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Dogs to benefit from shelter growth, official said

Berkeley County's chief animal warden said he doubts the shelter expansion will be finished by the scheduled completion date of

Berkeley County's chief animal warden said he doubts the shelter expansion will be finished by the scheduled completion date of

January 23, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County Chief Animal Warden Ray Strine stood in the middle of his facility's expansion, his hands shoved in his jacket's pockets, his breath visible in front of him.

The expansion of the county's animal control shelter on South Queen Street, which will add up to 30 more dog pens, is scheduled to be finished Feb. 3. Once complete, Strine said, he hopes it will allow animal control officers to keep dogs longer than they can now so fewer will be destroyed.

A lot of work still needs to be done on the 3,000-square-foot expansion, and Strine said he doubts the expected completion date will be met.

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The expansion, which is costing the county $171,335, still has no heat or lighting. The 15 dog runs, which are 8 feet by 16 feet, consist of little more than cinderblock walls. The runs can be divided in half to allow for 30 dogs if needed.

Chain-link gates need to be installed on each pen. And a door linking the old, much smaller section of the animal control office to the new section is to be installed by the end of the week, Strine said. To access the new section now, one must walk around it to a door on its far end.

Once the expansion is finished, Strine said he hopes more dogs can be kept for longer than five days before they are destroyed. Because the facility currently has only six runs, few dogs are kept longer.

Some dogs get a break. Those that may be more likely to be adopted than others are often picked up by the humane society. And a dog whose time was up Wednesday morning was going to be kept until Friday since the facility was not at capacity, Strine said.

Although he did not have statistics available from last year, Strine said around 1,200 dogs are usually picked up each year, mostly ones found running loose. Of those, three-quarters or more usually are euthanized, he said.

To prevent so many deaths, Strine said he hopes two part-time kennel attendants can be hired once the new section opens to keep it clean, care for the dogs and try to find them homes.

"There are a lot of good dogs and it is a shame we have to put them down," Strine said.

Four dogs were at the facility Wednesday, including two that reportedly killed a horse last year. Their owners appealed an order that the dogs be destroyed, meaning the dogs have been penned up for months while the case has been in court.

In the future, any dogs that have attacked a person or animal may be quarantined in the existing six pens, Strine said.

Dogs that are declared vicious will be put down, but the animal's owner can appeal the decision to a five-member appeal board, to be comprised of impartial community members. The so-called "vicious dog ordinance" was approved by the Berkeley County Commission last year.

County Commission President Howard Strauss said Wednesday that only one person has submitted an application to serve on the board.

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