Animal Seizure Raises More Questions About Augusta County's Troubled Animal Control Practices
Written by: Sam Orlando
In late breaking news on Friday, Augusta County announced that 41 animals have been seized from a local residence following a welfare check by Augusta County Animal Control. This incident comes amidst the ongoing controversy over the county's handling of animal control fees and the fate of seized animals who might face euthanasia if their owners fail to pay.
Animal Control Officer Dwight Strickler, who led the seizure, described the conditions in which the animals were living as unsafe and unkempt. The animals, a mix of cats and dogs, were subsequently transported to a location at the Augusta County Government Center. Here, a veterinarian conducted an examination on Saturday morning.
The current status of these animals raises immediate concerns, given recent allegations about the county's problematic handling of animal control fees. As previously reported, Supervisor Dr. Scott Seaton criticized the county's system, claiming it prevents owners from reclaiming their pets due to exorbitant and potentially illegal fees. Some animals, he said, have been put to death because their owners could not afford the "ransom fee."
So, what happens now to the 41 animals seized in this latest incident?
Jon Hilbert, the director of the Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center, has said the animals will stay temporarily at the government center. Staff members will travel to Verona daily to provide food and walk the animals. However, Hilbert did not provide any clear plan about the animals' long-term fate, leaving open the distressing question of whether they might be at risk of euthanasia if not claimed or rehomed in time. Furthermore, the policies of the County make it difficult to predict when these animals may face death, if they are not acclimated for adoption.
The seizure operation, which lasted from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m., highlights the significant challenges facing animal welfare in Augusta County. The involvement of Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Martin, who has been briefed about the case, indicates that legal proceedings may be forthcoming. However, as of Saturday, no charges had been announced.
As we wait for more information on this case, the central issue remains: What will happen to these animals, especially in light of the recent allegations about the county's mishandling of animal control fees? Does a facility, which kills animals when an owner can't pay an illegal fine within a week, have the capacity to handle such a large seizure of animals? The public, and undoubtedly the owners of these pets, will be eagerly awaiting answers.