Augusta County: More Questions Over Illegal Pet Penalties and the Killing of Dogs for Non-Payment
Written by: Sam Orlando
In an Augusta County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday evening, the shocking issue of the imposition of a “civil penalty” on pet owners without legal authorization resurfaced, sparking heated debate and raising concerns about the legitimacy of past county actions. Supervisor Scott Seaton led the questioning, grilling County Administrator Timothy Fitzgerald about the controversial practice during the meeting's Board discussion segment.
Seaton inquired as to when the county administration had first become aware that it was enforcing this penalty, which without an enabling law, he has likened to a "ransom". A visibly uncomfortable Fitzgerald admitted that he had been cognizant of the issue for several months. This startling admission raised immediate concerns about the fate of dogs potentially euthanized because their owners could not afford to pay this seemingly illegal penalty.
The gravity of the situation was underscored when Seaton asked whether there was a plan in place for the county to make restitution to those adversely affected by its potentially unlawful conduct. However, rather than providing a straightforward response, the county attorney deferred, stating a preference to prepare a legal opinion and discuss the matter in a closed session.
Fitzgerald, repeatedly emphasizing his reluctance to discuss the issue in a public session, seemed unable to provide clarity on which entity discovered the problem initially - Augusta County or the two cities sharing the shelter, Staunton and Waynesboro.
The county's evasion and lack of transparency further fueled concerns and speculation about the potential illegality of its practices by activists, casting a shadow over the administration.
As the story unfolds, the board's future actions will be closely monitored, especially regarding restitution plans and measures to prevent such controversies in the future.