal control officer arrived on scene and started trying to round up the wily birds, who seemed determined to not be evicted from their South Arlington home. To assist the effort, Snowhite and his fishing buddy got out their nets and joined the chase. After 20 minutes of fruitless effort, the trio gave up — an outcome that was cheered by some bystanders who told the men to leave the chickens alone.
The two fishermen continued on with their fly fishing mission at the sanctuary, marveling at the prospect of wild chickens living near an urban pond but lamenting the unsuccessful chicken chase.
“There won’t be any fresh roast chicken at Ri Ra tonight,” Snowhite quipped.
Photo courtesy Rob Snowhite
Wild Animals Rescued During Hurricane — Given this week’s weather, Hurricane Irene is increasingly looking like a brief summer rain shower. Nonetheless, the hurricane created a dangerous situation for humans and animals alike. Animal control officers from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington rescued more than 20 wild animals during the storm, mostly baby squirrels. [Washington Post]
Defense Contractor Moving HQ to Arlington — Defense contractor ATK is moving its headquarters from Minneapolis to Rosslyn. The move will only affect the top brass at the company, however. Fewer than 10 employees, mostly executives, are expected to make the move. [DefenseNews]
Arlington Man Found Dead in N.J. — Arlington resident David C. Williams, 47, was found slumped over in the driver’s seat of his car in Woodbine, N.J. on Wednesday. Foul play is not suspected. [Shore News Today]
Arlington Arts Center Happy Hour — The Arlington Arts Center will be starting its series of fall happy hours on Thursday, Sept. 15. [Clarendon Nights]
Flickr photo courtesy of Brendan L.
Ducklings Rescued from Storm Drain — Hanging upside down in a storm drain, an Arlington animal control officer managed to save nine ducklings that had become trapped in a tunnel. The ducklings and their mother were reunited and brought to the nearby Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary. [Animal Watch]
ART 45 Bus Route Expanding — The ART 45 bus route is expanding. It will now run farther down Columbia Pike while at the same time adding a stop at the Courthouse Metro station en route to Rosslyn. [Arlington Transit]
Arlington Schools Spend More Per Pupil — Arlington Public Schools spend 86 percent more per pupil than the national average, according to new Census figures. Arlington spends $19,538 per pupil, while the national average sits at $10,499. [Sun Gazette]
“I just came home to find the crows are pecking at what looks like a decapitated deer head in my backyard,” the woman said in an email to the Waycroft-Woodlawn email listserv. “I don’t know what I am supposed to do… I REALLY don’t want to pick it up… it may have some disease. I have never seen a deer in our neighbourhood before. And where is the rest of the poor thing?”
The woman ended up reporting it to animal control officers with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. An officer quickly arrived and indeed found part of a deer’s head lying in the grass.
“It was in a pretty rank state of decomposition,” said AWLA Executive Director Neil Trent, adding that “there’s no evidence of how it got there, or of any foul play.”
Trent said animal carcasses are discovered “fairly regularly” in the county, but they’re usually found on the sides of roads, not in people’s backyards.
The woman’s house is located between I-66 and Washington Boulevard, just a couple of blocks away from Ballston. Trent said one possible explanation would be that the deer was hit and killed on the highway, and part of its remains were carried off by a scavenger, which dropped it in the yard.
Its high euthanization rate and its reluctance to cooperate with animal rescue groups prompted animal advocates to launch an anonymous blog last year called the AWLA Hawk.
Most recently, the AWLA Hawk published statistics showing that about 30 percent of all dogs and cats that entered the shelter in FY 2010 were euthanized.
Enter Neil Trent, who took over as the League’s executive director in September.
“Not on my watch,” he said, after being asked about the numbers.
Trent, who started his career in animal welfare more than 30 years ago as an animal cruelty law enforcement officer in the United Kingdom, says that he is making collaboration a high priority in his effort to reduce the kill rate.
“Whatever we can do to try to get more animals turned around through the shelter process and out into foster homes or new homes as quickly as we can, that’s what our challenge is going to be,” he said. To that end, he’s pushing AWLA to be “more collaborative, to reach out more and engage more members of the community.”
Among the initiatives Trent has been undertaking is collaborating with animal rescue organizations — including breed-specific rescue organizations — to try to place more cats and dogs with adoptive families.
“We are starting to network more with local rescue groups,” he said. “They do great work in finding homes.”
Trent has also been trying to bolster the League’s volunteer corps, in an effort to make shelter animals more visible at events in the community.
“If we get more volunteers, we’ll have more opportunity… to get more of our adoptable animals out to these outdoor events,” he said.
“We’re talking about living animals here,” Trent added. “They’re not just commodities sitting in a parking lot with a for sale sign on them. They’re living breathing creatures, and our role is to ensure that these animals get every possible chance that they can to make a very short spell here at the shelter and back into a good forever home as quickly as possible.”
On Wednesday, AWLA will host a workshop about feral cats with the group Alley Cat Allies. At least 50 people are expected to attend the event, during which Trent will discuss the new Trap-Neuter-Return program that he’s helping to implement.
Update: The situation has been safely resolved.
An “angry” and “aggressive” pitbull is on the loose in the Nauck section of Arlington, near Drew Model Elementary School. Police are on the scene and animal control is en route.