Pitbull Advocates in Loudoun Co, VA in Court

A legal effort to save shelter Pitbulls from automatic death in Loudoun Co VA started in 2007:

The effort to save the Vick dogs, seized under federal jurisdiction, is consistent with a Virginia law which prohibits killing impounded dogs solely based on their breed. Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne on October 15, 2007 issued an injunction under that law against the Loudoun County Department of Animal Care and Control, at the request of the Animal Rescue League of Tidewater and Norfolk resident Ron Litz, who had sued seeking to force the shelter to allow pit bull terriers to be adopted.

The county did revise its policy to allow for some Pitbulls to be transferred out to rescue but most were still being killed and the case finally got scheduled for trial in 2009:

At issue is whether the county is violating a state law that gives people the right to adopt the dog of their choice from a publicly funded shelter. State law also says that “no canine or canine crossbreed shall be found to be a dangerous dog or vicious dog solely because it is a particular breed.”

For years, Loudoun euthanized all abandoned pit bulls. The county revised its policy in 2007, allowing the animals to be transferred to rescue groups or shelters in other jurisdictions if the dogs passed a temperament test. The change came soon after Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) issued a nonbinding opinion saying that pit bulls taken to public pounds could not be euthanized based solely on their breed.

The plaintiffs in the suit, filed in 2007, are a Norfolk-based animal rescue group and Ronald Litz, a Sterling man who was turned down when he tried to adopt a pit bull from the shelter that year. They contend that the county treats pit bulls differently from other breeds and that the public should be allowed to adopt the animals.

The shelter’s current evaluation methods for dogs are also at issue:

Laura Rizer, spokeswoman for the Loudoun Department of Animal Care and Control, said that all unclaimed dogs go through a comprehensive evaluation that includes behavior monitoring.


The plaintiffs’ attorneys question whether such tests are a fair and accurate way to determine pit bulls’ suitability as pets. For example, if a test involves a toy being yanked away from a dog, one would expect a pit bull to react differently than another breed placed in that situation, said Anthony F. Troy, who represents Litz and Animal Rescue of Tidewater.


Troy said he plans to have an animal behavior expert testify to raise questions about the merits of the temperament tests.

The shelter is following a policy set by the county’s Board of Supervisors:

Board members stand behind the ban on pit bull adoptions.

“We believe that the policy that we have is a good one and protects the public and also provides for an appropriate discharge of those dogs,” said Supervisor James Burton (I-Blue Ridge.)

So how has this “good” policy been going so far?

Since July 1, 49 pit bulls and mixed pit bull breeds have been euthanized, and three have been transferred to other shelters or animal rescue groups, according to the Loudoun shelter. Seventeen of the dogs have been transferred since that became an option in 2007.

Since we don’t have complete stats to understand the total number of 17, we must look at the numbers from July to January: That’s a 94% kill rate. 49 out of 52 Pitbulls surveyed say policy not so good.

The trial began yesterday and is scheduled to continue through tomorrow.

UPDATE, 5-7-09: The trial has wrapped, and a summary of the case can be found here.

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