Bath Animal Welfare Foundation Pleased With County Support

Hot Springs, Va – The three counties in the AMR listening area have distinctly different configurations for handling animal welfare and animal control issues. A series of news stories for the next three weeks will compare and contrast the different systems used in Bath, Highland and Pocahontas counties.

Planning has begun for a conference to be held in early spring, where tri-county animal control personnel and humane groups will have the opportunity to exchange information and develop strategies to improve their operations.

This week’s story will describe animal control and welfare in Bath County.
Virginia law requires county governments to maintain or cause to be maintained a pound to confine dogs running at large without a tax tag. The county is not required to own the shelter and may contract with a private group for the operation of a dog pound. State law requires the county pound to keep dogs at least five days before the dogs may be killed. However, if the dog has a collar, tag, or other form of identification, the pound must keep the dog at least 10 days, and a reasonable effort must be made to contact the owner.

In Bath County, the county owns and operates the animal shelter, located in Hot Springs. The county employs a full-time animal control officer, a full-time assistant animal control officer and a part-time shelter manager. The current Bath County shelter has a capacity of about 10 dogs and 10 cats, but a new shelter is under construction in Hot Springs, which will have a capacity of about 20 dogs and 20 cats. The county dedicates $115,000 per year to animal control and welfare, which covers all shelter expenses and salaries.

Bath County animal control personnel work closely with a local non-profit humane organization, the Bath Animal Welfare Foundation, the BAWF. The BAWF works to find homes for animals confined in the county pound and works to improve animal welfare throughout bath County. The BAWF operates a thrift shop in Mitchelltown to support its adoption efforts.

Jean Von Shilling is a working member and former board member of the BAWF. Von Shilling says BAWF enjoys a good working relationship with Bath County animal control personnel.

“We have a very good working relationship between animal control and Bath Animal Welfare,” she said. “Bath Animal Welfare – we really adopt from that group, along with from other places, as well.”

Von Shilling says the Bath County animal control officer or his assistant is responsive when the BAWF requests help.

“We also call on animal control whenever we have a question or see something that we think needs help,” she said. “His office is open every day except mid-day Saturday till Monday morning. Somebody will answer the phone. On off-hours, if you have an emergency, you simply dial 9-1-1 and ask the dispatcher there to get a message to whoever’s on-call. “

The Bath County Sheriff’s Department also provides assistance for animal welfare issues.

“Really, we, as citizens, can simply go to the Sheriff’s Office and ask for a deputy to accompany us to the scene, if there’s an animal in an emergency situation and the Sheriff’s Office obliges,” said Von Shilling.

Bath County Animal Control Officer Robert Chestnut says the county pound is able to adopt out more animals than it euthanizes, thanks to assistance from the BAWF.

“We transfer animals to them, which opens up a broader spectrum, where they can place dogs in different places than we can, because we can only adopt to adjoining jurisdictions,” he said. “During 2011 and both the two previous years, between the dogs that we returned to owner, adopted through the shelter here or transferred to the Bath Animal Welfare Foundation, that number has been greater than what we have to have put down. So, that’s a great thing there. A lot of places just can’t say that.”

The animal control officer added that BAWF provides free or largely discounted spay and neuter for animals adopted out of the county pound. He said the euthanasia rate for dogs that come into the county pound is between 25 and 30 percent.

Von Shilling praised Chestnut and the Bath County Sheriff’s Department for their help with animal welfare problems, and said she expects the effective relationships to continue.

“We have a new sheriff, Sheriff Plecker, who is an “animal person,” she said. “He and his wife have, for years, been involved with animal welfare and have adopted animals themselves. So, we are very fortunate in Bath County.”

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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