Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors wants to address some confusion around exotic animals.
The board is looking to refresh its animal control code with several changes to resolve discrepancies with other policies and laws.
One change would allow people with valid permits from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) — like wildlife rehabilitators and exhibitors — to own wildlife.
Since the current code prohibits people from possessing wild or exotic animals, “DGIF has considered revoking permits issued to County residents because they do not comply with the local ordinance,” according to county documents. If approved, the proposal would clean up the conflicting rules.
The county documents note that DGIF oversees the county’s roughly 50 permit holders, ensuring that the housing and care conditions for the animals are appropriate.
Another clarification would alter the definition of “exotic or wild” animals and create a list of exceptions. The proposal comes more than a year after Fairfax County officials decided to legalize chinchillas, hedgehogs and hermit crabs as pets.
“[The current] definition has generated much confusion and required interpretation from staff about exactly what sorts of animals are classified as wild or exotic and thus prohibited in the County,” according to the county documents.
Under the proposed changes, the following animals would not be considered exotic animals as long as they are bred and haven’t been in the wilderness:
- guinea pigs
Additionally, the list of exceptions would also include non-venomous reptiles and amphibians that are not crocodilians.
According to the county, the proposed changes would also:
- add exemptions to the rabies vaccination requirement
- add more details on confining animals suspected of being rabid
- give animal control officers discretion to charge owners of unrestricted or unvaccinated dogs
- require traveling animal exhibitors to have current certificates of health for each animal exhibited
- remove the “impractical” requirement to inspect traveling animal exhibitions
The proposal would also clean up references to now-defunct programs and services, including the county’s oral rabies vaccination program and euthanasia of healthy wildlife brought to the shelter.
“The Department of Animal Sheltering believes such euthanasia runs counter to its mission and negatively affects the emotional and psychological well-being of shelter staff,” county documents say, adding that private companies offer the service to residents.
The board approved Tuesday to hold a public hearing on July 14 on the proposed code changes.
Photo by Javier Virues-Ortega on Unsplash
The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially rough for Roer’s Zoofari, a local family-owned zoo and safari in the Hunter Mill District, that is temporarily closed.
With no foot traffic due to stay-at-home orders, zoo staff work in tight shifts to care for animals. Some take walks with animal care staff where children during field trips and other guests would have walked to enjoy the zoo’s cheetah, zebra, water buffalo, and other animals.
Owner and CEO Vanessa Roer says the last eight weeks have been an emotional roller coaster.
Just as COVID-19 led to a local standstill, the zoo had little to bank on in the months where it typically sees visitation pick up due to birthday parties, field trips, and warming temperatures.
“Most days we keep our chins up, but every so often, we lock ourselves in the walk-in cooler and scream and cry in frustration. Then we go outside and kiss our giraffe, hug a baby goat and step forward — one step at a time.”
The zoo turned to crowdfunding when it became clear that it would take time for funding from the Small Business Administration to cash in. Typically, the zoo does not make enough revenue to cover off-season costs from November through the end of February.
“We plan for four months of little income, but we never saw months five and six with zero income,” Roer said.
The business moved quickly to furlough all non-essential employees.
The crowdfunding campaign has raised $34,786 of its $100,000 goal — a response that Roer said went beyond what she expected. Community members have donated produce, meat, dry feed, and hay to help out.
But it took 28 days for the business to receive funds from GoFundMe as other residents and businesses raced to online platforms to secure cash flows.
“I literally processed payroll at the beginning of that week without enough money to cover the Friday distribution — on a wing and prayer,” Roer said.
Although funding soon began pouring in — the zoo received a Paycheck Protection Program loan that covered two months of payroll — the zoo still needs money to keep afloat through June.
A federal loan through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance is critical to the longterm success of the zoo. After technical hiccups on its first application, the Zoofari is still waiting on securing that loan since applying on March 31.
“Since our revenue is seasonal, each day we are closed, we are not earning money that will be saved for next winter,” Roer said. “Just getting by right now will mean that we may not get by in 9-12 months.”
Still, the animals are getting good care, she says. Roer’s veterinarian is making visits to the zoo and mask-wearing staff work in pairs to take care of animals.
Donations are still needed, Roer said. If the zoo does not pay its mortgage payments by June 1, the business could go back to its previous owner. So far, a forbearance period lasts until June 1. Funds are also needed to pay for health benefits, insurance, utilities and veterinary care.
Photo via Roer’s Zoofari/Facebook
HQ2 Worries for Fairfax Companies — “Amazon.com Inc.’s move to open a second headquarters in Arlington may prove to be a mixed-bag for Fairfax County. While many HQ2 employees are expected to live in the county, there’s a real chance that Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) will take tech talent from companies based in Fairfax.” [Washington Business Journal]
Does Tysons Need New North-South Transit? — “The Silver Line is good for east-west, but Tysons needs something north-south too. [Twitter]
Silver Line Station Progress — “Work crews in yellow vests and hard hats continue to dot the stations, track, pavilions, pedestrian bridges and tracks along the Phase 2 alignment, but over the next few months, more and more of those workers will be heading to interior work stations to run utility lines, install equipment and test all of the facilities.” [VivaTysons]
Apartment Fire in Falls Church — A fire broke out in the kitchen of an apartment at 450 N. Washington Street in Falls Church on Friday afternoon. [Twitter]
Falls Church PD Seek Info in Dog Bite Case — “City of Falls Church Police and Animal Control are looking for a dog that bit a man on the leg on Wednesday, March 27, around 2:15 p.m. near the Cherry Hill Park tennis courts.” [City of Falls Church]
As spring comes around, there’s a better than usual chance that Fairfax County residents might find baby animals in their back yards or on trails.
But Fairfax police say folks should think twice before trying to step in and help a baby animal, according to a press release. More often than not, police said human intervention could hinder the animal’s chances at survival.
Animal protection officers said the most commonly found animals in Fairfax County are squirrels, red foxes, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, opossums and songbirds.
According to police, signs that an animal needs help include:
- Signs of flies, worms or maggots, which look like grains of rice
- Was caught by a cat or dog
- Signs of trauma, such as an open wound, bleeding, or swelling
- If the parents are known to be dead or are separated and cannot be united
- Is very cold, thin or weak
- Is on the ground unable to move
- Is not fully furred or feathered
Still, police noted that baby animals rehabilitated by their parents are much more likely to survive than those assisted by humans.
According to the press release:
A young animal’s best chance for survival is to receive natural care from its parents and remain wild. Survival rates of rehabilitated animals are often low and many do not survive their first year upon release back into the wild. Before intervening, please learn more about which wildlife species and situations you are most likely to encounter and ways to determine whether an animal needs help.
Police said many animals brought to wildlife professionals are in no actual need of human help. Baby animals left alone are not necessarily orphaned or abandoned and many species of wildlife hide their young for safety and leave them alone for extended periods of time.
According to the release:
If you come across a baby animal and feel the need to intervene, we offer guidelines below to determine if the animal needs help. If an animal is displaying these signs, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, veterinarian or our Animal Protection Police for further assistance and instruction. Please do not handle any baby wild animal and do not attempt to offer food or water unless instructed to do so by a professional. This can do more harm than good.
If you have questions about whether an animal needs help or to locate a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, police say people can contact the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline toll-free at 1-855-571-9003. This helpline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 pm. Animal Protection Police can be reached through the non-emergency line at 703-691-2131.
Photo via Facebook
Fairfax County Police are asking for help in finding whoever beat two puppies to death and dumped their bodies in Tysons last week.
Officers were called last Monday (March 11) to the 1900 block of Gallows Road, an office park in southwest Tysons, where they found the two puppies next to a dumpster, said FCPD.
According to a press release:
A necropsy revealed both puppies died from blunt force trauma to their heads. Their breed was not able to be determined due to their young age. They are believed to have been about a month old. One was a male puppy with a unique blue merle coat and the other was a female with a fawn colored coat.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Officer McLemore at 571-221-8030.
Tips can also be submitted anonymously online, by calling 1-866-411-TIPS, or texting “TIP187” and “CRIMES” to that number. Tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 if their information leads to an arrest.
Fairfax police also reminded animal owners that their pets can be surrendered to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter if they can no longer be cared for.
One of the most urgent warnings is to keep animals away from all of the types of dangerous chemicals that might be around to try to deal with the snow.
According to the shelter:
– If it’s too cold outside for you, it’s probably too cold for your pets, too. Pets left outside in frigid temperatures can freeze or wander away due to disorientation. Please bring your pets indoors!
– For free-roaming community cats, you can provide straw-filled shelters to give them a protected place to get warm.
– After walks, make sure to towel dry your dog, and wipe their paws and in between their toes to remove ice, snow, and salt. Keep antifreeze away from all animals!
If a pet is found outside in frigid temperatures, Animal Protection Police can be contacted at 703-691-2131.
As cold weather sets in, Fairfax County Animal Control urged residents to be mindful of warm areas around their house that wild animals can seek shelter in. Sgt. Alena Swartz, Animal Control Officer for Fairfax County, said conflicts can happen when wild animals come too close to homes.
While the types of animals are unlikely to change, Swartz noted that residents are still likely to see foxes, raccoons or coyotes throughout the winter.
What to Do About Backyard Wildlife — “Don’t pet or feed wild animals. In fact, local animal control encourages you to ‘haze’ them if at all possible. As winter sets in, homes around Fairfax County could look particularly appealing to animals looking for a refuge for the cold weather or a bite to eat.” [Reston Now]
Flood Watch Today — The area remains under a Flood Watch through 6 p.m. as rain continues today. Some storms may form later in the day. This evening, the solstice will usher in winter on the shortest day and longest night of the year. [FairfaxNews, Capital Weather Gang]
Winter Weather Reminder — “Today is officially the first day of winter! Enjoy the season but stay safe and warm. Sign up for Fairfax Alerts to stay informed on winter weather.” [Twitter, Fairfax Alerts]
Holiday Grocery Store Hours — Patch has a list of grocery stores around the Tysons area and the hours for each on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Most grocery stores will be closed on Dec. 25, though some will be open with reduced hours. [Patch]
An emaciated, dehydrated and badly injured dog was found wandering around Tysons, and now Fairfax County Police are hoping the public can help locate the dog’s owner.
The female pitbull mix was found on the 8000 block of Skokie Lane. She had been shot with some kind of projectile. A veterinarian also discovered the dog had fractures on her front left leg and pelvis, with a bad cut on her back left leg. According to the Fairfax County Police Department, the dog was most likely brought to the area and abandoned. The dog is currently being held at the shelter while the police search for the dog’s owners.
Anyone with information about the animal is asked to contact Fairfax County Police Department, Animal Services Division at 703-691-2131.