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Animal agencies butt heads at hearing

September 20, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Two agencies that both say they represent the best interests of unwanted animals butted heads over how to accomplish that at a Thursday night hearing before the Washington County Animal Control Authority.

The Humane Society of Washington County cited Second Chance Rescue of Inwood, W.Va., alleging that dogs taken to the PetSmart Store on Garland Groh Boulevard by Second Chance for adoption weren't being properly cared for while on display there.

Second Chance's challenge of the citations prompted Thursday's hearing.

Over the objections of Second Chance attorney Paul Weiss, Humane Society Executive Director Maria Procopio testified for her agency even though she wasn't present when the citations were issued.

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"Officer Kevin Lewis issued them but he is out of town," Procopio testified Thursday.

She said that on Aug. 24, Lewis cited Second Chance director Mara Spade for violating the Washington County Animal Control Ordinance.

Lewis claimed that the crates in which some dogs were displayed did not contain blankets, the water dishes contained in those crates were not tip-proof, and the dogs were not restrained by leashes at least 15 feet in length.

"Lewis responded on Aug. 24 to two complaints from people in the community," Procopio told Animal Control Authority members. She submitted photos she said showed the dogs couldn't stand up and turn around in the crates.

On Aug. 31, Lewis issued additional citations to another Second Chance volunteer at the same store.

Animal Control Authority Chairman Tom DiGirolamo read through the animal control ordinance and found a section that addresses the size of pet boxes/crates. But he said the statute doesn't mention leash lengths or water dishes.

Weiss, a Martinsburg, W.Va., attorney, concurred that there is nothing relating to those items in the regulations.

Spade testified that she has worked as a volunteer to arrange animal adoptions for nearly 10 years.

"I find homes for animals so they don't have to die," she said.

A big part of that effort for the past two years has been setting up temporary adoption outposts at PetSmart stores in Hagerstown, Frederick, Md., and Winchester, Va., she said.

Second Chance is still taking dogs to Frederick and Winchester every weekend but since the citations were issued at the Hagerstown store, the store management has discontinued that practice there, Spade said.

Spade testified that Second Chance arranges adoptions only for spayed or neutered animals. An adoption fee offsets the cost of that procedure as well as other medical needs so the animals will be healthy when adopted.

"Is anybody else doing this kind of thing?" authority member Gerald Ditto asked Spade.

She said Second Chance and the humane society used to alternate weekends at PetSmart.

"When they stopped, we took their weekends," Spade said.

Authority member Rollan Myers said he has seen the Second Chance operation at PetSmart.

"I think it's kind of neat," he said.

Myers said that on hot days, he noticed that the dogs were kept in the shade. He also said he saw the dogs being exercised.

"I did have some questions about the size of the cages," Myers said.

Procopio testified she was sorry to learn that Second Chance had lost its space at PetSmart.

"When I heard that, I went to PetSmart on Sept. 3rd or 4th and asked them to reconsider but they said they were glad they were gone," Procopio said.

Weiss told the authority members that his client, Spade, spoke with the store manager on Sept. 7 and she said he didn't recall having that conversation with Procopio.

"Mara Spade is like a battlefield medic ... she is trying to save these animals from death row," Weiss said in closing.

The authority took the matter under advisement and will issue a ruling on the validity of the citations within 15 days.

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