I have done so because the situation was brought to my attention by some of my peers in the animal welfare field and the idea of this dog dying just seems so frustratingly unnecessary and therefore tragic. The dog seems to have a single blemish on his record. He killed a chicken and, for that reason, he was impounded in the government facility in Carroll County, Virginia, a rural county where the City of Galax is located.
While none of us is comfortable with a dog killing a chicken or any other animal for that matter, anyone who has worked in animal welfare for long knows that this behavior is not uncommon for dogs and can happen easily if the dog is in a rural location and his guardians do not put in place measures to prevent the dog from free roaming. Such an occurrence does not mean that the dog will be aggressive toward people or toward other dogs. It certainly does not mean that he needs to die. It does mean that such a dog must be adopted out with care to a home where he will not come into contact with small animals and to guardians who will be very careful about preventing him from having opportunities to kill or injure another animal. At the Richmond SPCA, we know that trustworthy adopters of that sort come along frequently and, with good counseling prior to adoption, can be relied upon to provide a loving home and responsible care for a long and full lifetime.
Under Virginia Law, a dog who kills livestock can be killed. However, the dog may also legally be rehomed to a state non-adjacent to Virginia. Significantly, just three weeks from now on July 1, 2016, Virginia law will change under HB1231 (passed by the 2016 Virginia General Assembly) to allow "the district court to order that any dog that has been found to have injured or killed only poultry be microchipped and either confined securely or transferred to another owner whom the court deems appropriate." Under current law, the court is required to order that such a dog be killed immediately or removed to another state.
The Richmond SPCA, Homeward Trails and the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies have all offered to pay to board this dog until July 1, 2016 at which time he could be transferred to any one of our groups. We have all also offered to find a rescue in a non-adjacent state immediately. These offers have fallen on deaf ears and we have gotten no response other than one terse emailed statement from Galax City Manager Keith Barker that the dog would not be transferred.
Why? When government animal control agencies wonder why they are disliked and when people who oppose the no kill philosophy whine that they are not understood, this is the sort of situation that they need to look at honestly for some answers. Not all of them would do this by any means but, when one of them does, it really erodes public confidence that they actually care about the welfare of animals. When a responsible organization has offered to provide a variety of resources to save the life of a dog, as I have done on behalf of the Richmond SPCA (along with other organizations as well), and when you have been completely polite and reasonable in your requests to be allowed to move this dog to another location and find a responsible home as we have been, but you have been summarily refused, the loss of life feels so very unnecessary. And that is not just tragic. It is deeply unethical.
So, I feel so very sorry for that nameless, adorable dog in the picture whom I have never met. So sorry that people are probably going to end his life when there were people who wanted to save his life and could have done so responsibly. Why does this continue to happen? Why would they prefer to make this choice? Because I can only conclude that they do prefer it.
Update: This dog was in fact killed sometime yesterday. I found out last night. It is heart breaking. I believe this tragedy will trouble a great many people.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read the biographies of our regular bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.