|Loudoun County Animal Shelter volunteer Amy Weaver poses with a pit bull terrier that arrived at the shelter as a stray and is waiting to be reclaimed by his owner. If the owner is not found, he will be made available for adoption. The shelter recently received approval from the Board of Supervisors to begin offering pit bull adoptions. —Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Rick Wasser|
After more than two decades of prohibition, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has voted to allow pit bulls and pit mixes to be adopted out of the Loudoun County Animal Shelter.
The vote came at the urging of the Animal Advisory Committee and was supported by the Department of Animal Services.
The vote ends a 20-year-policy banning the adoption of pit bulls in the county, a ban that was ultimately upheld in court. The Animal Advisory Committee attempted to get the ban overturned in 2007, a move rejected by the then-serving Board of Supervisors, who instead allowed pit bulls and pit bull mixes to be transferred to other shelters or rescue organizations.
For their part, supervisors on the current serving board were eager to overturn the policy, with several supervisors noting Loudoun Animal Shelter's behavioral tests exceed industry standards.
“We should not have breed discrimination,” said Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run). “Pretty much every association out there says you shouldn't have breed discrimination for pet owners that are irresponsible and don't treat their dogs well.”
Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) echoed those sentiments, reflecting on his own personal experience with bull breeds.
“My son owns a pit bull and it's the sweetest dog in the world,” Buona said. “If the owners are good, pit bulls are good. There's an old saying: you don't train the dog, you train the human."
While Chairman Scott York initiated the vote, he did take offense to the term “breed discrimination.”
“It was an issue we had with liability and protection to ensure that the animal we were adopting out to a family was a safe animal and now we have that assurance,” he explained.
Starting in 2013, shelter animals were analyzed using the CARP – Companion Animals Readiness Program – which looks at dogs' sensitivity, handling and sociability.
Animal service representatives explained that in addition to continuing the behavioral and health analyses they already conduct on dogs before they're adopted, they will also continue the diligent screening process for prospective owners, which includes a background check to ensure the adoptee has no offenses against animals and a home visit.
Ultimately, the board voted 7-1-1 in favor of the new policy, which is effective immediately, with Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) absent and Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling), citing safety concerns involving pit bulls, dissenting.
In Loudoun, pit bulls and pit bull mixes were within the top three breeds for dog bites in the last five years, joining German shepherds and Labrador retrievers. From January 2009 to December 2013, animal services received reports of 73 bites from pit bulls or pit mixes of the 1,145 registered pits in the county. Out of the more than 7,000 Labs and 2,100 German shepherds, there were 100 and 91 bites, respectively.
“But it's the pit bulls that get all the publicity and that's while I'll be voting no,” Delgaudio said.
Just nine pit bulls, 10 Labs and 10 German Shepherds are considered “dangerous dogs” in the county.
“We are ecstatic about this change,” said Shelter Administrator Amy Martin in a released statement. “LCAS has transferred about 82 wonderful pit bulls in the past several years to our tremendously supportive rescue partners. I am thrilled that we will now be able to find these dogs homes directly from our shelter.”
|Lead Animal Control Officer Mark Stacks with Roosevelt at the Loudoun County Animal Shelter in Waterford. The shelter recently received approval from the Board of Supervisors to begin offering pit bull adoptions. --Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Rick Wasser|