Pet lovers howl at classifying dogs as livestock

Canine friends may be safe this year, but their legal status in the commonwealth may be questioned again next year.

Animal welfare advocates recently voiced concerns over legislation to redefine livestock animals in state law to include hunting, show and breeding dogs. Senate Bill 610, sponsored by Sen. Richard Black, R-Sterling, also sought to place all animal care oversight under a single state agency – the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Several hundred people converged on the Capitol on Jan. 26 for Virginia Humane Lobby Day to oppose SB 610, said Robin Starr, chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA, one of the event’s organizers.

The next day, Black announced that he was pulling the bill for this session. On Feb. 2, the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee formally voted to postpone consideration of the measure until 2013.

According to his legislative aide, Chris Lore, Black may seek approval of the bill during the General Assembly’s next session.

“This is a bill that we’re actually going to pass by for the year. It’d be easier to wait and look over it over the summer because there are various issues with dogs that people are concerned about,” Lore said this week.

SB 610 states that “ ‘Agricultural animal’ or ‘livestock’ means any domestic animal raised, herded, or farmed as an agricultural product or associated with agriculture, including equids, cows, calves, yearlings, bulls, oxen, sheep, goats, lambs, kids, hogs, pigs, poultry, gamefowl, fowl, hunting dogs, working dogs, and show dogs.”

It goes on to say that the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services “occupies the entire field of regulation of the care, control, and handling of agricultural animals. No political subdivision, locality, or humane society shall regulate the care and handling of agricultural animals.”

The bill’s impact statement said the measure would increase the administrative and regulatory responsibilities of the agriculture department, making it “the sole regulator of the care and handling of agricultural animals.”

“Currently, VDACS is not responsible for regulating, inspecting, or monitoring dog shows, but under this legislation the department may assume that role,” the statement said.

Agriculture department officials estimate that they would need about $185,000 a year to carry out the additional duties.

Animal welfare advocates oppose SB 610 because it would effectively remove dogs from the jurisdiction of humane societies and animal shelters.

“I don’t see how the Richmond SPCA could support the bill next year,” Starr said.

“The bill in its current state would set the standard for dog care back literally decades. The standards of dog care are already minimal, and the intention of the bill is clearly to lower the standards even further. Agricultural animals simply do not have the same rights as companion animals.”

Myra Jennings of Beagles to the Rescue, a nonprofit group based in Virginia Beach, agreed.

“We don’t want the bill at all,” Jennings said. “All dogs are companion animals. As bad as the situation with puppy mills is now, can you imagine what it would be like without regulations? Dogs suffer enough as it is with the mills as they are now.”

Dogs wouldn’t be the only animals put in jeopardy by SB 610, animal welfare advocates say. They said the legislation also is a threat to chickens, ducks, turkeys and other poultry.

United Poultry Concerns, an activist group dedicated to “promoting compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl,” opposes Black’s proposal.

“Farm animals in this state already have no rights,” stated Dr. Karen Davis, the organization’s president. “Birds are just as sensitive and just as alive and just as deserving as dogs and other animals. We do not support the bill now or next year.”
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Henrico Public Library wins Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation grant


The Henrico County Public Library system recently won the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation's Library Grant Award, which provides funding, materials and programming from VBCF to help educate citizens about breast cancer.

The grant is given to select libraries in Virginia that apply and is intended to further the VBCF mission to educate the public about breast health and breast cancer. > Read more.

Pet Valu to open in Glen Allen Aug. 26


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The store will offer free samples, goody bags, refreshments, raffles and prizes and kid- and pet-friendly entertainment during its first day of business from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. > Read more.

State issues warning about purebred puppy scam


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Kaine, McEachin to host Service Academy Day


Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) will co-host their Service Academy Day to educate high school students about the service academy nominations process, an honor awarded by members of Congress for students interested in attending a service academy after high school.

The event will take place Saturday, Sept. 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Matoaca High School, 17700 Longhouse Lane, Chesterfield 23838. It will provide an opportunity for high school students and parents to learn about the nation’s military academies, a career in military service and the nominations process. > Read more.

Red Cross, Sport Clips offer free haircuts to blood donors


The American Red Cross and Sport Clips are partnering to provide free haircuts to anyone who donates blood or platelets to the Red Cross during September.

Blood donors of all blood types, especially type O negative and O positive, are urgently needed to replenish the blood supply following a critical summer blood shortage. > Read more.

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will present Flowers After 5 on Thursday evenings through September. Stroll through the gardens and enjoy live music from Party of Four, as well as family activities, wine and beer, dining and shopping. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome. The Garden partners with the Richmond SPCA on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month for Fidos After 5 where leashed pets are allowed. Admission is $8 to $13 or free for members. For details, visit http://www.lewisginter.org. Full text

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