With new state legislation in place, the Loudoun County Animal Shelter is ready to start working with rescue groups. However, representatives from two Washington, D.C.-area rescue groups are wondering what is taking so long.
“We cooperated with rescue groups all along, … it’s just we didn’t have the ability to turn animals over to them,” said Ann Gallus, Animal Advisory Committee chairperson, adding that the shelter lets rescue groups know when a purebred dog is housed at the shelter.
Under the shelter’s current policy, the shelter adopts out animals to permanent homes and not to rescue or other animal-care groups, which provide temporary homes. The Animal Advisory Committee established a subcommittee at the Nov. 20 meeting tasked with developing a procedure for working with rescue groups.
In July, the state updated the Comprehensive Animal Laws of Virginia, requiring rescue groups, humane societies and other animal-care groups to be registered and meet a list of state criteria for record keeping, inspections and keeping animals in their care. The Comprehensive Animal Laws specifically defines Companion Animal Rescue Agencies (CARAs) as rescue groups that find permanent homes for adoptable animals, in the meantime keeping the animals in residences, foster homes or border establishments. The animal shelter seeks to work with CARAs.
“It gives regulations to both entities, so it develops a working relationship between shelters and rescue groups and foster homes,” said Kim Miller, operations manager at the animal shelter, adding that without the regulations, establishing any kind of guideline is a difficult process. “It imposes a working relationship between the two and provides an outline and guidance on how it all plays out.”
THE SUBCOMMITTEE is tasked with establishing such a relationship.
“It’s interesting they say they’re trying to develop a relationship. It seems like they’re trying to do everything to not develop a relationship,” said Maryland resident Adrianne Lefkowitz, vice president of the American Dog Owners Association, adding that she considers the shelter’s approach to be exclusionary and not community-oriented.
“They are putting a program in place that no rescue group will be able to be part of,” Lefkowitz said. She sees the shelter placing more restrictions on animal-care groups than on individuals. A letter she received in October requesting the assistance of canine advocates lists possible standards of competency and performance of CARAs wanting to work with the animal shelter. She considers the list "how not to work with a shelter."
“I think they are going to make it so difficult, instead of just trying it and seeing what works," Lefkowitz said. "I hope they embrace rescues one day, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.”
Forming a subcommittee is “a step forward,” Gallus said.
The subcommittee will develop criteria for rescue groups to work with the shelter and consider working with feline rescue groups in addition to rescue groups for dogs. Once the criterion are established, the shelter’s adoption policy will be updated to include rescue groups.
“This is going to be a long-term project,” Gallus said, adding that the project could take more than a year. “It might positively affect our adoption numbers where we adopt more animals out. … Our goal is to place animals and that’s the bottom line.”
THE SUBCOMMITTEE consists of three committee members, including Gallus, Steve Zucker and Mary Harper, along with a representative from shelter staff who has not yet been selected and two or more representatives from the public, also not yet selected. About 20 to 30 people expressed interest in becoming members, including Sterling resident Lea Spickler, president of the Virginia German Shepherd Rescue.
“I would like to help educate them about breed rescue. I think they have some old-fashioned notions about it or some misconceptions,” Spickler said.
Most breed rescues have stricter requirements than those of animal shelters, such as requiring home visits and dogs to be housed indoors with the adopting family, Spickler said. “I’m glad they are starting to move forward on this. I’ll be patient for awhile,” she said.
The subcommittee will meet next month. The date for the meeting has not been set. The full committee will meet Dec. 18.