Securing an animal’s second chance
EDINBURG – When an animal is taken away from a neglectful or abusive owner, a number of different local officials, kennel attendants and volunteers then become involved in its continued care and rehabilitation.
Sgt. E.E. Brogan, of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, handles animal control and support services. She emphasized that when responding to a call, officials first speak with the owners about the care of their animals.
“The main concern is educating people and working with people,” she said. “It’s not about just taking their animals.” She said charging them is a last resort.
“Most of the time it works,” she said of talking and working with owners to provide proper care. “We go out every once a month or every few weeks and check back on them.”
For those who do receive charges, Brogan said state code mandates that a hearing for the animal’s custody must take place 10 days from seizure. That hearing is separate from the defendant’s court proceedings.
Katrina Keywood, who has worked at the Shenandoah County Animal Shelter as an animal caretaker for around 10 years, said those 10 days serve as an evaluation period for the animal. Most shelter workers can tell the difference between an animal that’s scared because of the change in living situations and an animal that’s aggressive.
She said visitors can even gravitate toward animals that have come out of a rough living situation.
“There are some animals that come in here that you wouldn’t know that they came from a bad situation,” she said. “There’s some that do take that adjustment period and there are some that don’t adjust.”
Sometimes, Keywood said people who adopt rescued or surrendered animals will keep in touch with the shelter about their pets or bring them back to visit.
“It’s always nice to see the happy ending, it makes your job more rewarding,” she said.
If an animal has a treatable health condition, the shelter will provide it care. Occasionally, Keywood said, the shelter may not be able to afford a pet’s medical operation.
In the case of agricultural animals, which can require strict regimens and feeding programs after neglect, Brogan said volunteers with the required resources and land step up to aide the recovery process.
“You have to be very careful because you’re reintroducing food into the body, so you don’t want to give them an overload because they can get sick,” she said, which applies to both agricultural and companion animals.
Marcy Gallo, kennel director at the Humane Society of Warren County, said the shelter doesn’t see many cases of physical abuse and only sees a few cases of neglect per year. In 2015, she estimated the shelter took in around 12 animals that were seized after a hearing for cruelty or neglect, and most animals are signed over by their owners. Around half of the animals the shelter takes in from those situations require medical attention.
Gallo said dogs that are isolated in their living situations have a harder time socializing when brought to the shelter, but that many animals come around quickly when given proper care.
Sgt. James Darr, of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, said he’s been with Animal Control for around 16 years. He said that some owners might be in a state of disbelief or denial about any neglect until they see their animal in a better living situation.
“Most of the time when that happens, it’s usually a money issue … or they have a hard time when the animal gets older,” he said.
Darr also said that law enforcement tries to educate owners first before charging them with anything.
“Some situations (that) we get to, the legal (route) is first because of the circumstances,” he said.
Cruelty to animals is a class 1 misdemeanor, and Darr said a judge can request that someone convicted of that misdemeanor not own any animals for up to two years. Those convicted can also be ordered to anger management classes. If an animal needs to be euthanized or dies during the violation, Darr said the person can be charged with a felony.
Most cases in Warren County are lesser violations, like a dog running at large or failure to inoculate against rabies, Darr said. Over time, he said the public has generally grown more aware of animal abuse issues.
“There’s more awareness because there’s a lot more public help,” he said. “There’s people out there that’s willing who help.”
Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org.