Arlington, VA

With many animals preparing to rear their young, the season of wildlife encounters is upon us, says the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

Animal Control Chief Jennifer Toussaint told ARLnow that service calls to her department typically increase this time of year. She shared some tips on making sure the encounters are safe for both humans and animals.

The Arlington County Board banned residents from owning “wild and exotic” animals as pets in 2017, but residents have documented many wild encounters over the years: including feral cat colonies, a coyote on the move, a construction-site turkeybooming bunny populations, and trash truck raccoon as well as school drain raccoon.

Overall, Toussaint said animal control officers receive about 3,500 calls for service annually, and about half those calls involve wild animals. “That tells me that that is a huge need the community has for my department,” she said.

One way she’s trying to meet that need is with public education events, like the one she held on Tuesday. It’s an opportunity to talk about animal-proofing one’s homes, and about dispelling old myths about normal animal behavior.

“I think most of the calls we get are genuine concern. They find a bird on the ground and it looks like a baby. They don’t know that most songbirds fledge from the nest and spend a few days on the ground building up the shoulder strength to fly,” she said, joking, “Cartoons lied to us as children!”

And the rule about not touching baby animals lest their scent changes and their parents abandon them? Also a myth, she says.

As for homeowners who prefer enjoying wildlife from a distance?

“A lot of it is pretty simple,” Toussaint says, “one of the main things is ensuring your home is impenetrable.”

Her tips include capping chimneys, and inspecting attics, eaves, roof siding, and trim regularly for any signs of wildlife.

Ensuring trash barrels stay closed with bungee cords, and clearing debris from yards also helps discourage animals from making homes or meals at people’s homes.

One thing she doesn’t recommend?

“We’re all kind of on top of each other here in Arlington, so I don’t promote people putting chemicals out,” said Toussaint. There are a number of safe, alternative remedies people can use for the problems they most often call about, she said.

For more questions, Toussaint recommends Arlingtonians check out the Humane Society’s species-specific website, or call animal control any time at 703-931-9241. Some animal-specific advice is below, after the jump.

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Morning Notes

Brush Fire in Park Near Columbia Pike — “Firefighters were called to Alcova Park a little after noon today to put out this small fire. No word on cause, but it’s an early season reminder to fully extinguish smoking & BBQ’ing materials before safely discarding them in a metal container & leaving the area.” [Twitter]

‘Walk for the Animals’ Tickets on Sale — “On Saturday, June 8, 2019 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., AWLA invites you to Walk for the Animals and celebrate our 75th anniversary of improving the lives of animals in our community… $35 Early Bird registration until May 1 (includes Walk registration and t-shirt)” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington]

Traffic Enforcement in Clarendon — Arlington County Police conducted “high-visibility pedestrian enforcement at the intersection of N. Highland Street and Washington Boulevard as part of regional @COGStreetSmart campaign” yesterday afternoon. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington Resident Wins Lottery — “An Arlington man is $100,000 richer after playing a Cash 5 game he purchased at a store in the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood near Rosslyn recently.” [Patch]

Ebbin, Levine Endorse Parisa — State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) and Del. Mark Levine (D) have endorsed Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Democratic candidate for Commonwealth’s Attorney of Arlington County and the City of Falls Church. They join several other elected officials, including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and former County Board member Walter Tejada, in endorsing the challenger in the Democratic primary. [Facebook, Blue Virginia]

Stamos’ Recent Endorsements — Earlier this month Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos announced endorsements from Arlington’s firefighter union and county treasurer Carla de la Pava in her bid for reelection, in addition to a litany of endorsements from other elected and former elected officials. [Facebook, Facebook]

Nearby: Aldi Coming to Bailey’s Crossroads — An Aldi grocery store will reportedly be replacing the former Babies R Us store at 5700 Columbia Pike, while a nearby Safeway store is said to be closing. [Annandale Blog]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is now opening adoption for dozens of rats and mice rescued from a hoarding case in the county earlier this month.

Animal control officers from AWLA seized 67 rats and mice from a home in the Rock Spring neighborhood on March 6, following a tip from a county agency involved with the situation, according to an Animal Welfare League spokeswoman Chelsea Jones.

Jones said the majority of the animals are now up for adoption from the Arlington Welfare League except for a few still being treated for upper respiratory infections — a common ailment in animals forced to live in overcrowded and unclean conditions.

Two of the rescued rats were “in very bad shape” with multiple tumors and had to be euthanized, Jones said, but not before staff baked them a dessert.

“They had a big ol’ cake they got to chew on,” Jones told ARLnow.

The animals’ owner has not been charged with any crimes, but was banned from owning any more “companion animals” as of March 13, according to the AWLA’s Chief of Animal Control.

Officers originally obtained a warrant to remove 18 of the domestic rats and mice from the woman’s house after she failed to improve the conditions, AWLA said. But when the officers entered the home on March 6 they found another 49 rodents, including two mice that had recently given birth to 20 babies.

There were so many animals that the Arlington organization had to ask Animal Welfare League of Alexandria to help re-home some of them.

The mice now available for adoption are a mix of grays and bright, unusual golds.

“We found out that they’re certain breed of mice called silky mice so they all have really shiny fur and interesting colors that you don’t see in the general mice you get from the pet store,” said Jones.

Photos courtesy of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington

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Morning Notes

New Hotel for DCA? — “A hotel might be in the works for Reagan National Airport, according to Jack Potter, CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority… A spokeswoman for MWAA said they are still in the ideas phase and nothing is concrete.” [Washington Business Journal]

Parents Fight Proposed Key Changes — “Parents are battling for the school’s future after Arlington Public Schools surprised them with a plan to relocate Key [Elementary], an announcement that animated larger questions about race, class and the purpose of bilingual education.” [Washington Post]

APS Friday Closure Questioned — “Most schools in the DC region decided to stay open despite the wintry mix Friday morning, but Arlington County Public Schools decided to close leaving parents in disbelief.” [WJLA]

Kindergarteners Learn About Transgender — “Dozens of kindergarten students sat cross-legged in his classroom at Ashlawn Elementary School in Arlington, listening as an advocate for transgender rights paged through a children’s picture book about a transgender girl,” as part of an event with the National Education Association and the Human Rights Campaign. [Washington Post]

Chamber Partners with APS — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce a partnership with Arlington Public Schools Career Center for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program. The Chamber is in its fifth year of offering the YEA! Program, but this is its first class of students for the program as part of their Arlington Public Schools learning.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Dog With Dementia Falls into Storm Drain — “A small dog with dementia is missing after falling into a storm drain in Arlington, Virginia. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington tweeted out an alert Thursday and said the cute pup disappeared after falling into the sewer about 8 p.m.” [NBC Washington, Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Board Member Wants Lower School Costs — “In remarks to a local service organization, Matt de Ferranti telegraphed the likelihood that Arlington property owners would see a higher real-estate-tax rate this year, in part to pay for higher school costs. But at the same time, he said the days of gold-plated school facilities must come to an end.” [InsideNova]

Arlington No. 5 on ‘Women in Tech’ List — Arlington County ranks fifth on a new list of “the Best Cities for Women in Tech in 2019.” D.C. ranked No. 1. [SmartAsset]

Isabella Restaurant Gear Up for Auction — “Rasmus Auctions is advertising online auctions for kitchen equipment, dining room contents, decor and more at Yona, Pepita and Kapnos Taverna in Arlington until about noon March 13.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Expanding Drug Take-Back Boxes — “In the first calendar year of the Permanent Drug Take-Back Box program, residents safely disposed of 1008 pounds of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications. Due to the success of the program, an additional permanent drug take-back box has been installed at Arlington County Fire Station #5.” [Arlington County]

AWLA Calls for More Pet Foster Families — “We need your help! Our kennels are full and we are in URGENT need of foster homes for medium-large adult dogs and kittens undergoing treatment for ringworm.” [Facebook]

Falls Church Becoming ‘Un-boring’ — The sleepy City of Falls Church is attracting younger residents amid a development boom, cheered on in an editorial by the little city’s newspaper. [Falls Church News-Press]

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Morning Notes

Rabid Raccoon in Tara-Leeway Heights — “On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, a raccoon was reported in the area of 1500 block of N. Greenbrier Street acting lethargic. The raccoon was captured and removed from the community. It was later found to be carrying rabies.” [Twitter, AWLA]

Crash Knocks Out Traffic Signals — Traffic signals at at least three intersections in the Clarendon area were rendered inoperable over the weekend due to electrical transformer damage following a single-vehicle crash at Wilson Boulevard and 10th Street N. Power to the signals was reported to have been restored Monday night. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Second Amazon Bill Advances in State Legislature — “On the same day that Amazon’s plan to move 25,000 workers into a distressed area of New York City was imploding, the Virginia General Assembly gave the online giant another in a series of welcome-to-the-commonwealth valentines.” [InsideNova]

Hitt’s Home for SaleNow-convicted fraudster Todd Hitt has listed his north Arlington home for sale for $1.75 million. However, the home’s back deck is currently the subject of a Board of Zoning Appeals case. [Washington Business Journal, Arlington County]

Booz Allen Staying in Crystal City — “Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. will remain in Crystal City, inking a lease extension and expansion for its space at 1550 Crystal Drive, building owner JBG Smith Properties announced Thursday. The lease, which commences in September, brings Booz Allen’s space at 1550 Crystal to 84,000 square feet, about 10,000 square feet more than it currently occupies.” [Washington Business Journal]

Take Our Reader Survey — Once a year, we ask readers to take a couple of minutes to weigh in on the future of ARLnow. This year, we’re asking about ideas for new emails, features, approaches and events. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. [SurveyMonkey]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Apartment Fire on Carlin Springs Road — Firefighters are braving bitter cold conditions this morning to fight an apartment fire on the 3400 block of Carlin Springs Road, in the Falls Church section of Fairfax County, just over the Arlington border. Eight people were rescued from the burning apartment building. [Twitter, Twitter]

Garvey Presses for Civility — “One member of the Arlington County Board is making a concerted effort to remind residents of the need for civility in public discourse… [Libby] Garvey said she has noted that, on contentious issues, those with an opinion frequently are digging in their heels.” [InsideNova]

Lowering Child Care Costs in Arlington — “Arlington County has the highest child care costs in the Washington region, largely because we have high land values, tighter regulations, and affluent households. To start to bring down the price and make licensed child care more accessible for more residents, Arlington has embarked on a Child Care Initiative to address local zoning ordinances and child care codes that impact cost.” [Greater Greater Washington]

AWLA Alum in Us Weekly — Olympian Gus Kenworthy was pictured in a recent issue of Us Weekly magazine with Birdie, the dog he adopted from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington this past summer. [Instagram]

Startup Leaves Crystal City — “A notary startup that has called Arlington home since 2015 appears to have moved much of its local operation to Boston as part of a restructuring.” [Washington Business Journal]

Vacancy Increasing at Crystal City Shops? — “Of the 88 storefronts underneath 1750 Crystal Drive, 42 were vacant this week when Bisnow walked the corridors.” [Bisnow]

Crystal House Plan ‘Could Set a Precedent’ — “Plans to double the number units at the Crystal House Apartments will be a litmus test for future development in Crystal City, as Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters ushers in 25,000 jobs to the area over 12 years.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

A Wall that Divided Arlington Still Stands — “The wall was erected in a section of Arlington County in the 1930s to separate black residents from white residents. And for decades, it did just that. It kept segregation intact by creating a physical barrier between an ‘us’ and a ‘them.'” [Washington Post]

Coming Soon: Happy Hour Advertising? — “A lawsuit filed against the state by a Northern Virginia restaurateur could be the motivation the General Assembly needs to change laws that restrict happy hour advertising.” [Virginia Mercury]

Demand for Free Pet Food Rises — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington says it has seen an increase in demand for its free pet food pantry during the government shutdown. [Twitter]

Resources for Furloughed Feds — Congressman Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) office has compiled a list of resources for those affected by the federal government shutdown. [Rep. Don Beyer]

Anti-NIMBY Legislation Proposed in Va. — “[Del. Jeff] Bourne and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, are pursuing legislation in the General Assembly this year that would explicitly prohibit local governments from denying permits for housing developments because of the expected race or income levels of the residents.” [Virginia Mercury]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

H-B’s Rosslyn Home Has New Name — The new Rosslyn home for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program has a new name, after a School Board vote last night. The under-construction structure’s new name: The Heights Building. The vote came after the School Board voted to change the name of Washington-Lee to Washington-Liberty. [Twitter, Arlington Public Schools]

CPRO Gets New Interim Leader — “The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) has named Karen Vasquez as its Interim Executive Director. Karen has spent the last fifteen years working in the field of economic development, creating compelling stories to help recruit and retain Fortune 500 companies, non-profits, hotels and more to Arlington, Virginia.” [CPRO]

Animal Welfare League Nabs Chicken — “AWLA’s 75th animal control case of our 75th year came in just a few days ago! We received a call about a chicken on 8th Rd S., and Officer Swetnam was able to catch the chicken, now affectionately called Henny Penny, and bring her back to the shelter. [Instagram]

Arlington Housing Costs Top D.C. ‘burbs — “Homes in Arlington had the highest per-square-foot costs across the Washington suburbs, according to new sales data, although most jurisdictions saw lower averages from a year before. Arlington’s per-square-foot cost of $435 led the pack but was down from $473 in 2017, according to figures reported Jan. 10.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Snow Coming This Weekend — Gas up the snowblowers: accumulating snow is likely this weekend. By county ordinance, all snowfall under 6 inches must be removed from sidewalks within 24 hours of the last flakes. That gets bumped up to 36 hours for 6 or more inches of snow. [Capital Weather Gang]

New ‘Best of Arlington’ List — The 2019 “Best of Arlington” list is in. Among food-related winners, Ambar was named Best Restaurant, Barley Mac was named Best for Date Night and Matt Hill of Liberty Tavern Group and Hungry was named Best Chef. [Arlington Magazine]

AWLA Dog Featured in People Magazine — “One of our AWLA alums, Lucy, is featured in People Magazine this week! Here’s the online article about her weight loss journey after being adopted — her owner helped her go from 26 lbs to 14 lbs.” [Twitter, People]

Case of the Disintegrating Coffee Cups — On four separate occasions, a Washington Business Journal reporter had a coffee cup from Compass Coffee in Rosslyn start to disintegrate and leak in her hand. The company says they were sent a bad batch of paper cups and are working to remove all of the faulty cups from their cafes. [Washington Business Journal]

Va. Legislature to Consider Housing Bills — “A new surge in development in parts of Northern Virginia could come next year under a proposal to overhaul 2016 proffer legislation in this year’s General Assembly… Another proposal would ban discrimination by local governments through land use decisions against low-income or other specific types of development.” [WTOP]

Power Issue at Ballston Metro Station — There are reports that power was out at the Ballston Metro station this morning, meaning no working elevators, escalators or fare kiosks, and only minimal lighting. [Twitter, Twitter]

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Feral Cats Abound in Arlington

The following feature article was written by Buzz McClain, a writer and communications professional who lives in Arlington. It was funded by our new Patreon community. Want to see more articles like this, exploring important local topics that don’t make our usual news coverage? Join and help fund additional local journalism in Arlington. 

A feral cat is a cat that lives in the wild without human intervention, and Arlington has plenty of them.

Along with coyotes, foxes, rabbits — so many rabbitsturtles, snakes, and other fauna that share the county with humans, feral cats have established “colonies” throughout Arlington, some of which date back for generations.

At any given time there are some 200 to 250 feral cats in Arlington, with colonies ranging in size from two to three cats to more than a dozen. There seems to be a concentration of colonies around Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road and in the Nauck neighborhood, according to Anna Barrett, an animal services coordinator with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, the private nonprofit organization that provides shelter and animal control services in the county.

Feral cats are easy to spot, she said. For one, they are unapproachable, so if they see you first, chances are they’ll run and hide. You can’t lure them to your hand or into a trap, not even with food. “They’re more like wildlife than a domestic cat,” she said.

They also may have a section of an ear removed. A clipped ear, Barrett said, is an indication that the cat has been trapped, neutered, inoculated for rabies and distemper, “ear-tipped” to indicate treatment, and returned to where it was found as part of the AWLA program of the same name: Trap-Neuter-Return. (See here for the feral cat program page of the AWLA website.)

AWLA personnel do not do the trapping, and they don’t accept feral cats as strays for adoption — they are not safe for the staff to handle. Feral cats cannot be domesticated, and handling them may lead to injury, to humans as well as cats.

But feral cat colony “caretakers,” and the occasional determined resident, manage to bring them in. That’s when the AWLA staff does the T-N-R and ear clip service. The feral cat colony caretaker who brought in the cat is responsible for returning them to where they were found, which is why it’s best for those unfamiliar with feral cat behavior to not even try.

In her eight years at the shelter, Barrett has seen a reduction in the feral cat population. “We feel the 200 to 250 number is greatly reduced from year’s past, in large part to the T-N-R program,” she said.

The T-N-R program, she added, “is not a perfect solution, but it goes with our humane approach to animals.”

The neutering would cost $300 to $400 per cat for a pet cat or kitten. The League pays for cats trapped in Arlington or in the City of Falls Church.

The cats, said Sandra M., choose her and not the other way around. And it’s been that way for going on eight years.

After her own cat died in 2010, an “outdoor” Siamese cat tentatively approached her at her home in South Arlington and Sandra M., a cat lover, fed it. (She would rather we did not use her full name or specify which neighborhood she lives in, for reasons that will become obvious.)

The cat was healthy but clearly did not have a home, nor did it seem to crave human companionship other than the occasional meal. Eight years later, the cat still comes for regular feeding but little else, along with some eight other cats.

They do not go into her house. Instead, they live nearby in the wild in what is known as a feral cat colony, one of many in Arlington, some of which date back for decades.

Sandra M. is a feral cat colony caretaker, an unofficial title given to a select few by the AWLA. But not everyone is enamored with having feral cats in their neighborhoods. Sandra M. reports several of her charges have been mistreated after being captured. Kittens and older cats have been poisoned.

“That’s something I just don’t understand,” she said. “I don’t understand why a human would do that.”

For Sandra M., the cat colony is a blessing. “They rescued me,” she said. “They’re like little children to me.”

If you see a cat you think is feral, Anna Barrett suggests contacting the AWLA office to report it. A feral cat colony caretaker may be able to have the cat serviced in the Trap-Neuter-Release program. Questions may be directed at [email protected] or by calling 703-931-9241, ext. 200.

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