The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 10, 2012

Reigning cats and dogs

The Register-Herald

— Everyone has heard the term “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

In West Virginia, it’s proving true.

In fact, more appropriate may be that cats and dogs are reigning in West Virginia, as in taking over.

That’s because we have an out-of-control dog and cat problem.

West Virginians are forking out an estimated $8.5 million annually to address the stray and feral animal problem.

That’s not a misprint ... $8.5 million.

Dr. Wayne Dunn, a Parkersburg dentist and member of the Wood County Commission spoke before an interims panel this week saying there are “way too many cats and dogs” that are uncontrolled.

Dunn called for a change in the licensure program to embrace cats, because  Wood County is paying $271,000 to control its animals.

An exorbitant amount of taxpayer money is being spent on this avoidable dilemma.

The average West Virginia county is paying $155,253 to control unwanted dogs and cats.

Locally, Greenbrier County pays some $170,000 to deal with feral cats and stray dogs, and Wyoming County gets a bill of $77,993.

Couple those dollars with the countless amount of private donations that are made to address this issue as well - we are talking huge amounts of money.

It has been suggested that a higher fee be put on pet food suppliers to assist in a more aggressive spay and neuter program.

But this would pass on costs to responsible owners who care for their pets properly.

And wouldn’t it raise the costs of feeding animals for shelters too?

Why put the burden on pet food suppliers to administer this increase — a disguised tax, if you will?

Restructuring licensing fees is also being proffered.

Again, licensed animals are not part of the problem. And their owners are not cash cows to remedy this epidemic.

A workable plan needs to be developed to stem the tide of this major problem of stray and feral animals that are on the loose.

And it is a major problem.

Affordable spay and neuter programs could assist low income West Virginians who already struggle to feed their families, let alone their pets.

Stricter laws and harsher sentencing for offenders may be part of the answer too.

At the very least, offenders could serve community service in and around county shelters, city dog parks and other public lands. That seems appropriate for these actions.

There has to be more useful ways to spend the majority of $8.5 million in our state.

We should hold government accountable for spending our tax dollars. This is a shocking find.

And before complaining about high taxes, many should ask themselves, what are we doing to contribute to problems that lead to dilemmas, such as this?

Not having your pet spayed or neutered is an irresponsible inaction.

We recommend contacting your local Humane Society office for spaying/neutering information and adoption opportunities.