Updating W.Va. Laws on Animals

Some laws seem made to be broken. Take Chapter 19, Article 20 of the West Virginia Code, regarding how dogs and cats are treated, for example: It provides that dogs impounded at county animal shelters “shall be sold or humanely destroyed” five days after notice of their seizure has been posted.

Throughout West Virginia, animal shelter operators ignore the law routinely. If they can afford to house dogs and cats and have space for them, most keep them as long as possible in the hope of finding them new homes.

The state official foolish enough to attempt to enforce that section of the law would pay a stiff price politically.

Still, it is the law. At one time there may have been a good reason for it.

Many dogs and cats taken to animal shelters are euthanized, sometimes because they are injured or sick and sometimes because new homes cannot be found for them. But encouraging their destruction merely because a time period set arbitrarily many years ago has passed is not necessary.

State legislators ought to put updating the law on their agenda for the regular session in early 2017. Then, because it no doubt will not be viewed as a priority item, they should do what is necessary to ensure it does not fall through the cracks.

While they are at it, they should emulate Ohio lawmakers, who this spring passed a measure that removes the ban against first responders providing emergency aid to dogs and cats rescued from fires, accidents, etc. State law formerly required only licensed veterinarians could provide such aid.

A key to the new statute is that it provides an exemption from liability for first responders who use methods such as bandaging injured animals or attempting to resuscitate some.

Good-faith efforts to help animals in distress should not be punished by lawsuits if the creatures die. Ohio now has protection against that. West Virginia should, too.