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Clem continues campaign to shift Animal Control officers
By Shannon Sollinger
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Supervisor Jim Clem (R-Leesburg) is convinced the county's Animal Control officers should be taken away from the County Administrator and shifted to the Sheriff's Office.
Scott York (I-at large), the titular head of the Board of Supervisors, did his best to stop that from happening at the Public Safety Committee meeting Monday night. His motion that the entire board support the current structure of the department, including having it report to County Administrator Kirby Bowers, and that the Animal Advisory Committee cease even discussing moving any part of the department anywhere, passed 3 to 1.
Clem voted no. Bruce Tulloch (R-Potomac) abstained. Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) and Jim Burton (I-Blue Ridge) supported York. The question will go on to a full board meeting.
Clem said he would pursue his goal of moving the Animal Control officers to the Sheriff's Office during the budget process coming up. He said he is not interested in moving the animal shelter out from under the county's jurisdiction.
Clem denied trading his vote on rural zoning to Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run) in return for support in moving the Animal Control officers. "Anyone who tells you my vote [on rural zoning] had anything to do with the animal shelter is smoking something."
He has received calls from unhappy constituents for the last year and a half, Clem said, that led him to the conclusion that the Department of Animal Care and Control "lacks leadership" and isn't serving the public well. Several Animal Control officers are not certified to use their weapons, as required, he said, and the Sheriff's Office is carrying the burden of responding to calls because the Animal Control officers are not available when needed.
"I have yet to see anything going on at our shelter that concerns me as a supervisor," York said.
Several months ago, York used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of all correspondence and e-mails involving Animal Care and Control and the Animal Advisory Committee, including correspondence between Clem and Mary Harper, chair of the committee.
York noted that advisory committee members, in the minutes of their April 26, 2006, meeting, seem convinced the Board of Supervisors has decided to turn the shelter over to a private operator. Only Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) has talked about privatizing the shelter, said York, and "Eugene talks about privatizing all of government. The organization has my highest respect."
He turned to Clem, sitting across the table, and said, "If there is a concern, I want to know what it is, and if not, let's send these people home and let them do their jobs."
Clem indicated dissatisfaction with the number of pit bulls that have been euthanized at the shelter in the last six months -- 49 in all. Under shelter policy, pit bulls are not put up for adoption.
The pit bull policy has been in place at the shelter for 20 years, said Director Tom Koenig. The state's attorney general has issued an opinion that a ban cannot be put on a specific breed, and Koenig and the Animal Advisory Committee are working on updating the policy.
Fairfax has no policy against adopting out pit bulls, Koenig said, but it places restrictions on both dog and new owner. In the last year, the Fairfax shelter took in more than 350 pit bulls - 20 were placed, three were adopted and the rest were "disposed of."
The Loudoun shelter has sought a pit bull rescue group to take animals that prove hard to adopt out, said the shelter's administrative manager Donna Levesque. Thus far, none has qualified. Many rescues are too full, and at the very least, they must be a 501(c)3, and there must be inspection visits to foster homes or facilities.
The shelter has agreements with other breed rescue groups - golden retrievers, Labradors, Jack Russells, springer and cocker spaniels, pugs, Dobermans and Rottweilers, and Siamese and Persian cats.
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