As temperatures cool and the leaves begin to change color, the devastating summer drought experienced in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia seems like a distant memory. The Berkeley County Animal Control stays busy most of the time, but over the summer the officers were faced with a situation never before experienced on such a large scale.
In early August, ninety-four dogs were seized from the Yip Yip Dog Kennel in Martinsburg after the owner failed to pay the $24,490 bond for the continued care of the dogs, and failed to appear at a scheduled hearing to determine whether authorities had probable cause to remove the dogs. In September, fifty-two malnourished horses from the Hidden Meadows Equine Rescue were seized. The horses were taken to a farm leased by the county for animal seizures, and it was only through the collaboration of the community that so many horses were able to receive the care they needed. The local Ferrier donated $1900 in services, and veterinarian bills would have cost the county thousands were it not for time donated by veterinarian Christine Bridges.Despite donated services, this rise in animal abuse and neglect cases is putting a strain on the county budget in the area. The expense to the community is tremendous. In recent years animal control officers have seen an increase in the number of animal seizures in Berkeley County.
“We’ve done two really big seizes this year,” explained animal control officer, Erin Webber. “I think it may have a lot to do with the economy, and I am sure the drought had some affect on it.”
Animal control officer, Donna McMahan believes that stricter laws and an animal control department that is motivated to help is part of the reason for more seizures as well.
Despite the recent high-profile animal seizure cases, veterinarian, Christine Bridges believes the community as a whole is very caring toward animals.
“The horse community here – The people would take the shirt off their back to help a horse…There has been an increase in abuse cases in the past years, but not as many as you’d think. Most people would feed their horse before they fed themselves,” said Bridges.
Even the most caring individuals can find it hard to support a lot of animals when the economy slows. Webber said that many of the animals seized have come from rescue operations that were unable to maintain the proper conditions for the large number of animals they had. “People get into it because they really want to help and then when they get overwhelmed they don’t ask for help,” she said.
This is when Animal Control gets involved and can contact others who can help. Though laws have been improving, animal control officers face a variety of challenges when trying to seize animals. Typically before animals can be taken, several things must happen including the acquisition of a warrant. Simply seeing several animals that look malnourished is not enough to prove probable cause, which is necessary to acquire the warrant. In the case with the horses, McMahan actually took pictures of a horse that was malnourished two months prior to the seizure. A second visit to the horse rescue operation found the same horse in worsened condition, not better.
“I finally came to the horse I took a picture of two months prior, and I knew I had my warrant,” recalled McMahan. “It was a tremendous relief…”
The seizure of the horses from Hidden Meadows Equine Rescue came too late to save some of the horses, but the remainder have been adopted out to loving homes. Only two horses remain at the facility leased by the county, and seven of the most critical cases still remain at the Days End facility in Lisbon, Maryland.
McMahan thinks that having stricter regulation that incorporates specific requirements for animal care and regular inspections could help to prevent situations as drastic as the summer’s horse and dog seizures from happening.
“I’ve been pushing for it for a year and a half… I would love to see something passed at the state level,” explained McMahan. “Unless we have probable cause, there is nothing we can do. It should be something we can inspect.”
If you or someone you know has knowledge of any animal abuse or neglect in the area, you can call the Berkeley County Animal Control at 304-263-4729.
Mike Smith takes full advantage of the wildlife surrounding him. As park superintendent at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, Smith has acres of land to forage for food and hunt for animals. According to Smith, foraging provides a healthier way of living, but more importantly, a chance to get outside and connect with nature.
Michael Buttrill manages a 15-acre organic farm in Renick, W.Va., where he produces his own biodiesel fuel to power his vehicles and tractor. Michael has been perfecting his fuel for seven years with a goal to live more sustainably and rely less on non-renewable resources.
Innovation Zone has brought an entirely new learning style to Doddridge County High School. Every other Friday the school runs on a two hour early dismissal schedule when students separate into different groups to learn new skills from teachers and community volunteers.
Dr. Mark Cucuzzella has been a runner his entire life, but when injuries plagued him throughout high school and college, he searched for a remedy other than his doctor’s advice of “don’t run.” He began to shave the heels off of his own running sneakers, becoming a true pioneer in the minimalist running movement. After opening Two River Treads in Shepherdstown, W.Va., one of the first minimalist running stores in the United States, Dr. Cucuzzella solidified himself in the running community.
Shepherdstown, W.Va., native Carlos Niederhauser can look back on a life that had him participating in the world’s longest car rally, traveling the globe, fixing foreign race cars, developing real estate and becoming a landlord for over 100 Jefferson County properties.
After the death of her father Dr. John Moossy, Joan Moossy honors his memory by publishing his autobiography and working to preserve his art and home in Shepherdstown for aspiring artists. Coming from New York City, she is dealt with the decision on how to continue her father’s legacy within this tight-nit community. Joan looks to open the doors to her father’s house and welcome any artist who is looking to getaway from their everyday surrounding and rekindle their passion for art.
Story Synopsis- Sheila Brannan lived her life in a constant creative roll until a brain aneurysm in 2007 threatened her stained glass career. Since recovering from that, she is back in her home studio and has gotten to a place she considers to be the “new normal.”
Lars Prillman is a 28 year old organic farmer in Shepherdstown, W.Va. He spent his early 20s as a traveling musician in Knoxville, Tenn. He found his “calling” while doing an apprenticeship on the farm of one of his former 4-H counselors. He now runs his own farm with the help of his family.
Phil and Shanna Mastrangelo own Mellow Moods Café & Juice bar, an organic restaurant in Shepherdstown, W.Va. Their hope is to give people a vacation-like atmosphere in their everyday lives while serving locally-grown, healthy foods.