Raleigh County Animal Rescue, the state and local humane societies and private
citizens gathered Thursday under the leadership of Beckley attorney Melissa Lilly.
when it comes to making progress on these issues, there’s strength in numbers.
all kinds of groups out there that have their own animal niche,” said Lilly. “I
feel if we can all band together and we cooperate, that we can get a lot more
getting legislation passed, whether it’s getting education programs set up,
getting all those people together and realizing that we really are working
toward the same goals is quite important,” she said.
amazed at how many people are tried and true animal lovers and will come out
and show support for these things.”
of Raleigh County Animal Rescue said all area shelters are full. She shared some of the worst cases of cruelty and
neglect she’s seen.
talking about people who have hundreds of animals in their house, tied up in
their yard, breeding, breeding, breeding, with no license, no regulation, no
nothing,” said Omar.
can’t get to its shelter because it’s imbedded in the mud, he can’t lie down,
he can’t eat, his food has maggots, and his water has mosquito larva. Somewhere
along the line it’s got to stop,” she said.
after the immediate response to such horrible conditions, there should be a
to rescue those dogs and find them a great home, I totally agree with that. But
at the same time, how do you fix that problem?”
need to start educating people, whether it’s adults at an event in the
community, or going to a school and teaching about responsible pet ownership,
to me you have to start somewhere and you have to break that cycle,” said Lilly.
“If we can educate more people in our area, I think we can start to see some
to educating the public, one of the goals of the new group is to educate its
own members in order to be more effective animal advocates and legislative
expressed needs for a mandatory spay and neuter law and a spay and neuter
assistance program for low income pet owners.
expressed the need for clearly defined standards of pet care, saying that would
help law enforcement officers.
Morales, a local dog trainer, pointed out there are only 2 animal control
officers that report to the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department and with an
average of 30 calls a day for each officer, she believed all members of the
Sheriff’s department should be enforcing all animal protection laws.
also said that both Raleigh County and the city of Beckley have a dog tag ordinance. She said
the county enforces its law, but said the city does not - therefore the humane
society, which is always in need of funding, is missing out on an important
“I had a
friend that was trying to track down even where you get the tags, and he was
number 23 on the list of owners,” said Morales. “So the city does not enforce
the laws that they have.”
money lost. Most people don’t know there is a city tag ordinance. There’s the
law, it’s not being enforced for whatever reason, and where’s the money going?
Even with the county dog taxes that we do pay, where’s that going?”
an important first step in answering some of these questions and successfully
lobbying for some of these changes is gathering the data.
there is no central reporting mandate or system. She said the Federation of
Humane Organizations in West Virginia, an umbrella organization focused
on lobbying efforts in Charleston, is working on compiling that
animals are they taking in, how many are you euthanizing, how many are going
out to rescues, how much money comes from the county commission, how much of
this is taxpayers’ money coming in? If we’re cutting animal population, taking
in fewer animals into shelters, euthanizing less, what’s the bottom line for
starting to gather that information,” said Lilly. “It’s a tough process because
it’s really just people taking the time to call the shelters, to call the
county commissions, following up a million times to get someone, so they’re
still working on it.”
director for the Humane Society of the United States, Summer Wyatt, talked about the 2
bills her group is lobbying for in Charleston: a commercial breeders law that
would mandate licensing and care standards, and an exotic animals bill that
would prohibit the ownership of several dangerous animals.
“Any law is
only as good as it is enforced, so not only do we have to work so that good
legislation is passed, but that it is enforced,” said Wyatt. “And that is about
being educated and holding law enforcement accountable but also knowing that
law enforcement officers in our state are not necessarily educated about the
laws when they go through schooling here.”
“So we need
to be lending them a hand, educating them, and helping them out rather than
being rude or retaliating against law enforcement because they are here to help
us and they do that every single day.”
she was impressed with the knowledge and commitment shown at the Beckley meeting and is encouraged about the
disregard for animals, the lack of humanity we have sometimes, is scary, but at
the same time I meet law enforcement officers and advocates on a weekly basis
that do care, and that are there to make a change,” said Wyatt. “So I’m happy
to see the change. It’s slow, but it is happening.”
planned to meet monthly to prepare for February’s legislative session.