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by Andrea Swalec — September 22, 2014 at 1:30 pm 1,321 0

A kitten named Speedo is getting the physical therapy he needs.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is treating a two-month-old domestic shorthair known as a “swimmer” cat who walks by making swimming-like motions with his front paws.

Born with rear legs that splay outward, Speedo was dropped off at the AWLA at 2650 S. Arlington Mill Dr. by an owner who wasn’t in the position to deal with his medical issues, Chief Operating Officer Susan Sherman said.

The shelter found a foster home for the kitten, who gets physical therapy treatments every day. Rather than opting for surgery on his legs, Speedo gets massages and may even receive acupuncture treatments.

“The massage is meant to train the muscles and ligaments,” Sherman said. “The acupuncture would stimulate nerves.

“We do not believe he’s in any pain,” she added.

AWLA veterinarians made a special “alley” for Speedo to walk through with his hind legs bound, encouraging him to walk correctly.

To help pets like Speedo, AWLA is asking for donations to their Woody and Mickey Healthy Pet Fund, which helps special needs pets by paying for”above and beyond” services like orthopedic surgery, blood tests and dental surgery.

Despite his ongoing treatments, Speedo is a sweetheart, Sherman said.

“He is adorable. He’s very sweet and amazingly friendly.”

AWLA expects the kitten will need a permanent home later this year.

“We’re going to see how much he’s able to progress, and as soon as we think he’s going to be able to live a healthy, happy life, he’ll be up for adoption,” she said.

AWLA made this video of Speedo walking through his “alley”: 

by Ethan Rothstein — September 11, 2014 at 11:15 am 451 0

Daisy (right) and Tulip (photo courtesy AWLA)With domestic violence in the news, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington is spreading the word about a program that allows those in dire situations to shelter their pets.

The nonprofit organization, located at 2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive, has a program called “Safekeeping.” The program allows pet owners in Arlington and Falls Church to shelter their pets at AWLA for up to two weeks while the owner is coping with an emergency, like domestic violence, losing a home or the owner’s death.

With the national spotlight thrust on domestic violence after video surfaced of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée, AWLA is hoping to remind abuse victims that their pet’s well-being could be at risk as well as their own.

“A strong connection has been documented linking animal abuse and domestic violence,” said AWLA spokeswoman Kerry McKeel. “Women often delay their decision to leave an abusive partner out of concern for the safety of their pets.”

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that 83 percent of women and 63 percent of children, after having arrived at a domestic violence shelter — such as Doorways for Women and Families – reported incidents of pet abuse.

“At AWLA our steadfast mission throughout the year is to improve the lives of animals and one way in which we accomplish this objective is through our Safekeeping program,” McKeel said. “Animals often give continuity and hope during a crisis, so it is distressing for many when they feel forced to part with a pet due to their circumstance. During a crisis, pet owners often just need some short-term help to get back on their feet and that is what we offer through the Safekeeping program.”

Animals can be sheltered at AWLA for two weeks at a time, and the owners are required to check on the pet’s welfare after one week, AWLA says. There is no limit for how many times an animal can be sheltered in case of emergency. McKeel said that, since Safekeeping was launched as a service in 2005, more than 200 animals have been sheltered.

File photo courtesy AWLA

by Peter Rousselot — June 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm 430 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotAs I have periodically, today I’m profiling a nonprofit that offers valuable services to the Arlington community: the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA).

AWLA provides animal adoption and community programs to the northern Virginia and D.C. metropolitan area, as well as animal rescue and control services within Arlington County. AWLA is committed to its mission to improve the lives of animals through sheltering, community services and humane education.

More than 3,000 companion animals benefit each year, with 92 percent of sheltered animals in 2013 either being adopted into loving homes, reunited with their owner, or transferred to one of many of AWLA’s network of rescue and rehabilitation partners.

Many of you already may be familiar with AWLA’s basic services, but AWLA also offers some innovative programs about which you may not be as familiar. These include baby ready pets, safekeeping (companions in crisis), and the veterinary assistance program.

Baby Ready Pets

Baby-Ready Pets is a free, two-hour workshop to help expectant families in northern Virginia prepare their home and their pets for the arrival of the new baby. This workshop:

  • Provides tips and strategies for making the home a safe and (relatively) stress-free experience for all, and
  • Has been endorsed by the ASPCA.

After the workshop, participants may call or email follow-up questions if they need additional support.

Safekeeping (Companions in Crisis)

If you are an Arlington County or Falls Church City resident, and you are experiencing a health or housing crisis (i.e. unexpected hospitalization, house fire), AWLA can shelter your pet on a short-term basis, through the Safekeeping program, giving you time to make other arrangements.

Pets are permitted to stay for up to two weeks, and there is no restriction on the number of times people can use the service. The pet’s owner is required to contact AWLA on a weekly basis during the safekeeping period to check on the wellbeing of their pet, and is permitted to visit their pet during the League’s regular visiting hours.

Veterinary Assistance Program

Through the Ross-Roberts Emergency Veterinary Assistance fund, the League makes small, no-interest loans to low-income pet owners who need emergency veterinary care for their pets but cannot afford the costs up-front. AWLA doesn’t cover expenses for basic pet care (shots, check-ups, teeth-cleaning) or chronic, life-long conditions (i.e. diabetes, heart condition, allergies). The owner agrees to pay back the loan in monthly installments and to have their pet spayed or neutered if it is not already.

Arlington is fortunate to have AWLA offering these services in our community. For more information about these programs, visit www.awla.org

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Morgan Fecto — June 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm 790 0

popslogo-final_print-227x300To celebrate its 70th anniversary, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington has partnered with the Arlington Philharmonic to stage “Pops for Pets,”  a free concert for people and dogs alike.

The inaugural event will be held at Lubber Run Amphitheater this Sunday, June 29, starting at 6:00 p.m.

Attendees can bring their dogs and a picnic meal, or buy boxed dinners from La Cote d’Or onsite. The AWLA will also hold a raffle for a birdhouse replica of the Lincoln-era White House. The philharmonic will play “marches and animal-related classics” from pieces by Aaron Copland, John Philip Sousa and Johann Sebastian Bach, according to an AWLA press release.

“Both of our organizations are really quite enthused about this, so we’ll see what the public response is,” John Ratigan, board chair of the philharmonic, said. The philharmonic and the AWLA hope “Pops for Pets” will become an annual event.

A combination of the open amphitheater and “accessible” music selection, Ratigan said, makes this event more of a crowd-pleaser than a typical orchestral performance.

Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette’s 13-year-old Border Collie-mix, Cassie, will serve as honorary co-chair of the event.

“She is like a little Buddah,” Fisette said of his dog, which he found on the street while visiting family in Texas.

Concert-goers’ donations will go toward funding the event and “the missions of both organizations,” AWLA Board Chair Pat Ragan said. “It’ll be a great community event.”

Following its 7oth Anniversary Summer Soiree, “Pops for Pets” will continue to celebrate both AWLA’s anniversary and their on-going efforts to find homes and provide care for over 3,000 animals.

AWLA was founded during World War II, and the foresight of the founders is not lost on AWLA President and CEO Neil Trent.

“Back in the ’40s they thought of this in a coffee shop with a war going on,” Trent said. “They said hey, let’s help animals… and they weren’t sitting at the corner Starbucks either.”

Retractable leashes will not be allowed at the event. In the event of inclement weather, “Pops for Pets” will be rescheduled for Tuesday, July 1 at 6:00 p.m.

by Ethan Rothstein — June 9, 2014 at 3:30 pm 6,583 0

Two kittens rescued by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington have become Internet sensations thanks to a viral video (above), filmed and posted by their foster parents.

The video shows the kittens nodding their heads in a synchronized “dance,” seemingly along with the beat of the hit song “Turn Down for What,” by DJ Snake and Lil Jon.

Daisy and Tulip are eight weeks old and are still available for adoption, according to AWLA Executive Director Neil Trent. The video, posted on May 29, has already accumulated more than 3 million views, but Trent said despite people calling with interest about the two kittens, the shelter has yet to receive any formal adoption applications.

Daisy (right) and Tulip (photo courtesy AWLA)Daisy and Tulip, sisters found abandoned when they were less than a week old and their eyes were still closed, are scheduled for surgery to get spayed on Thursday, but Trent said anyone can come in and visit this afternoon, Wednesday or after the surgery on Friday to see the two felines.

“We haven’t had anything that’s gotten this kind of reception,” Trent told ARLnow.com. “Occasionally we’ll post something on YouTube of a cat or a kitten. I think it may be stimulated a bit because the writer of the song is a rap guy named Lil Jon and he Facebooked about the video. Maybe that’s what helped it go out into the ether.”

Daisy, the tortoiseshell-colored kitten, and Tulip are two of about 25-30 kittens currently residing in AWLA’s new feline shelter, along with 45-50 cats, Trent said. There are also about 50 kittens in foster families, where they live until they’re about eight weeks old and are ready to be spayed.

Photo courtesy AWLA

by ARLnow.com — May 20, 2014 at 10:00 am 2,735 0

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.

by Ethan Rothstein — May 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm 464 0

Walk-for-the-Animals-ImageThe Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s biggest fundraiser of the year, its annual Walk for the Animals, will be held this Saturday at Bluemont Park (329 N. Manchester Street).

The event begins with registration at 9:30 a.m. and there will be a 3-mile walk or a 1-mile stroll for participants, who can bring their dog along with them (for their safety, other animals are not permitted at the walk). Registration is $30 for adults, $25 for participants between age 12 and 17 — who must be accompanied by an adult — and $5 for children between 6 and 11 years old. On-site registration is $40.

Participants are also encouraged to solicit sponsors to raise more money to reach AWLA’s goal of $120,000 for the event. As of 1:20 p.m. today, AWLA had raised $68,075. Individuals who raise more than $250 will be entered into a raffle to win a prize, which in previous years has been a hotel giveaway or restaurant gift cards. The walk will be held rain or shine.

“The Walk will unify the community in a celebration of the human-animal bond, while raising awareness and funds to directly benefit the hundreds of adoptable animals and community programs supported by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington — the County’s only humane society,” AWLA said on its event page. “Many of AWLA’s adoptable dogs will be onsite to meet potential new families.”

Photo via AWLA

by Ethan Rothstein — March 7, 2014 at 4:05 pm 2,593 0

Arrow, the cat found that was found in Ballston shot with more than 30 BBs, including at least 20 that remain lodged in his head, was adopted today at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

Bluemont resident Anne Hancock took Arrow — who the shelter estimates is 6 years old — home after an emotional goodbye with AWLA staff. Arrow was brought to AWLA Jan. 18 by someone who found him wandering near Ballston Common Mall.

He came in with an upper respiratory infection and when he was given an X-Ray, veterinarians were shocked to find his body riddled with BBs and buckshot. One eye had to be removed, and he’s blind in his other eye.

Hancock’s daughter and grandson volunteer with AWLA — in fact, her daughter transported Arrow from the shelter to the vet — and they told her about the cat who, despite being horrifically abused, was so friendly and gentle around people.

“He seemed to be a special cat,” Hancock said. “He’s affectionate, sweet and very, very dear.”

Hancock will take him to a home with two other cats — cats that she said have been lonely since her third cat, which was similar in age and color to Arrow, died from cancer a few months ago.

Hancock was one of about 15 who expressed interest in adopting Arrow after ARLnow.com and other news outlets reported on him last month, AWLA Adoptions and Rescue Coordinator Amy Laferrera said. Frequently, animals that have been abused take longer to find homes, but Arrow was quickly in demand.

“We were shocked at how, all of a sudden, there was this huge outpouring of support,” LaFerrera said. “People not only wanted to adopt him but they wanted to donate and help the shelter any way they could.”

Arrow quickly became a favorite around the shelter, coming to humans who called for him or made noises to let him know they were nearby. Hancock picked him up at 2:00 p.m. today, and Arrow spent all morning saying goodbye to the staff at the shelter.

“I’m sad, in a good way, to see him go,” Charnita Fox, an animal care manager whose desk was just a few feet from Arrow’s pen. “I knew he was special when he was brought in because he pretty much let us do anything to him. We didn’t believe he was blind at first because he uses his other senses so well.”

After Hancock signed the adoption paperwork, Arrow was brought to AWLA’s front desk in crate to meet his new owner. He meowed a few times when his crate was closed, but when he was let out he quickly explored the desk he was on. Once Hancock picked him up, he settled peacefully into her arms as he was showered with affection. One AWLA staffer, after snapping a few cell phone photos, excused herself, saying “I’m going to go cry now.”

“He’s a special fella,” Hancock said after meeting him. “I feel like I won the lottery.”

by Courtney Battle — February 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm 1,000 0

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA) wants to make life a little better for its feline residents by upgrading their housing.

In the upcoming weeks, the shelter will undergo a complete facelift of its cat quarters that includes six cageless cat colonies, a separate kitten room, an adoption area with enlarged windows, and larger cages with spaces for hiding, perching and stretching. There will also be two isolation rooms for sick cats, two private rooms for potential adopters to “get acquainted” with the cats and a new HVAC system.

Neil Trent, AWLA President and CEO, expects all of the renovations and construction to be finished by the middle of March.

To pay for the renovations, the league launched a fundraising campaign dubbed Care And Transform (CAT). It has a goal of raising $670,000, to “improve the intake and quality of life for feline and small companion animals at the shelter,” according to a press release.

AWLA’s cats stay for 35 days on average, but some end up staying for as long as a year, according to the press release. For long-term cats, the new improvements are very important.

In a 2010 report, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) claimed that “poor cat housing is one of the greatest shortcomings observed in shelters and has a substantially negative impact on both health and well-being.”

“We believe that while cats are in our care we must do everything that we can to enrich their lives and that includes an opportunity to stretch, climb and play,” said Trent.

AWLA held an adoption event this Valentine’s Day weekend to benefit the CAT campaign. For just $14, attendees could adopt a cat, bird, or rabbit to call their own.

However, due to last week’s snowstorm, the event didn’t go quite as planned. One cat found a permanent home, but several others are still waiting to find a match. So far the CAT campaign has raised just over 35 percent of its goal. 

Photos courtesy AWLA

by ARLnow.com — February 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm 3,480 0

Aarow (photo courtesy AWLA)The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is helping a cat recover from injuries suffered as a result of being shot numerous times with a BB gun.

An Arlington resident recently found the cat near Ballston Common Mall and brought it to the AWLA shelter, according to the league’s email newsletter. The cat, a male tabby, had a blind right eye and an injured left eye — likely the result of being shot with more than 30 BB pellets.

“We named him Arrow and sent him out for x-rays,” according to the league. “We were shocked to learn that he had at least 20 BB pellets in his head alone. This is most likely the reason for his blindness. Although it was shocking to see so many BBs in one animal, there was no medical reason to remove them, as it would cause more trauma.”

“We were able to do thorough diagnostic work on Arrow,” the newsletter continued. “We also neutered him, removed his badly damaged right eye, and performed a dental cleaning with extractions. This sweet boy is now recovering in our offices being closely watched by our medical team. We are hoping for his full recovery and eventual adoption!”

Arrow was originally found on Jan. 18. It appears that the cat’s wounding was an isolated incident.

“We have not seen any other animals with BB pellets,” AWLA Chief Operating Officer Susan Sherman told ARLnow.com. “This is something that could have happened some time ago.”

“Everyone here is impressed with Arrow’s will to survive and thrive,” Sherman added.

Photo courtesy AWLA

by Ethan Rothstein — February 10, 2014 at 10:00 am 970 0

AWLA cat (photo via Facebook)The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is hosting a special adoption event starting on Valentine’s Day (Friday), giving residents a chance to show some love to some rescue animals.

The “Be Mine” promotion runs from Friday, Feb. 14 to Monday, Feb. 17. Prospective pet owners can pay a discounted fee of $14 to bring home a cat, rabbit or other small animal. The fee covers a certificate for a free exam with a participating veterinarian, spay or neuter surgery, a feline leukemia and feline AIDS test (for cats), age-appropriate vaccinations, a personalized I.D. tag, a microchip, an information packet and an emergency sticker.

“There is nothing like the companionship and unconditional love you receive from a four-legged friend,” AWLA President and CEO Neil Trent said in a press release. “We invite the community to come to the League, meet their match and provide a shelter animal with a loving home.”

AWLA is located at 2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive. It is open on Friday from noon to 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4:00 p.m.

Photo via Facebook

by Ethan Rothstein — November 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm 375 0

Animal Welfare League of Arlington building near ShirlingtonThe Animal Welfare League of Arlington is launching a holiday campaign this Friday to encourage locals to adopt pets and shop for a good cause.

On Black Friday (Nov. 29) only, AWLA is offering half-price adoption fees for all the animals at its shelter at 2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive.

AWLA will also be offering gift-wrapping for those coming from Black Friday sales, from noon to 5:00 p.m. One wrapped gift costs $3 and four gifts will cost $10.

The organization is offering several other promotions and charity drives for the holiday season. From AWLA:

  • A Pawsitively, Purrfect Gift Certificate – Surprise a loved one with an AWLA gift certificate redeemable for a pet adoption fee, retail or bakery items or a microchip and rabies vaccination clinic. Gift certificates are available for purchase at the League or over the phone (703) 931-9241.
  • Sweet Treats for Fido – Looking for a stocking stuffer for your pooch? A 5 inch tall, custom Rudolph cookie treat by Dogma Bakery & Boutique is on sale exclusively at AWLA for $3 per treat or $5 for three treats. Proceeds from each purchase will benefit AWLA shelter animals.
  • Collars for Canines – This holiday season AWLA is holding a “collar drive” for shelter dogs. The League is in need of Quick Release Snap Martingale Collars. Collars can be purchased and shipped directly to the League from an Amazon wish list.
  • Purchasing a 2014 AWLA Calendar – Features inspirational stories and photos of League adoptions. Calendars can be purchased for $20 at the League to benefit shelter animals.
  • Contributing on “Giving Tuesday” – You know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but are you aware of Giving Tuesday? Kick off the holiday season of giving by making a tax deductable donation to the shelter animals at AWLA on Tuesday, December 3. Visit http://givingtuesday.razoo.com/story/Awla for details and to make a contribution.

by ARLnow.com — September 30, 2013 at 9:45 am 1,095 0

2013 Clarendon Day 5K/10K race (Flickr pool photo by J Sonder)

Cost of Ashlawn Addition Rises — The Arlington School Board has approved funding for an addition to Ashlawn Elementary School, though the addition will cost more than originally anticipated. The Board voted 3-2 to approve funding. Those voting ‘no’ were concerned that the cost had ballooned from $14.9 million to $20.4 million. [Sun Gazette]

School Board Addresses FLES Push — School Board Chair Abby Raphael says Arlington Public Schools will eventually roll out its Foreign Language in Elementary School program countywide, but it won’t happen as quickly as some parents are pushing for. Parents at schools without FLES have been speaking out at School Board meetings, calling for it to be introduced as soon as possible. Raphael said APS does not have the resources for FLES at all schools at the moment. [Sun Gazette]

AWLA Takes in Dogs Rescued from Hoarder — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington has taken in five dogs rescued from a hoarding situation near Richmond. One dog is available for adoption now, and the others will be available soon. [WJLA]

County Receives Va.’s First Building Accreditation — Arlington County has been recognized for best practices in building safety and code enforcement. The county has become the first in Virginia to receive accreditation in that area from the International Accreditation Service. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by J Sonder

by ARLnow.com — September 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm 7,916 0

A raccoon in a backyard (file photo by Bastique via Wikipedia)Animal control officers are on the lookout for an aggressive raccoon after two women were bitten in North Arlington earlier this week.

A raccoon bit a woman in her backyard on Monday night, in the East Falls Church neighborhood, as her four-and-a-half year old daughter watched, horrified. A raccoon also bit a woman Wednesday afternoon in the Yorktown neighborhood. The latest victim is 5 months pregnant and was walking with a baby.

In both instances, animal control officers tried but failed to locate the raccoon.

Sandra Alboum, who was bit on Monday, says the raccoon climbed onto her backyard deck, “walked right up” to her, and started biting her foot and ankle, repeatedly. She said the animal seemed “curious,” as if it were looking for food, and unafraid of humans. As raccoon was biting her, Alboum took a box that normally holds dominoes and used it to bash the animal in the head and body until it scurried away.

Ankle and foot of woman bit by raccoon (photo courtesy Sandra Alboum)Alboum’s young daughter watched and screamed from across the deck during the attack.

“I’m just glad it wasn’t my daughter,” she said. “She was pretty freaked out, and I was too. It’s bizarre.”

Unable to drive, Alboum called 911 and was transported to the hospital, where she received nine “excruciating” rabies shots for her nearly dozen puncture wounds. She’ll have to receive at least three more shots over the next week.

While Monday’s incident took place in the area of 22nd Street N. and Quantico Street, in East Falls Church, Wednesday’s took place in the area of 25th Street N. and George Mason Drive, in the Yorktown neighborhood.

According to an account posted on Facebook, a raccoon walked up to a woman who was walking with a baby and bit her. The attack happened in the afternoon, which is notable given that raccoon are normally nocturnal. The baby was not hurt.

According to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA), the victim is 5 months pregnant. She also went to the hospital for rabies shots.

“At this point we are not certain that the raccoon is rabid,” said AWLA spokeswoman Kerry McKeel. “Our animal control officers have not been able to catch it. The only way we will be able to tell for sure if it is rabid is if it is displaying unusual behavior and if the raccoon is caught and euthanized the results of a rabies test come back positive.”

It’s unclear if the same raccoon was responsible for both attacks. McKeel said the two incidents were “unrelated.”

File photo (top) by Bastique via Wikipedia. Photo (bottom) courtesy Sandra Alboum.

by Ethan Rothstein — July 24, 2013 at 8:30 am 3,254 0

Chicken (file photo)The rise of backyard chickens in Northern Virginia has sparked a heated policy debate in Arlington, but it has also led to an increase in abandoned chickens showing up at shelters.

In 2011, Prince William County approved a measure that allowed raising birds on some residential properties. Since then, the number of chickens that the Prince William County Animal Shelter has taken in has risen.

In 2011, the shelter — which also accepts chickens from Arlington, since the Animal Welfare League of Arlington does not house poultry — saw 23 chickens. After Prince William passed its new ordinance, the number of chickens at the PWCAS jumped to 33 in 2012 and 29 already in 2013.

According to Laurie Thompson, an administrator with the PWCAS, the first 16 chickens the shelter took in this year were strays, a number she noted was both unusual and likely attributable to abandoned chickens.

“If somebody knows how to handle a chicken and they keep their numbers down low and don’t have roosters that are going to crow, then it’s probably okay having one or two hens for eggs,” Thompson told ARLnow.com. “But sometimes, people can get excessive with these things, keep bringing them in, and then it becomes a health hazard with chicken feces. It’s not really good for an urban area to have all those feces to deal with, because those can bring in rats.”

Arlington residents are allowed to raise poultry in an enclosure 100 feet or more from property lines, but a debate has grown in the past year around reducing the limit. Last month a majority of the county’s Urban Agriculture Task Force, created in 2012, recommended reducing the enclosure limit to 20 feet from a property line, but allowing no more than four hens, no roosters and requiring permission from neighbors.

The recommendation is being considered by county staff, which will then make its own recommendation to the County Board. The Board is not expected to take action on the subject until the fall.

Animal Welfare League of Arlington spokeswoman Kerry McKeel said the organization participated in a discussion about backyard chickens with the task force, but hasn’t otherwise offered any opinions about the implications of additional urban hen raising.

“At this point a decision has not been reached on how the ordinance will be changed, so at this time AWLA does not have a position on the issue,” she said. In the past year, McKeel said the AWLA has picked up four roaming chickens and sent them either to Prince William or farm sanctuaries in rural Virginia or Maryland.

(more…)

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