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Dead animal disposal halted

March 30, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Counties across the Tri-State area are facing the unusual dilemma of how to dispose of the bodies of stray animals that have been euthanized.

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Valley Proteins has notified municipalities that after this week it will no longer collect the bodies and take them to its rendering plant in Winchester, Va.

Animal control officials in the Eastern Panhandle said they've had little time to come up with alternatives.

"Somebody has to do something with these animals," said Berkeley County Animal Control Officer Ray Strine.

"We can't just take them out here and dig a hole and bury them outside," said Jefferson County Animal Control Officer Linda Jenkins.

She said some counties have considered building an incinerator, but doing so could cost more than $11,000 and requires a permit.

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Including hearings and legal notices, it takes about six months to get a permit, according to Richard Poling, manager of the Office of Air Quality in the West Virginia Bureau of Environment's Division of Environmental Protection.

As a temporary measure, Berkeley County will hire Valley Pet, a Williamsport-based company that operates a pet cemetery and crematorium, Commissioner Robert Burkhart said. "There's no long-range contract," he said.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, his brother Todd and his sister Debra Pappas own Valley Pet, as well as the Greenlawn Cemetery in Williamsport.

According to Gregory Snook, Valley Proteins has been serving the Eastern Panhandle, every county in Maryland and several counties in Pennsylvania. Jenkins said Valley Proteins also has served at least one county in Virginia.

Snook said he has received calls from about 20 counties interested in having Valley Pet pick up animal bodies and take them to its incinerator off Spring Mills Road in Berkeley County.

He said he expects that Valley Pet will do business with about 10 of those counties. Valley Pet can't take on the larger counties that have called, such as Baltimore and Montgomery, he said.

Valley Pet now works only with veterinarians within a 100-mile radius in four states, and that will remain the company's focus, he said.

Burkhart said Berkeley County will haul its dead animals to the incinerator instead of paying extra to have Valley Pet pick them up.

Snook said Valley Pet charges about $18 to $20 to remove an average-sized animal weighing about 30 pounds.

Burkhart said Berkeley County has been paying Valley Proteins $110 per pickup, regardless of the number of animals.

A Valley Proteins spokesman did not return two phone calls on Wednesday.

Valley Proteins is scheduled to make its last pickup in Berkeley County this morning.

In Jefferson County, which also has been using Valley Proteins' services, the last pickup was Tuesday.

The Jefferson County Commission may discuss its options when it meets today, although the matter was not on the agenda Wednesday afternoon, said Laura Kuhn, an administrative assistant for the county.

About 2,500 stray or injured animals were euthanized in Berkeley County last year, either by the county or the Berkeley County Humane Society, Strine said.

He said the county's animal control department takes in dogs that are either stray, have no apparent owner, or that were injured on the road.

The state's highway department picks up bodies of dead animals on the streets, according to Strine.

Valley Proteins hauled away two or three drums containing 20 to 25 dog bodies from Berkeley County's animal shelter on South Queen Street every other week, Strine said. The county stored the bodies in a freezer until they were picked up.

At the county shelter, dogs are euthanized if they are not claimed within five days.

Valley Proteins picked up bodies from the Berkeley County Humane Society building on Charles Town Road about once every two months, Manager Donna Ault said.

Because he is a Washington County Commissioner, Snook said he excuses himself when there is discussion about paying for the removal of animals. The animal shelter in Washington County, which has been using Valley Proteins, probably will turn to a company in Pennsylvania, he said.

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