APS Moving Trailers to Career Center, Could Take Over Columbia Pike Library As Enrollment Swells

With more than 150 new students set to attend classes at the Arlington Career Center in the coming school year, officials are now scrambling to free up some extra classroom space at the facility.

The county school system now plans to move eight trailers over from the adjacent Patrick Henry Elementary School to free up room for those students in the 2019-2020 school year. Career Center Principal Margaret Chung informed parents of the move in an email Monday (Feb. 25) that was subsequently obtained by ARLnow.

Chung wrote that school leaders initially hoped instead to move students into the second floor of the Columbia Pike Branch Library space, which is located in the Career Center. But county officials rejected that request, prompting the reliance on the so-called “relocatable classrooms” instead.

“To accommodate our expected growth next year and beyond, we have had to identify space for the additional students,” Chung wrote.

The downside of that move is that the trailers will take up some space currently used for the Career Center’s Animal Science program.

The program includes classes focused on animal care and veterinary science, with a variety of animals housed at the site for students to study. Chung expects that the trailers will take up the space currently set aside for three grazing animals — APS spokesman Frank Bellavia says that includes two goats and a miniature pony — forcing the Career Center to “reimagine that program for a more urban setting.”

“This does not mean that we are discontinuing our focus on animal sciences,” Chung wrote. “We will continue to maintain the smaller animals onsite for learning and instruction.”

She added that her staff has “begun to explore options to find a new home” for the animals that need to move, with the goal having them settled by the time the new trailers are in place this summer. That’s also when the school system will move the Montessori program currently housed at Drew Model School into the Henry building.

But with demand for the Career Center’s programs anticipated to only keep growing in the coming years, and the planned expansion of the building to accommodate more high schoolers still years away, Bellavia says the new trailers won’t solve all the building’s space limitations.

Accordingly, APS officials plan to ask the county for permission to use both the first and second floor of the library as instructional space, Bellavia said, with the goal of having it available for students in time for the 2020-2021 school year.

It’s a move that “comes as a surprise” to Kristi Sawert, the president of the Arlington Heights Civic Association and a member of working group that spent months studying the planned expansion and renovation of the Career Center.

Eventually, the school system plans to build room for another 1,050 high schoolers at the facility. But the process of doing so has been a thorny one, with Sawert and other local parents pressing the school system to add a full suite of amenities at the site to make it equivalent to the county’s other comprehensive high schools.

Still, Sawert says that the need to take up the library space for the new students was “never mentioned” during the working group’s deliberations, some of which included the library’s future. The group suggested that the county could ultimately buy up some properties near the Career Center and use that land for a stand-alone library.

“We were told repeatedly during the [working group’s meetings] that internal modifications to the Career Center would accommodate the incoming class of 150 students,” Sawert wrote in an email to concerned neighbors she provided to ARLnow.

Roughly nine years ago, the county kicked off a firestorm of controversy when it proposed shuttering the Pike library and moving its offerings to the Arlington Mill Community Center. The branch has been located at the facility since moving there in 1975.

While moving students into the library space (and the changes to the animal science program) may end up ruffling a few feathers, Chung chose to paint the impending changes as indicative of the demand for the center’s programs.

“We are so pleased to see the excitement and interest in our programs, and it is extremely rewarding to know that more and more students and families want to be part of the opportunities that our programs provide,” she wrote.

Photo 2 via @APS_AnimalSci

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County Dog Owners Could Soon Buy Lifetime Licenses for Pets

Arlington dog owners could soon be able to pay for lifetime licenses for their four-legged friends.

Currently, the county sells one-year or three-year licenses for Arlington’s furriest residents. But a new proposal advanced by the County Board Saturday (Feb. 23) would create a one-time, $30 fee for a lifetime license for local dogs.

If adopted later this year, the new license structure would take effect on July 1. Any dog owners who already have their pets licensed wouldn’t need to pay for the new license right away, however, but the county would only sell lifetime licenses after that date.

County staff argue that the change would eliminate the inconvenience of repeated license renewals, saving time for both the county treasurer’s office and pet owners, and that it would reduce “the amount of dog license taxes paid by dog owners over the course of their pet’s lifetime.”

Staffers proposed the change after state lawmakers passed legislation in 2017 to allow localities to issue lifetime licenses at costs of up to $50, and they noted in a report for the Board that Charlottesville and Hanover, Henrico and Stafford counties have already made the change.

“Arlington County benefits from reduced staff, printing and other costs associated with dog license renewals,” staff wrote about the advantages of making the change.

However, the proposal initially earned some pushback from local animal advocates and even some on the County Board, who feared that removing the yearly license renewal process would mean that dog owners wouldn’t have the same regular reminder to re-up their pet’s rabies vaccines.

The county’s proposal would require that owners prove their dog has received the vaccine in order to earn a lifetime license, but it doesn’t include any additional reminders about new vaccines. Staff reasoned in the report that keeping a pet’s vaccinations current is “something that responsible dog owners do as a matter of course.”

The Board merely authorized a public hearing on the license change for April 4, so members could yet vote down the proposal. If it does make it into law, staff expect a “long term” decrease in revenue from dog license fees, but they note that the program only brings in about $70,000 annually.

Some, including former Board member John Vihstadt, have proposed in the past that the county take the opposite approach and increase dog license fees in order to fund county dog parks.

File photo

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Large Snapping Turtle Rescued by Animal Control Officers Near Fraser Park

A large snapping turtle gave a few South Arlington parkgoers a surprise today (Wednesday), and animal control officers ultimately had to step in to guide the reptile to safety.

Jennifer Toussaint, the county’s chief animal control officer, told ARLnow that her office received a call around noon that the large turtle was in the street at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and 28th Street S., just near Fraser Park.

She said an officer ultimately “safely moved the snapping turtle in the direction it was heading towards the stream adjacent to the brush line near the street,” which backs up to I-395.

Toussaint added that it’s hardly unusual for her office to receive calls about snapping turtles — animal control officers discovered someone keeping one as a pet just last month, a practice she strongly advises against — and the Arlington Ridge and Long Branch Creek neighborhoods seem to be particularly popular spots for the creatures.

“Snapping turtles mate from April [to] November and travel extensively on land when laying eggs and looking for [a] new habitat,” Toussaint wrote in an email. “Army Navy Drive [and]28th Street seems to be a very specifically popular areas for them, as we have yearly calls for service for snapping turtles in the roadway injured or needing assistance ranging back as far as 2013. Most of our snapping turtle calls in Arlington come in June [through] July.”

Justin Covert, one of the people to discover the turtle, added that his girlfriend discovered another turtle in the park earlier this month, even though he’d “never seen a turtle around these parts until now.”

Should the turtle sightings continue, Toussaint wants to warn people that the reptiles have “very flexible necks, sharp long claws, a strong jaw and can act defensive when handled.”

While animal control officers may be best-suited to move the creatures off roadways, she advises that it’s “inappropriate to pick them up by their tails,” if any turtle seems in danger.

“Their weight needs to be supported and dragging them can cause cuts that can get infected,” Toussaint wrote.

Photo courtesy of Justin Covert

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Morning Notes

Family Surprised to Learn Pet Was a Snapping Turtle — “An Arlington family took in a box turtle to be the new family pet recently — only to find out that it was actually a snapping turtle. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington tweeted out a photo of the turtle, noting that their officers had seized the turtle from the unwitting family.” [Patch, Twitter]

APS Delays Release of Construction Cost Report — “Arlington residents will have to wait a little longer for an analysis of the reasons behind the high costs of school construction in the county. The audit committees of the County Board and School Board had been slated to meet Aug. 7 in a joint session to discuss a report by school-system auditor John Mickevice on school-construction costs. That meeting, however, was called off.” [InsideNova]

TSA Keeps Finding Guns in Carry-ons at DCA — Earlier this month, in two separate incidents, TSA agents at Reagan National Airport seized loaded handguns from two men trying to carry them onto planes. The guns were the seventh and eighth seized at the airport so far this year. The men are now facing weapons charges. [Patch]

Jail Holds Creative Writing Contest — A 26-year-old man who’s in jail on a heroin possession charge won the Arlington County lockup’s first-ever creative writing contest yesterday. His prize-winning poem, in part: “I dream about the future. I dream about the past. I dream about the mountains. I dream about the sea. I dream of all the places that I would rather be.” [NBC Washington]

InsideNova Not Available in Europe — More than 1,000 U.S. news websites are blocking users from Europe after the EU implemented strict new privacy regulations known as GDPR on May 25. Among the sites that are no longer accessible from Europe, as seen in this screen shot from last month: InsideNova, which publishes articles from the Arlington Sun Gazette newspaper. [Nieman Journalism Lab]

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Duckling Rescue Effort at Fairlington Pool Sparks Neighborhood Dispute

Trista Nealon and some of her neighbors thought they were doing the right thing when they forced their way into the neighborhood pool to rescue some wayward ducklings — but now, their condo association is threatening them with criminal charges for their efforts.

Nealon tells ARLnow that one of her fellow condo owners in Fairlington Glen noticed seven ducklings stuck in the neighborhood’s community pool back on May 10 and she decided to go ask the pool’s manager if she could get in and help them leave.

When Nealon was rebuffed, she and her neighbors tried contacting a member of the Wildlife Rescue League to come help — again, they had no luck. So a group went back over to the pool, unlocked its gate by reaching in through a well-positioned mail slot, and fished out the baby ducks.

Nealon says a woman accosted the group at the time and threatened to call the police, before storming off, but she otherwise didn’t think much of the encounter. Yet when last Thursday (May 31) rolled around, Nealon and a few other neighbors involved in the rescue effort received a letter from attorneys representing the Fairlington Glen Council of Co-Owners informing her that the group’s Board of Directors “is currently considering whether to press charges or take other enforcement action.”

“I am a [27-year] Glen resident owner, and it is ridiculous that I am being threatened with criminal charges for being a Good Samaritan and saving baby ducks,” Nealon wrote in an email. She shared a copy of the letter with ARLnow and also posted it to a Facebook group for Fairlington residents.

Kristen Buck, an associate with the firm Rees Broome, said in the letter that the condo board felt a lock around the pool was damaged in the process of this rescue effort, and she’s requesting the people involved to pay the board $100 each to help reimburse the cost of replacing it.

“Such a good faith payment may influence whether the Board decides to press charges or take other action,” Buck wrote.

Nealon insists that no one damaged any property over the course of this episode, and she finds Buck’s suggestion that the neighbors should have simply called the county’s animal control to be without merit, given the “imminent danger” she felt the ducklings were in at the time.

Buck declined comment on the matter, as did Thora Stanwood, president of the condo association’s Board of Directors.

But, in a newsletter distributed by the condo association, there is a reference to a “break in” at the Fairlington Glen pool.

The newsletter claims a police report was filed about the incident, and that condo association’s Board of Directors “consulted with legal counsel about the recovery of damage from the break in.” County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage says she has no record of any police report being filed from the area that day.

Nealon isn’t sure what she’ll do next, but she at least plans to attend the condo association’s next meeting to protest her treatment, and she doesn’t expect she’ll be alone.

Her post on the Fairlington Appreciation Society Facebook page about the incident already has 125 likes and dozens of supportive comments.

Photo courtesy of Trista Nealon

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Morning Notes

Fundraiser for Family in Need — Money is being raised online for an Arlington woman and her two school-aged sons after her husband — their dad — passed away from stomach cancer. The De Leon Ordonez family was very active with the Barrett Elementary School community, volunteering “countless hours of time and energy” to the school and the PTA. “Please donate to help them get back on their feet,” wrote Del. Patrick Hope. [YouCaring, Twitter]

Tenant-Landlord Guidelines Changed — “County Board members on May 22 approved revisions to the guidelines that developers either can or must follow – depending on the specific circumstance – if they are renovating residential properties and displacing tenants in the process. The revisions… will provide many tenants with more notice and, in some cases, higher relocation payments if they find themselves displaced.” [InsideNova]

Turtle Causes Flight Delay at DCA — A flight from Reagan National Airport to Chicago had its departure delayed a few minutes due to a turtle on the runway. [WUSA 9]

Radnor/Fort Myer Heights Profiled — WaPo has published another profile of an Arlington neighborhood and this time around it’s the Radnor/Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, just south of the Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations. The neighborhood’s civic association president said the neighborhood is “concerned about increased density” from development, “want it reasonable” and “open to affordable housing and diversity.” [Washington Post]

County May Hold Discussion of School Construction Costs — “Members of the [Arlington County] government’s audit committee are seeking to hold a summertime discussion of the high costs of Arlington school construction, hoping to piggyback on a report due out in coming weeks from the school system’s auditor. The audit committee has ‘made overtures’ to school officials about holding a joint community forum – date and place still undetermined – to discuss the findings of the report.” [InsideNova]

Ribbon Cutting for New Crystal City Office — Helicopter manufacturer Bell has opened a new office — its “Advanced Vertical Lift Center” — in Crystal City. A ribbon cutting was reportedly held yesterday. The new office “is designed for the company’s military customers, partners and policy makers to ‘interact with technology that is defining the future of vertical lift.'” [Rotor & Wing]

Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani

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Morning Notes

Arlington Doctor Sentenced in Poisoning Case — Arlington doctor Sikander Imran was sentenced Friday to three years in prison, with 17 years suspended, for slipping pills into his pregnant girlfriend’s tea, causing her to lose the unborn baby. The now ex-girlfriend pleaded for leniency during the sentencing. [WJLA, New York Daily News]

Miniature Horses Could Be Allowed at Schools — “A new policy defining the rights and responsibility of those – students, staff or visitors – wishing to bring service animals into schools would allow for dogs and miniature horses… schools spokesman Frank Bellavia told the Sun Gazette there are no miniature horses used as service animals in the school system at the moment.” [InsideNova]

Powhatan Skate Park Renovations Approved — The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously approved a $1.87 million contract to overhaul the Powhatan Springs Skate Park, the only such park in Arlington. “This well-loved skate park is in need of a makeover to address crumbling concrete conditions,” said Chair Katie Cristol. “The result will be a safer park that both kids and adults in Arlington who are passionate about skateboarding, inline skating and BMX cycling can enjoy for years to come.” [Arlington County]

Residents Protest Amazon at County Board Meeting — Several public speakers at Saturday’s County Board meeting spoke out against the prospect of Amazon’s second headquarters coming to Arlington. They held signs saying “No Amazon” and decried the company’s “brutal working conditions” and “culture of toxic masculinity,” among other things. [Blue Virginia]

Walter Reed Drive Project Green Lit — “The Arlington County Board today approved a $1.8 million contract to A & M Concrete Corporation to improve bicycle and pedestrian connections on a short but critical segment of South Walter Reed Drive, between South Four Mile Run Drive and South Arlington Mill Drive. The project will provide safer connections between two of Arlington’s busiest trails: Washington & Old Dominion and Four Mile Run.” [Arlington County]

Trees Fall During Heavy Rain — A number of trees around the area fell late last week after a record-breaking stretch of heavy rain. Among the trees to topple was a large one that fell on a home on the 2100 block of N. Vernon Street and injured one person. [Twitter, Washington Post]

Lubber Run Farmers Market OKed — “Field to Table, Inc., an Arlington-based non-profit organization, won the County Board’s approval today to open the Lubber Run Farmer’s Market in the parking lot at Barrett Elementary School, 4401 Henderson Road. The market is expected to open in late May.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Train Derailment in Alexandria — A large contingent of emergency personnel responded to the CSX tracks near Port City Brewing in Alexandria Saturday morning for a freight train that had derailed. About 30 cars came off the tracks but no injuries or hazardous spills were reported. [City of Alexandria, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Arlington Encourages Participation in This Weekend’s Nature Challenge

Arlington County is encouraging residents to get outside this weekend and help spot plant and animal species as part of the global City Nature Challenge.

The contest pits communities around the world against each other to identify as many plant and animal species as possible within their borders from April 27-30. Those participating are encouraged to use the iNaturalist app, which allows users to upload photos of plants and animals for the rest of the community to help identify.

For this contest, Arlington is classified within the greater D.C. area, and any species identification made within the county will count toward that group. Last year, the region placed seventh out of more than 75 global cities in the City Nature Challenge.

As a part of the challenge, county naturalists held a free guided walk this morning, and they’ll hold another one this afternoon from 2-2:30 at Gulf Branch Nature Center. Tomorrow (April 21) participants can learn how to use the iNaturalist app from 10-11:30 a.m. at Gulf Branch Nature Center. The free training is recommended for any nature enthusiasts at least eight years of age.

File photo

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Nesting Eagles Spotted Near Ft. Bennett Park

A pair of eagles and their eaglets have taken up residence along the GW Parkway, around Arlington’s Ft. Bennett Park northwest of Rosslyn.

Glenn Mai, a local resident who spotted the nest, said it is “viewable from Ft. Bennett Park” and “there are currently three chicks in the nest that can be seen with binoculars and/or a spotting scope.”

Another local spotted the nest late last month and has since posted several photos via Twitter.

This isn’t the first bald eagle sighting in the county, though most of Arlington’s bald eagles aren’t cruising around Clarendon.

Bald eagles, according to Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, build nests that are about five to six feet in diameter and two to four feet tall — making the nests the largest among birds. It can take up to three years for a pair of eagles to build a nest.

The Center for Conservation Biology keeps a map of eagle nests, as well as Chesapeake Bay herons, ospreys, and nightjars.

Photos courtesy of GM and MB/Flickr

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In-Home Dog Sitter Closed After Neighbor Complaints

An Arlington woman who looked after dogs in her home was forced to close late last year after a complaint from a neighbor.

A reader emailed to say that a woman she said was “the best dog boarder in Arlington” was closed after a neighbor “complained and effectively shut down her boarding business.”

The reader said she used the dog-boarding service Rover.com to connect with the sitter when she needed to go out of town. Rover.com describes itself as the “nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers,” and allows people to connect with others nearby who can help with their pets.

A spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development confirmed the closure at a house on S. Fenwick Street in Arlington Heights.

“The property owner admitted that she was operating a dog sitting business and that she had three adult dogs plus her own two adult dogs but was not able to obtain photos of the three adult dogs she was watching,” the spokeswoman said. “She informed the inspector that she was operating her business from a website called Rover.”

Such services could be illegal under Arlington County Code, which allows no more than three dogs per household. The only exception to that rule, per the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, is when the zoning administrator approves more and the home has a kennel license.

That could mean that more users of Rover.com in Arlington — there are nine sitters and walkers listed in the county on the website — are in breach of county code. In an email, the reader bemoaned the loss of a favorite service.

“This was the most lovely, family-run business you could imagine,” she said. “Kids at home helped look after the dogs. [They had] 112 repeat clients.”

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Animal Welfare League Seeks Foster Homes for Dogs Rescued from Mississippi

Twenty puppies and a few older dogs will arrive at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington on Sunday after being rescued from deplorable conditions in Mississippi.

In a Facebook post, AWLA said the dogs were kept in “near-freezing and near-starvation” before being saved by a rescue group. When the new dogs arrive Sunday (Jan. 7), AWLA said it is looking for foster families who can take care of them.

“We are looking for families that would be willing to welcome them into their hearts and homes,” AWLA wrote. “We need foster homes for a range of litters, from single puppies to a mom and her nine puppies. We know it’s a lot to ask, but with your help, we know we can give these puppies a chance at a new life.”

Anyone who applies to be a foster family must be able to come to AWLA’s headquarters at 2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive around noon on Sunday to pick them up, and commit to looking after them for up to six weeks.

Arlington community, we need your help! Twenty puppies (and a few mom dogs) will be arriving at AWLA on Sunday morning…

Posted by Animal Welfare League of Arlington on Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Photos via Facebook

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Patrick Henry Principal Kisses Pig At Read-A-Thon Celebrations

Patrick Henry Elementary School principal Annie Turner kissed a pig Tuesday to mark the end of a successful Read-A-Thon at the school.

Turner had promised the students at the school at 701 S. Highland Street that if 300 or more of them turned in reading logs and had read for 500 minutes or more, she would kiss the pig at their final assembly before Thanksgiving.

And the students far exceeded that goal. Patrick Henry parent Christine Brittle, who coordinated the Read-A-Thon, said 360 students turned in reading logs and they exceeded their goal of 500 minutes reading each.

The school’s PTA sponsors the annual Read-A-Thon, which kicked off just over a month ago. Students are challenged to read at least 500 minutes, about 40 minutes a day, and earn prizes for fundraising.

The students read for 263,211 minutes altogether, the equivalent of about 4,388 hours or 182 days.

“I set a really ambitious goal, because we had a really awesome prize and I thought you all could do it,” Brittle told the students.

And so Turner puckered up with Roscoe, a pig that lives in nearby Penrose, to whoops and cheers from the more-than 400 students who assembled in the school’s gymnasium.

The Read-A-Thon also raised more than $22,000 for the school, to be spent on field trips among other things.

“I am so proud of you all for reading so much,” Turner told the students after her encounter with Roscoe. “I hope you continue to read all year and the rest of your lives.”

https://twitter.com/clasedivertida/status/933074210259423233

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New CEO Joins Animal Welfare League of Arlington

Samuel Wolbert is the new president and CEO at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

Prior to joining AWLA, Wolbert worked at a shelter near Lexington, Kentucky. Before that he was a legislative attorney for a nonprofit organization in Michigan.

“I am very thrilled to be here. I think we have a great organization. I look forward to continue working with the community to help grow it,” Wolbert told ARLnow.

The league’s former CEO, Neil Trent, had led the organization since 2010.

Wolbert currently has a dog and two cats and also has experience with fostering animals. He reports having a soft spot for senior animals and so-called bully breeds.

As far as his future goals for AWLA, Wolbert plans to start a monthly series highlighting the organization’s successes.

“I think the community can expect that we’ll continue to do what’s best for the animals and we’ll continue to improve the lives of animals, not just in the shelter but in the community,” Wolbert said.

AWLA is hosting an event next week for the public to meet the new CEO and mingle with other animal lovers. It will run from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday (October 10) at New District Brewing Company (2709 S. Oakland Street). Those who are interested in attending can RSVP online for the free event.

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Couple Searches For Answers After Dog Disappears in Arlington Under Mysterious Circumstances

A Falls Church couple is searching frantically for their missing dog, which disappeared last week in Arlington under some strange circumstances.

Solange and Craig Bone said they left their dog Sookie with a dog-sitter on N. Frederick Street in Waycroft-Woodlawn while they went out of town. They returned around 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 17, only to be greeted by the news that Sookie had disappeared earlier that day at around noon.

Solange Bone said they began putting fliers up immediately, and received phone calls from people nearby who said they had seen Sookie going along N. George Mason Drive, near Virginia Hospital Center.

Three days later, Bone said they received a call from a woman who said Sookie crossed Lee Highway on August 17 and walked to the area of N. Dickerson Street, where she was cornered by two good Samaritans.

But then, Bone said, when someone went inside to grab a leash for the dog, a man appeared and began to hold the dog. He then allegedly got into his car and drove away with her.

The man is described as being Hispanic and in his late 50s or early 60s, wearing thick black-rimmed glasses. He had a medium build and was driving a brown Toyota Camry or Corolla.

Bone said they have tried everything to get Sookie back, from putting up fliers to alerting local animal shelters, sending out automated calls and hiring a dog tracker to try and follow her scent. Bone said it is complicated by the fact that her collar has been removed.

“Literally, we haven’t slept,” Bone said. “We’ve been looking for her non-stop since we found out.”

Bone added that the Arlington County Police Department took a report on the case, but were unlikely to do more as the department typically does not search for missing pets. ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed Bone’s account of events, but had no further information.

There have not been additional sightings since the one in the Yorktown neighborhood, Bone said. The couple is offering a $1,500 reward to anyone who has any information on Sookie’s whereabouts.

Bone said that she is most concerned with getting her dog back, and is not as interested in punishing anyone who might have taken her, accidentally or otherwise.

“I don’t want to couch it as she’s been stolen or anything like that,” Bone said. “I just want her safe return. I just want whoever it is to just, no questions asked, we just want her back.”

Anyone with any information is asked to call 949-606-2598.

Photo No. 3 via Google Maps.

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Fairlington Debates Trash Policy After Another Raccoon Attack

A Fairlington woman was attacked by a raccoon last week, causing a loss of blood, requiring 87 stitches and prompting a neighborhood-wide debate about Fairlington’s trash policies.

The attack happened Wednesday night as the woman was on her patio with her dog. A neighbor described the woman “screaming and flailing around,” then “spraying down the blood stains on her patio” the next day, with a bandaged foot and arm.

This latest incident follows two other bloody raccoon attacks last year, which set a Facebook page for Fairlington residents abuzz. Now, residents are calling Fairlington’s trash policies into question.

Rather than using trash cans, condo association rules call for Fairlington residents to put trash bags out in front of their buildings in the mornings, for pick up 6 days a week. The trash is picked up later in the morning, but often after birds, squirrels and other critters (rarely raccoons, which are nocturnal) start clawing at the food inside the bags, spreading the contents on the ground. And that’s not to mention the times when residents heading out of town or simply flaunting condo rules will put trash out at night, an almost sure-fire way to ensure wildlife gets to it before the trash collectors.

“The Arlington Animal Welfare League says they will not attempt to remove the raccoon because there is an underlying problem in our neighborhood related to the trash,” said a neighbor of the woman who was attacked last week, in a widely-discussed Facebook post. “No other part of Arlington has as many raccoons as our lovely Fairlington. To address the problem, the Head of Animal Control suggested closed trash cans that could still be picked up daily, and could be tasteful and wooden and raccoon proof.”

“I think this is something we should advocate for,” the neighbor continued. “Until the trash situation is sorted out, the raccoon population will remain high, most likely leading to more attacks.”

In a letter from the Fairlington Villages condominium association, one of several in the larger Fairlington neighborhood, general manager Colin Horner blamed habitat loss and said residents should not feed birds nor feed their pets outside.

“Wild animals are very bold these days. This is because their territories are shrinking,” Horner wrote. “Wooded areas where wildlife resides are being destroyed to make way for human expansion. As a result, animals are being forced out into the open to search for food and lodging.”

Horner urged residents to only put out trash between 6-9 a.m., saying that “the availability of food from trash left out overnight has been singled out as a primary cause for the increase in the raccoon population,” but added that “a review of the trash policy is a current item on the Board agenda.”

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington, meanwhile, said it is “actively managing this case.”

“Animal control officers were unable to the locate the suspect raccoon,” said Chief Animal Control Officer Jennifer Toussaint. “We are actively managing this case and ask that anyone with direct knowledge relating to this incident or anyone who sees a raccoon acting abnormally or coming close to residences in this area contact animal control immediately at 703-931-9241.”

Photo (top) courtesy Lilia Ward via Facebook

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