Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 26, 2010

Mineral animal control officers not certified to euthanize

Questions arise about Drug Enforcement Administration permit

KEYSER, W.Va. — Mineral County’s feral cat issue took a new and complex turn in recent weeks, which came out in the public county commission meeting.

Dawn Billmyre, operator of a feline rescue in Fort Ashby, questioned the commission Tuesday on the county’s animal control officers, who have apparently been euthanizing animals without state-required certifications to do so.

According to West Virginia code, animal euthanasia can only be performed by certified animal euthanasia technicians. Wanda Goodwin, executive director of the state Board of Veterinary Medicine, said that provision went into effect around the year 2000.

The commission acknowledged that the county’s two officers who perform the procedures are not certified, but said they were trained by a veterinarian before the certification requirement was in place.

County Coordinator Mike Bland said that a local veterinarian began traveling to the pound two to three weeks ago to perform the procedures in their place, until the officers can be properly certified.

Bland said officials have known about the certification requirement for “a few years,” but the county has not yet managed to have its officers attend the state’s technician training and examination, which is held only once a year at Fairmont State University.

“We were doing (euthanizations) prior to the need for the certification, and once that was implemented it’s just something that hasn't been done to this point,” Bland said.

West Virginia currently requires prospective animal euthanasia technicians to attend the two-day training and pass three exams on state law and on euthanasia procedure, at a combined cost of $300. They are also required to pass a state police background check, which carries a $30 fee. After that, certified technicians can renew their certification annually for $50 per year.

To renew their certifications each year, technicians also have to complete six hours of continuing education courses approved by the state veterinary board.

Mineral County has nearly a year to wait before its officers can go through the certification process. The 2010 exam was given April 11, and Bland said the state has not heeded requests to hold a special testing session at an earlier date.

A more confusing issue is the sodium pentobarbital drug used for euthanizing animals by lethal injection, which is the method employed in Mineral County. Bland said the county has the required controlled substance permit from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to possess the lethal drug, but according to Goodwin, that shouldn’t be the case.

“If a facility does not have a certified technician, they do not have the authority to acquire or to house any controlled substance,” she said. “For example, if a facility would only have one certified technician, and that technician would leave, that DEA permit is no longer valid.”

The DEA permit predates the state’s certification requirement. Goodwin said the state tailored its regulations to mesh with those of the DEA.

Bland said the county’s controlled substance permit was renewed in 2008 and expires in 2011.

Feral cats and euthanasia became high-profile issues in the county in mid-April, when the commission unanimously adopted a new policy to allow residents to borrow live animal traps from the county and trap feral cats on their own property. Captured cats are to be turned over to animal control, and it will be left up to animal control officers to sort out cats that appear to be tame pets, not strays.

Animals that seem likely to be pets will be held for a three-day period to give their owners the chance to track down and collect them. Otherwise, the cats will be euthanized.

Commission president Wayne Spiggle said the cat control measure was needed because the West Virginia state code does not set guidelines for counties to deal with free-ranging cats, though it does address dogs in that situation. He previously called the feral cats a “recurring concern and acknowledged public health issue.”

Contact Megan Miller at mmiller@times-news.com.

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