ROMNEY, W.Va. — Senate bill No. 398, introduced by Sen. Donald Cookman, would damage the animal control program in Hampshire County, according to the county’s chief animal control officer and the county commissioners.
Commission president Steve Slonaker and Commisioner Bob Hott discussed the content of the bill with chief animal control officer David Gee at Tuesday’s commission meeting.
In a letter to the editor of the Times-News, Cookman said the bill’s intent is to help animals, not hurt them.
The bill would allow a state public school with an animal and veterinary science program to obtain impounded dogs and cats for use in the school’s curriculum.
Last year Isaac Lewis, head of the veterinary tech program at Hampshire High School, asked that dogs and cats from the animal control center be provided to the school’s veterinary program.
Cookman said the idea is to help students develop job skills in the areas of veterinary medicine and care.
During Tuesday’s commission meeting Gee explained that only the best animals at the shelter would be used by the school program, which would decrease the animal control income.
“They would be picking and choosing purebreds such as collies. Grooming them for their use and then selling them,” Gee said.
By doing that, Gee said, and the commissioners agreed that animal control would lose income.
“We aren’t opposed to the program at the school but we can’t jeopardize our animal control,” Slonaker said.
Cookman said, regarding the bill, “It appears to have caused some heartburn. The majority of the people who contacted me were concerned that this bill would open the door to scientific testing and abuse of animals. …”
Cookman said that is not the case.
Gee told the commission that animal control receives approximately $150 for every dog adopted out.
“We put $100 or so in each animal,” Gee said.
Income from the adoption of the animals pays for the vehicles and utilities, not the kennel, he said.
In 2013, animal control adopted 193 animals and euthanized only 19. Seventy-eight dogs were returned back to the owners.
As it stands, the Hampshire County Animal Control is successful.
“The only way this request would work is for them to pay for the adoption of every animal that is taken from animal control for the veterinary program,” said Gee.
The commissioners agreed.
Hott said there would be concern that without the animals being formally adopted, the county would be liable if something went wrong.
“If they want to come out and pay to adopt an animal that would be OK,” Gee said.
Cookman said he still believes that the purpose and intent of SB 398 is truly worthy.
“However, after the response my office has received, I have asked that the chairman of the Senate Education Committee hold the bill from consideration until there is an opportunity to make sure that the bill accomplishes these worthy purposes while at the same time insuring that no animal is treated in an inhumane manner,” Cookman said in the Feb. 3 editorial.
Gee told the commission he would contact those involved in the proposed program.
The commissioners agreed and said they would send a follow-up letter regarding the negative impact to the county.
Hott said prior to the Feb. 3 editorial regarding the bill the commissioner had no knowledge of its content, nor had they been advised of its making.
Contact Marla Pisciotta at firstname.lastname@example.org.