Augusta County's Illegal Fee Costs Dog's Life: Ransom or Fine?
Written by: Sam Orlando
AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. — During a recent work session of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors held Monday afternoon, Supervisor Scott Seaton disclosed a deeply troubling issue — the County has been illicitly demanding a fee from pet owners before returning their animals from animal control or the shelter. This fee, compared to a ransom by Seaton, has been charged when an animal was held by animal control, despite the county lacking legal authority to impose such charges.
"What ordinance authorizes the county to charge the Shenandoah Valley Service Center fees and animal fines... I'm having a hard time finding those," Seaton questioned during the meeting, signaling a deep-seated issue in the County's practices.
County Administrator Timothy Fitzgerald offered an unsettling response, "You won't find it. It's something that we're looking into... if you're looking in our ordinance to try to find a fee associated with that, you won't find it there, because it's not there."
When Seaton probed about how the County justified imposing charges without an authorizing ordinance, Fitzgerald's reply raised further eyebrows: "We've always done that, for many, many, many years."
Seaton voiced his dismay, questioning how charges could be enforced when the County didn't possess the right to do so. Fitzgerald admitted the practice has been ongoing, characterizing it as a 'legal question' that needed more exploration.
Perhaps the most heart-rending repercussion of this illegal fee surfaced when Seaton exposed the tragic fate of a dog, euthanized while its owner tried to raise the required fee. "It sounds like we did something really wrong, and it led to the death of that dog," Seaton commented, underscoring the dire implications of the unlawful charges.
Fitzgerald, while stating no animal would be held for money henceforth, remained conspicuously silent about the tragic incident, further inflaming the burgeoning scandal.
The illicit fees and their devastating consequences have plunged Augusta County into a deep crisis, provoking public ire and demanding urgent redress. A thorough investigation into the fees and the circumstances leading to the euthanization of the dogs is vital as the County reckons with this severe ethical and legal transgression.
This scandal comes on the heels of the County's rejection of body cameras for it's Sheriff's Department, and again provokes residents to ask the question, why are the County's leaders so opposed to basic transparency?
As the Board deliberates and residents demand accountability, Augusta County faces a challenge of trust. Transparency and justice now become paramount as the County works to restore public faith in its governance.