What is Animal Control
Simply put, animal control is the enforcement of animal-related laws. In our case, it is the enforcement of West Virginia State laws and city or county ordinances related to domesticated animals. It is an extremely difficult job, and our Officers are busy day and often nights responding to calls, investigating abuse and neglect and trying to protect animals in our community. Unfortunately, the laws and code in our State and municipalities are sadly lacking. They provide us little authority to act in many cases where common sense would demand action but our Officers are dedicated to helping animals in any way that they can. Read on to learn more about the responsibilities of our Humane Officers and also some of the things we are not permitted to do. Also, read the excerpt from our County Contract to understand more about what services we provide.
What We Can Do
The Officers are often involved in challenging, and sometimes even dangerous, activities protecting and rescuing animals. These include:
Enforcing licensing and rabies requirements
Investigating and acting on abuse and neglect situations
Rescuing animals from over-heated dwellings and cars
Removing animals at risk from irresponsible and/or abusive owners
Catching dogs running loose/rescuing strays
Assisting with and capturing stray, vicious and injured dogs and cats
Assisting law enforcement in drugs raids. In some cases, this involves the removal of vicious animals
Assisting emergency personnel and fire departments with the rescue/removal of animals from homes and dangerous situations
Helping starving livestock and animals confined in horrid and unhealthy conditions (often the result of hoarders and puppy mills)
Assisting law enforcement investigators (HSOP Officers are regularly involved in the investigation and ultimate prosecution of animal abusers, which in some cases has resulted in jail time for the abusers.
We continue to lobby for strengthened State Code to provide greater protection for animals and more humane and compassionate care of all animals. Until then, our Officers are dedicated to doing what they can to help innocent animals.
What We Can't Do
It is important to understand what our Officers cannot do, because there is often a great deal of confusion and frustration when common situations arise. Common situations where there is such confusion include:
Stray cats: Neither the law nor our contracts with the cities and Wood County permit us to pick up stray cats – and while stray cats are a significant problem in our community there is little we can do about them. We do lend out our humane traps to the public, with a deposit, if you want to trap cats on your own property and bring them to the Shelter.
Animals Running Loose:
- We cannot pick up a stray dog running loose if it is properly licensed; there is no containment law in the unincorporated parts of Wood County and Williamstown
- Vienna has a containment ordinance for BOTH dogs and cats that is enforced by Vienna's Animal Control Officer
- Parkersburg has a containment ordinance for dogs that is enforced by the City of Parkersburg Police Department. As the City of Parkersburg no longer contracts with the HSOP, we cannot enforce City Code. Only County code prohibiting dogs from running loose without a license.
- Tickets for running at large, if the dog is licensed, can be written in both municipalities but can only be done by the Vienna Animal Control Officer in Vienna and Parkersburg Police in Parkersburg
- Vicious animal facts: There is specific State code for vicious animals and in this area, West Virginia State Code is actually quite clear on how owned, allegedly vicious dogs must be handled:
“Except as provided in section twenty-one of this article (relating to Guard Dogs and Vicious Dog Licenses), no person shall own, keep or harbor any dog known by him to be vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons, whether or not such dog wears a tag or muzzle. Upon satisfactory proof before a circuit court or magistrate that such dog is vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons or other dogs or animals, the judge may authorize the humane officer to cause such dog to be killed."
These cases must be taken through the prosecutor and, if it's decided there is enough evidence, to a magistrate or circuit court for trial. A judge or magistrate can request euthanasia or a vicious dog license depending on the evidence.
If the owner is known. Our Humane Officers have no authority to decide whether or not an owned dog is vicious. They also cannot remove an owned animal from the owner or their home for being vicious.
If the owner isn’t known = a stray. If the owner of the animal is unknown, the Humane Officers can pick up the animal and hold it for 5 days per the State Code stray provisions just like with any stray dog. If after the 5 days the owner has not come forward to reclaim their pet, a decision on the disposition of the dog is at the discretion of the Shelter. If the dog is, in fact vicious they will be euthanized.
County Contract Excerpt
To help further understand what our Officers are authorized to do, below is an excerpt from our current contract for services with Wood County. It describes in general what animal-control responsibilities and authorities we have acting on behalf of the county. It also presents what sheltering services we have agreed to provide for the care for the unwanted animals in our community.
Excerpt from County Contract:
3. HSOP will be the receiver of stray and unwanted dogs and cats in the unincorporated areas of Wood County, West Virginia and the City of Parkersburg.
4. HSOP will provide for the housing, care and disposition of said animals, subject to the provisions of State Code Chapter 19, Article 20, Section 9(a).
5. HSOP Humane Officers will answer complaints relating to stray (unlicensed) dogs in the unincorporated areas of the County and the City of Parkersburg during normal business hours of the HSOP.
6. HSOP Humane Officers will attempt to pickup stray (unlicensed) dogs as set forth by Chapter 7, Article 10, Section 4 and Chapter 19, Article 20, Section 6 of State Code.
7. HSOP will investigate complaints regarding the possible neglect/cruelty of animals in the unincorporated areas of the County during normal business hours. If a complaint in the discretion of HSOP is well-founded, HSOP will notify law enforcement agencies. Together both parties will proceed with investigation. Law enforcement agencies or offices will pursue filing criminal charges as they deem it necessary and legally proper, with the exception of livestock as described below.
In accordance with the provisions of West Virginia Code Chapter 7, Article 10 §4, a Humane Officer shall take possession of any animal, including birds or wildlife in captivity, known or believed to be abandoned, neglected, deprived of necessary sustenance, shelter, medical care or reasonable protection from fatal freezing or heat exhaustion, or cruelly treated or used as defined in Sections 19 and 19(a), Article 8, Chapter 61. The foregoing does not apply to farm livestock, as defined in subsection (d), section two, article ten-b, chapter nineteen of this code, poultry, gaming fowl or wildlife kept in private or licensed game farms if kept and maintained according to usual and accepted standards of livestock, poultry, gaming fowl, wildlife or game farm production and management, nor to the humane use of animals or activities regulated under and in conformity with the provisions of 7 U.S.C. §2131 et seq. and the regulations promulgated thereunder.
However, in the case of livestock the following procedure is recommended prior to pursuing any legal actions.
a. If during the course of an investigation the HSOP finds livestock in dire or extreme condition, they will contact a licensed veterinarian for further examination. If the veterinarian believes that these animals are in such poor condition to be at imminent risk, the HSOP will notify the County Commission of the situation as soon as possible and make a recommendation to the County as to next steps. Further action by the HSOP will occur only with the agreement of the County Commission.
b. If during the course of an investigation the HSOP finds livestock to be in unacceptable condition but not in imminent danger and are unable to rectify the situation with the owner without legal action, the HSOP will notify the County appointed Livestock Committee for assistance. The Livestock Committee will be expected to respond to the HSOP request within 48 hours of being contacted by the HSOP. If they are unable to do so, the HSOP will notify the County Commission and seek direction.
1) If the Livestock Committee is able to remedy the situation with the owner, they will notify the HSOP of the actions to be taken. The HSOP will offer to assist in any manner possible and follow up to ensure that the problems have been remedied.
2) If the Livestock Committee is unable to assist with solving the problems identified, they will notify the HSOP accordingly. The HSOP and the Livestock Committee will meet with the County Commission to advise them of the situation before taking any further action. The HSOP will proceed based on the advice and direction of the County Commission.
3) In all such cases involving livestock, the HSOP will provide a written report to the County of the results of livestock investigations, findings and resulting actions taken either by the HSOP and/or the Livestock Committee.
8. HSOP will provide twenty-four hour emergency services throughout the unincorporated areas of the county and the City of Parkersburg. Emergency calls are defined as:
a. Injured stray dogs and cats
b. Vicious dogs and cats
c. Assisting law enforcement in emergency situations such as motor vehicle accidents, DEI’s, fires, and drug raids, where animals are involved.
9. Calls received from the public requesting services or aid that are outside of the services stipulated by this agreement to be provided by HSOP, will be referred as follows:
a. Calls pertaining to dead animals on a West Virginia State Road will be referred to the Division of Highways at 304-420-4595. HSOP will remove dead animals on all roads not otherwise designated as West Virginia State Roads.
b. Wildlife issues are referred to West Virginia Dept. of Natural Resources at number 304-420-4550.
c. HSOP will attempt to refer all other public requests for emergency services at telephone number 911.