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County Pit Bull Adoption Ban Sparks Lawsuit

Discussion in 'Breed Specific Legislation' started by Vicki, Oct 8, 2007.

  1. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Administrator

    The Animal Rescue League of Tidewater is suing to force Loudoun County to abandon its prohibition on the adoption of pit bulls brought to the animal shelter.

    The lawsuit, which includes a request for an injunction to immediately block any other pit bulls from being euthanized, is set for a Loudoun County Circuit Court hearing next Monday.

    The litigation was filed by Ron Litz and the Animal Rescue of Tidewater. They allege that county's policy forbidding the adoption of pit bull and pit bull mix breeds violates sate law.

    Although county leaders acknowledged earlier this year that the adoption policy must change to comply with Virginia law, they have been slow to put an alternative policy in place.

    The board of supervisors and the Animal Advisory Committee, along with shelter managers, have been debating changes that would permit some pit bull transfers to rescue leagues for several months, but no action has been taken. The ACC is scheduled to continue its review Wednesday.

    The shelter's current adoption policy reads, "Due to the unpredictable nature of the American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier and the wolf or wolf hybrids, the Animal Shelter will not adopt out these animals, whether pure or mixed." Because the policy prohibits their adoption or transfer to other shelters, the dogs are kept at the shelter for a 10-day waiting period, and if no owner claims them they are euthanized.

    According the lawsuit, Virginia's Comprehensive Animal Laws state: "No canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed." The suit contends that the shelter's policy unfairly designates all pit bulls and pit bull mixes as "unpredictable" and therefore dangerous. The lawsuit also relies on an October 2006 opinion of Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell that found that "publicly funded animal shelters or pounds may not euthanize dogs based solely upon breed."

    When made aware of McDonnell's opinion, shelter administration began exploring how they might change their policy. In February, the shelter conducted a survey of public opinion regarding pit bull adoptions. Of the 1,078 respondents, two-thirds were in favor of allowing the dog's adoption to responsible owners, provided the individual dog did not pose a threat.

    In May, the shelter began talks with local rescue leagues, shelters and its employees to identify alternatives. Tom Koenig, director of ACC, said as a result of these meetings, the county has a plan to train staff on how to assess individual animal's level of threat. Though a new policy on adoption of pit bulls has not been formally adopted, the shelter has begun transferring the dogs to other local shelters or breed rescue organizations provided they pass a behavioral assessment test levied by the shelter staff.

    Litz contends the shelter still is not doing enough to stem the killings.

    "They're not always successful transferring the dogs. In February talks began, but this has been going on for a long time and could continue for a long time while they continue to kill pit bulls. I don't think they're making efforts to stop killing them. If they're coming in, they can't adopt out and they can't transfer them, then what is happening to those dogs?"

    Responding to Koenig's claims that the dogs are now being assessed for temperament and if deemed safe are transferred out of the pound, Litz said, "I think their temperament tests are ridiculous. A lot of animals die in that shelter and taxpayers pay a lot of money to care for these animals-not to kill them. Many people are not aware of what's going on out there."

    The animal shelter currently has 45 kennels and a capacity to hold at least that many dogs. Last week, there were two dogs housed on the adoption floor, however adoptions are pending for both. Five pit bulls were being held as well.

    According to Koenig, approximately 100 pit bulls or pit bull mix breeds are brought to the shelter each year, anywhere from six to 10 pit bulls a month. Only four have been transferred out of the pound since May. All others have been killed.


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