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Animals may go to landfill

April 19, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Humane Society is proposing taking the animals it euthanizes to a landfill in Hedgesville, W.Va.

That is the most recent proposal to surface in Berkeley County since Valley Proteins, a rendering company, announced it would no longer pick up dead animals from municipalities or animal organizations.

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Valley Proteins, apparently stung by a television news report in February that linked commonly used items to animal components, decided to stop collecting "companion animals."

The executive director of the National Renderers Association said Valley Proteins was performing a service that's hard to find and stopped because the news report incited undue fear.

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Valley Proteins' Winchester, Va., office has not returned several calls for comment.

Dozens of groups and local governments in the Tri-State region and beyond are affected by the discontinuation.

On Monday, Berkeley County's animal control department began taking dead animals to an incinerator in the northern end of the county. Animal Control Officer Ray Strine said it cost $162 to drop off nine dogs.

The county also is working out a separate problem: euthanizing stray animals.

No Berkeley County employee is certified to perform euthanasia on animals. The Humane Society, which has two certified staff members, this week proposed charging the county $7 to euthanize each animal.

The county would then pick up the animals and dispose of them.

For now, the county will use the incinerator on Spring Mills Road, which is run by the Valley Pet Crematory and Cemetery, a Williamsport business.

The Humane Society plans to take its dead animals to the LCS Services landfill in Hedgesville, according to a letter written by Shari Persad, secretary of the society's board of directors.

An LCS employee who did not want to be identified said the state allows animals to be buried at landfills. "It's the same as a load of trash," he said.

LCS charges $35.75 per ton for refuse from Berkeley County and $38.75 per ton for refuse from Morgan and Jefferson counties, the employee said.

Berkeley County euthanized almost 800 dogs last year, according to Strine. The county does not handle cats, he said.

The Humane Society euthanized more than 1,900 dogs and cats last year while 975 others were adopted, according to Treasurer Joann Overington.

The county may consider using the landfill, too, but it's a solution that's bound to collapse, Strine surmised. "Once the word gets out, people will say something about it," he said.

Tom Cook, the executive director of the National Renderers Association in Alexandria, Va., said he has heard of many counties and animal groups struggling to replace Valley Proteins, which is still picking up dead farm animals for processing. He has also heard from a university unable to dispose of its laboratory animals.

Cook said rendering is "an environmental stopgap" that keeps dead animals from clogging landfills and drains.

He said animal components can be used in products ranging from crayons to cosmetics and from plastic to paint. As an example, he mentioned tallow, which comes from the fat of sheep and cattle and is used to make soap. Animal fat can also be turned into glycerin for lipstick, varnish or explosives, he said.

In the past, when pet food companies found out that processed pets may have been used in their products, they told renderers to stop this practice, and the renderers did, Cook said.

Cindy Wright, the executive producer of the WJLA-TV "I-Team" in Washington, D.C., which aired the Valley Proteins report, said she and anchor Del Walters were thrown out of a rendering plant after they followed pickup trucks loaded with animals there.

She said the segment informed viewers know about rendering. "Dogs and cats were going into various products we all use," she said.

Cook said renderers acknowledge what animals are used for. "It's not an attractive industry, but it's an essential industry," he said.

The TV news report convinced Valley Proteins to stop picking up dogs and cats, Cook said.

"Valley Proteins had to make a decision," he said. "It was a marketing decision (and) it was a public relations decision."

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