Arlington, VA

Even COVID-19 could not stop an opportunity for adorable pet photos around the holidays.

During two weekends in November, local pet owners can get family portraits ready for seasons-greetings cards with the holiday edition of Porch Portraits, a pandemic-proof fundraiser by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.

“Have a holiday pajama party, bring out your favorite party looks, deck your pet in their holiday gear, any holiday fun you’d like to capture,” the announcement from AWLA said.

The organization has hosted holiday “Pet Pawtrait” sessions before, but this year will look different: The event will span three days and will be socially distanced. Sessions will take about 10 minutes, with a minimum donation of $100, and participants will receive at least three professional digital images within 10 days.

As holidays approach and the pandemic continues, AWLA is focused on supporting the community as people cope with job losses, including via its pet pantry and veterinary support, AWLA Events Coordinator Hollie Dickman said.

“We never want food or resources to stand in the way of people keeping their pet,” she said. “We want to keep pets with the people who love them as much as we can, especially during holidays and COVID-19.”

Sessions are open for Nov. 14, 21 and 22 and participants must be residents of Arlington or Alexandria. Registration for sessions on Nov. 14 end Sunday, while registration for the weekend of Nov. 21-22 ends next Sunday, Nov. 15.

Participants select the date, but AWLA will coordinate times so photographers can do back-to-back sessions in the same neighborhood. Times may range from 8 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

Those who want to notify AWLA of times that do not work for them are asked to contact Dickman at [email protected]

Participants must have a porch in front of their house or an outdoor area, such as a park, in front of their condo or apartment complex where pictures can be taken.

All portraits will be taken from a 6-foot distance with no direct contact between the photographer and the household, the announcement said.

Local photographers Mike Leonard, Jeremy Robin and Erinn Shirley will be taking the portraits.

This is the second socially-distant porch portrait session AWLA has run to raise funds this year. The first occurred in May, two months into mandated restrictions due to COVID-19.

Leonard had been doing porch portraits during the pandemic and asked to donate his services to AWLA as a fundraiser, Dickman said. The impromptu fundraiser generated $3,000 from 25 participating families.

“I thought that was a great success,” she said. “We are anticipating a similar turnout, we hope to see that $3,000 raised again.”

Family portraits courtesy of Hollie Dickman. Christmas dog (top) via AWLA/Facebook.

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Morning Notes

County Allocates More Money for Rent Relief — “The Arlington County Board today approved using an additional $1.125 million from the County’s COVID-19 contingent account to fund eviction protection through December 2020 for those affected by the pandemic. The Board’s action brings the total amount allocated for eviction prevention in Fiscal Year 2021, which began July 1, 2020, to $3.5 million.” [Arlington County]

AWLA Pushes to Extend Eviction Ban — “The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is pushing for legislators to extend Governor Northam’s original eviction deadline of September 7, to prevent animals from being surrendered by people who can’t afford them. AWLA says they’re here to help tenants during these trying times and also urge landlords to cut back on animal restrictions and limitations.” [WDVM]

I-66 Lane Closures This Weekend — “Single-lane closures on westbound I-66 just before the bridge over Lee Highway (Route 29) at Exit 72 will occur (weather permitting) between 9 p.m. Friday night, Aug. 28 and 5 a.m. Monday morning, Aug. 31 for road repairs, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]

Arlington-Based Lidl Expanding — “Discount grocery Lidl, whose North American headquarters is in Crystal City, Virginia, will open 50 new stores by the end of 2021, including 10 new locations in Maryland, and seven new stores in Virginia.” [WTOP]

Nearby: Rabies Warning in Falls Church — “The City of Falls Church Police and Animal Warden remind residents about the risks of rabid wildlife spreading rabies to pets. Police recently responded to a report of a sick raccoon in the 1200 block of Lincoln Ave. The raccoon was euthanized and later found to have rabies.  In this case, two dogs were exposed to the raccoon and are now in quarantine.” [City of Falls Church]

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(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) With In Style Pet Salon and Commonwealth Restorations coming to Williamsburg Shopping Center (2902 N. Sycamore Street) the retail block is now 100% full.

“It feels great,” said Nick Kalis, who runs the shopping center as part of the Kalis Development Corporation. “In years past, it was very normal, but retail leasing today is more of a challenge.”

Kalis said the In Style Pet Salon, a pet grooming location, should open sometime in the next 30-60 days. Commonwealth Restorations — a home design, renovation and construction firm — should open in 60-90 days, he said.

Kalis also emphasized that Commonwealth Restorations isn’t closing their office at 2430 S. Kenmore Street, but this second location will operate as more of a showroom and opportunity to interface with the public.

Kalis said challenges in the retail industry have led to more emphasis on service-oriented tenants for shopping centers.

“The bigger story here is that shopping centers face two challenges,” Kalis said. “A lot of people build these big warehouse parks with phony retail because they’re not properly zoned for a lot of uses but compete with us for tenants. The second challenge is every retailer in Arlington moving more to finding service-oriented tenants… So more and more, you’re finding service [and restaurants] in these shopping centers.”

Other tenants at the shopping center include Smoking Kow BBQ, Jin’s Dry Cleaner, Williamsburg Deli, 7-Eleven, Deli Italiano, Two The Moon, Peking Pavilion, Zinga Frozen Yogurt, Tenley Nails, United Bank and the Williamsburg Barber Shop.

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(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department is working to mitigate a chemical odor and sheen on Four Mile Run near Barcroft Park.

The department has been providing updates about the hazmat incident on social media, saying Thursday afternoon that the source was a leaking underground oil tank along Columbia Pike near the Fairfax County border.

“We are working with our neighboring jurisdictions and the State to mitigate the situation,” ACFD said via Twitter. “The HazMat Team has taken steps in @ArlingtonVA County to minimize the effects on the environment.”

In the meantime, ACFD says people and pets should stay away from Four Mile Run downstream of Columbia Pike.

“Please keep all pets out of Four Mile Run until the #HazMat situation can be full mitigated,” the fire department added. The stream runs past the Shirlington dog park, where dog owners frequently let their pups off leash to go for a swim.

More from an Arlington County press release:

Residents and visitors are advised to avoid contact with — and keep their pets out of — Four Mile Run downstream of Columbia Pike for the next 24 to 48 hours.

At 6:29 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, Arlington County Hazmat Crews were dispatched to the 4200 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive for a chemical odor. The Arlington County Fire Department and the Arlington Department of Environmental Services determined that the source originated upstream of Arlington County, in a neighboring jurisdiction. Crews placed boom filtering devices in the water at various locations along Four Mile Run to contain the released product.

Public, pets, should stay out of Four Mile Run

People should not fish in the stream or have any contact with the water until further notice from the County. The advisory to avoid all contact is considered an extra precaution to allow the effect of the discharge to be diminished by natural flushing of the streams. Drinking water is not affected by the incident.

Anyone who has been in Four Mile Run and is experiencing medical symptoms, such as sore throat or eye irritation, should seek medical attention.

NOTE: The public is  reminded that stream water can contain microorganisms that can make people sick, whether the stream is located in an urban area or in the middle of a forest. Even after the discharge is naturally flushed from the streams, the County’s normal precautions for safe use of streams apply. You can find information and safety tips on Arlington streams, including information on reporting stream pollution incidents, on the Department of Environmental Service website.

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Halloween is still three weeks away, but it’s never too early to plan your costume — or one for your pet.

Local pet service company Puppy Luv has partnered with the Crystal City Business Improvement District for its first “Howl-O-Ween” pet costume party on Saturday, October 26.

Dubbed “National Landing’s First Pet Costume Party,” the event will be held on The Grounds in Pentagon City (1102 S. Eads Street).

Pet registration begins at 1 p.m., and the contest will run from 2-3 p.m. with prizes awarded to the best costumes. In addition, there will be food trucks, an agility course, and a live DJ.

The event builds off of Puppy Luv’s recent partnership with property owner JBG Smith, which is developing the new Amazon headquarters nearby. Puppy Luv offers offer exclusive services, lobby treats, and “pet of the month slideshows” in nine JGB Smith buildings in Arlington, with plans to expand into all of its county properties by the end of 2020, according to a Puppy Luv spokesperson.

Another Halloween-themed pet event is happening tomorrow — Thursday, Oct. 10 — in Arlington.

The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is hosting “Pups, Purrs, and Pumpkins” at its Shirlington offices (2650 S. Arlington Mill Drive) from noon to 7 p.m. During that time, all animals six months or older have a “pick your own” adoption fee. Pumpkin treats will also be available, provided by Trader Joe’s.

Photos courtesy Puppy Luv

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Morning Notes

Rep. Beyer Talks Impeachment — “Phones have been ringing all day with constituents calling to tell me they support impeachment, particularly following the President’s corrupt dealings with Ukraine. They are right.” [Twitter]

Westover School Project Moving Forward — “There will be no stay of execution for any of the trees on the chopping block as the Arlington school system moves forward with a new elementary school in Westover. School Board members on Sept. 19 voted to approve a construction contract for the $55 million project, which will drop a 725-student facility adjacent to Westover Library on North McKinley Road near Washington Boulevard.” [InsideNova]

It’s Rabies Awareness Week — “September 23-29 is Rabies Awareness Week in Virginia. Follow these five tips to help ensure you and your family are protected. 1. Get Pets Vaccinated… 2. Stay Away from Wild Animals… 3. Keep Pets Leashed… 4. Seek Medical Care Immediately if Bitten… 5. Report Animal Bites and Strange Behavior.” [Arlington County]

ARLnow Reporters Splashed — “A large pleasure boat flying a Trump flag and operating at what appeared to be higher-than-permitted speed came so close to a water taxi bound for the Wharf Sunday that many passengers were soaked when the water taxi crossed its wake. A representative for the Potomac RiverBoat Company was not able to confirm the incident over the phone but, this is Washington, and there were at least two reporters aboard the water taxi.” [Washingtonian]

‘Candi-dating’ Forum Planned — “The League of Women Voters of Arlington is partnering with a number of other organizations on a “candi-dating” forum. The event, to be held on Sunday, Oct. 6 at Walter Reed Community Center, is akin to speed-dating: Attendees will have 10 minutes to meet with candidates running for office from Arlington and Alexandria.” [InsideNova]

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Shirlington’s annual pet-friendly street festival “Wags n’ Whiskers” is returning next week.

The 12th annual pet expo is popping back up on Campbell Avenue next Saturday, August 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., outside the Village at Shirlington, and usually draws hundreds of attendees. This year’s festival will feature adoptable pets, live music, and activities like face-painting and balloon art.

About 65 local businesses and organizations will host booths along the street advertising pet wares and offering “treats and gift bags,” according to a recent press release. Veterinarians and dog trainers will also be attending to answer practice advice questions.

Singer songwriter Taylor Carson and pop rock cover band Dan Haas Trio will both perform during the weekend event.

Scenes from Wags n' Whiskers! Come join us!

Posted by The Village at Shirlington on Saturday, August 24, 2013

During the event, attendees can get pictures taken of their pets (for $5) or get a caricature drawn of them and their pet. Attendees will also have a chance to enter to win a $100 gift certificate to the nearby Dogma Bakery.

Event organizers noted in the press release that water stations will be stationed throughout the street to keep pets hydrated and cool.

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During the floods that devastated Arlington two weeks ago, it wasn’t just people’s pets that needed rescuing.

Wild animals — especially young ones — were at an especially high risk of being orphaned by the storm because of the time of the year, according to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and staff say they rescued dozens of critters.

“After the flood water receded the wildlife calls started to come in,” said Animal Control Chief Jennifer Toussaint.

“From deer who were in odd areas appearing disoriented to dozens of orphaned baby bird and squirrel calls,” she said. “It look about 3 days for our calls for wildlife to go back to the standard volumes we see this time of year. Unfortunately given the time of year many small unweaned animals were thrown from their nests and orphaned.”

Among the orphans were baby squirrel siblings, and a juvenile Cooper’s hawk. AWLA was able to care for them overnight, staff told ARLnow, and transfer them to a wildlife rescue organization that will hopefully be able to rehabilitate them for the wild.

“When we get in wildlife it is either re-released back into other wild, or we do triage care until we get a wildlife rehabilitator,” said AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones. Due to the call volume that Monday it was “all hands on deck” at AWLA, she said..

Toussaint was dispatched to help the Westover community, which was especially hit hard by the flooding, checking homes with pets whose owners were away at work during the morning storm.

“I was present when the fire department aided a woman and her cat out of the flood waters in her basement and up to safety,” she said. “We brought that cat in here to AWLA for safekeeping, a free program we have for boarding animals in an emergency situation.”

She said residents were taking in each other’s pets to keep them safe, and directing first responders to check their elderly neighbors. Jones confirmed that the cat was able to return to its owner after five days of care at AWLA, and all wild animals rescued have been either re-released or transferred to a wildlife rehabilitation organization.

Toussaint said the kindness people showed each other “highlighted the true strength of community we have here in Arlington.”

“I stood in the home of a member of the public who had just lost everything — an inch of water on the floor of the first level, darkness filling the house as the power was cut for safety,” she said. “I listened to one of the captains from our fire department say, ‘I will not leave until I know you have a safe place to go and a plan.'”

Photos (1 and 2) courtesy Jennifer Toussaint, (3 and 4) courtesy Nicole Bender, (5 and 6) courtesy Brandon Jones

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Homeward Trails Animal Rescue and Market Common Clarendon are pairing up to help people meet their next feline friend.

Starting this Saturday (June 29), Market Common Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) will host “Kitten Parties” every Saturday and Sunday from noon until 2:00 p.m. until the end of July. The events aim to adopt kittens from the Homeward Trails shelter to loving families.

Summer is a difficult season for cat adoptions since many families travel and aren’t in a position to take care of an animal. Summer also happens to be “kitten season.” Executive Director of Homeward Trails Sue Bell said many newborns are stuck in overflowing shelters.

Bell encourages any cat lover to come and check out the event since there will be free giveaways, scavenger hunts, raffles and just a chance to play with some kittens. No adoption is necessary. 

Market Common Clarendon donated unleased space in the shopping center to the effort, and businesses like Sephora and Origins decided to also join the effort and will have adoptable kittens in their stores. 

The shelter currently houses roughly 150 kittens that are up for adoption this season. Adoption fees for cats are $125 for one animal or $200 for a pair. These fees go toward the first three vaccines, a complimentary visit to a number of D.C.-area VCA Veterinary Hospitals and a free 30-day pet insurance promotion. 

More information can be found on the Homeward Trails website.

Photo courtesy Homeward Trails

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The two Kriser’s stores in Arlington are being rebranded as “Loyal Companion,” with a grand opening planned to give away free pet food.

The rebranding is part of a change for all East Coast locations of Kriser’s. The new brand includes the natural pet food focus of Kriser’s with other parts of “holistic pet wellness.” From the brand’s website:

Loyal Companion is unlike any pet experience in the world. We’ve combined some of the best brands in the business including Kriser’s, Especially For Pets, Bark! Dogma – Life, With Your Pet, Pet Source, Pet Life and Whole Pet Central to form one new company dedicated to holistic pet wellness. Loyal Companion is a community of pet experts — nutritionists, behaviorists, educators and groomers — that has banded together to make life easy for pet owners by offering everything you need under one virtual and physical roof. Raw food. Healthy treats. Supplies. Grooming. Daycare. Training. Vet services. Advice.

(Though Baltimore-based Dogma is one of the stores now under the Loyal Companion umbrella, as mentioned above, Dogma Bakery in Arlington is unaffiliated with the brand.)

There are two Kriser’s locations in Arlington, one in Clarendon at 2509 Franklin Road and one at 2501 N. Harrison Street in the Lee Harrison Shopping Center.

Both locations are throwing grand opening celebrations for the new brand on Saturday (May 4) from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday (May 5) from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The events will offer free gift bags for the first 100 customers in each day, with gift cards up to $100 as a doorbuster prize, according to the company.

The stores will also have raffle prizes, with potential to win free pet food for a year, gift cards and more.

Planned in-store activities include a blind taste test for pets and staff on hand to answer pet nutrition questions.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) More people than ever before are finding pet sitters online but it’s important to verify their services, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington says.

Apps like Rover or Wag have gained popularity by allowing people to book sitters or dog walkers with a few taps and even offering background checks.

“About five years ago you would only see a few dozen people,” Chief Animal Control Officer Jennifer Toussaint said of the apps. “Now you can find hundreds.”

However, as CBS News and other outlets have reported, the background checks don’t always turn up red flags with the people providing the walking and boarding services, sometimes with tragic results.

Joining the ranks of those whose pets have been killed or seriously injured in the care of a service provider found on an app: an Arlington resident who lives in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood.

The resident reached out to ARLnow about his six-month-old mini Australian Shepard, Hunter, who was hit by a car on Route 50 in March after escaping from the backyard of the dog sitter’s house.

The crash broke Hunter’s pelvis, damaged his organs, and will result in one of his legs being amputated soon, according to documents shared by his owner, who asked ARLnow not to share his name.

“My kids cried themselves to sleep for the first week after the accident because we honestly did not know for sure if Hunter would survive or whether he had major internal injuries,” said Hunter’s owner.

Chief Toussaint confirmed the sitter was cited by animal control with class four misdemeanor offenses in connection with the incident, including Running At Large, and was convicted in April on three charges. One of those charges was Repeat Offenses, because the woman had also been cited in December of 2018 for failing to control dogs, according to court records — something the Rover app’s background check did not reveal.

The sitter didn’t know the puppy had escaped right away because she had left the dog in the care of her children, messages reviewed by ARLnow indicate, an arrangement Hunter’s owner said he wouldn’t have agreed to if he had known.

“Unfortunately, my family is now suffering from this failure and we have a puppy that was severely injured in March and is now permanently crippled with tens of thousands of dollars of veterinary bills,” the owner said. He said Rover offered to reimburse at least part of the $20,000 in vet bills.

Toussaint said incidents with sitters found online — be it through Rover or social media — are not common but they do happen. Recently, an Arlington resident called animal control after finding out their cat sitter hadn’t visited the house in two days thanks to alert system on their front door, she said.

Rover spokesman Dave Rosenbaum declined to provide exact numbers, but told ARLnow that the number of incidents pet owners experience on the app is an “extremely small” part of the 500,000 total bookings made in the D.C. area so far.

“We’re committed to building a safe community and will remove both owners and sitters when appropriate, and take any allegations of this nature very seriously,” said Rosenbaum. “We encourage both owners and sitters to report any safety concerns to us through a variety of methods.”

Toussaint says animal control usually notifies the app makers when one of their sitters is cited. The company then removes the person from their service provides. The sitter connected to Hunter’s injuries is now banned from Rover, both Rosenbaum and Toussaint confirmed, but the company said they never received notice of the sitter’s first citation.

“We did not hear from Arlington animal control,” said Rosenbaum today (Wednesday). “Had we, we would’ve removed the sitter from the platform.”

One of the difficulties in regulating apps like Rover, Toussaint said, was that they don’t fall under the Virginia’s code for “boarding facilities” which have to be inspected and meet certain standards. However she said online pet sitters do still fall under state code as custodians of animals, and can be cited for failing to provide adequate care for people’s pets.

“That’s where we as officers can hold these pet sitters accountable,” she said.

Rover advertises a background check system for its workers and Rosenbaum said it encourages people to submit complaints at any times, but he did not respond to questions on whether Rover checks for new criminal records after employing a worker.

Last week, CBS reported that 12 families said their dogs died while workers from Rover were supposed to be caring for the animals. Two additional families also reported dog deaths during care from Rover’s competitor, Wag.

Rover currently has an A+ rating on the Better Business Bureau but averages a one-star rating from consumers, who have submitted 70 complaints to the website.

The Better Business Bureau is currently investigating Wag’s advertising claims, including their promise of a “rigorous screening process that includes a background check.”

In October, the bureau said it would continue monitoring reports it received that, “show that the company has a pattern of complaints concerning consumers consumers allege that items have gone missing from their homes after using the Wag app to walk their dog(s).”

In the meantime, Chief Toussaint said incidents in Arlington are rare but animal control has a few tips on how Arlington residents can do their own background checks on sitters:

  • Do your own background check of your sitter or dog walker
  • Meet in person at the location your pet will be staying at
  • Ask what their emergency plan is should they be unable to care for your animal, or if something happens to your animal
  • Have a back-up care provider

Image courtesy of Hunter’s owner

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