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Animal Control Facility, which is at max capacity due to multiple court cases, asks residents to refrain from owner-surrender

BUCKHANNON – The Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility is at maximum capacity and may be forced to euthanize dogs that come in as owner-surrenders.

Jan Cochran, director of the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility, said the facility is currently housing dogs involved in two court cases in Upshur County and two court cases in Lewis County. One case in Upshur County involves 75 dogs, and the second involves six dogs, now under the care of LUAC. The Lewis County cases involve five dogs in one case and 11 dogs in another.

“If people have a pet, they need to keep that pet,” Cochran said. “If they’re thinking about getting a pet and think it might not work out and they might just bring the dog here if it doesn’t work out, don’t go get the pet. If anyone brings anything in like that, it’s just going to make us put [the animal] down. Right now, if someone surrenders an animal to us, there’s no choice but to euthanize their animal because strays must stay.”

LUAC has 16 kennels, but 13 of them are currently being utilized to house animals involved in court cases, which means those pets cannot be adopted or sent to no-kill shelters or rescues.

“Out of the 21 years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen it this bad,” Cochran said. “Yes, we want to do something about people who neglect their animals, but then this is what happens when we do it.”

According to a previous My Buckhannon article, a large portion of the 75 dogs involved in one court case are being housed in foster homes, but all the dogs are still technically under the care of LUAC throughout the duration of the legal proceedings.

West Virginia Code 7-10-4 outlines the procedures governing “the custody and care of animals abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated; hearing; bonds; liability for costs; liens; exclusions.” The code states, “the person whose animal is seized is liable for all costs of the care of the seized animal.”

Assistant Upshur County Prosecuting Attorney Kelley Cunningham confirmed that each of the individuals who allegedly abandoned, neglected or cruelly treated an animal or animals pays a fee to care for the animal while it is under the care of LUAC. The Upshur County case involving 75 dogs has been ongoing since October 2022, and the defendant, in that case, was instructed to pay $10 a day for each dog.

“The fee depends on the case, and it depends on the circumstances because there are various motions and various issues that have to be handled, so I can’t say that with every single case, it’s going to be the same way,” Cunningham said.

She also said the duration of legal proceedings can vary on a case-by-case basis.

“There can be various court hearings, and there are different motions that are filed and have to be addressed,” Cunningham said. “I will say there is no intentional delay; we’re not doing that.”

“Every case is different, whether it’s animal cases or it’s any other kind of case, some things can resolve quickly and some things can take longer,” she added. “It always depends on how many motions are filed, getting the hearings scheduled and seeing those results. Everybody is trying to move as quickly as possible and get cases resolved.”

Anyone interested in adopting an animal from LUAC can visit their website here to look at available animals. LUAC is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 am to 2 p.m. After-hours appointments may be made in advance by calling LUAC at 304-472-3865.

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