A 17-year-old Welsh Corgi named Basie was euthanized by a veterinarian at a Fairfax County animal hospital only hours after she went missing from ' Occoquan home Nov. 13.
Basie wasn't in tip-top shape when she escaped from the Holmes's backyard. A concerned passerby noticed the dog plodding through the woods and dropped her off at Crosspointe Animal Hospital in Fairfax Station. Basie was put to sleep later that afternoon.
Virginia law allows vets to euthanize animals whose owners cannot be immediately located if the animal is sick or injured.
And though Crosspointe Animal Hospital followed the letter of the law, Basie's death has prompted local outrage and a nationwide petition that has garnered more than 35,000 signatures. Care2.com — a website that campaigns for animal welfare and other causes — initiated the online petition urging Fairfax County to adopt a no-kill policy in its animal shelters.
"This petition is definitely doing well," said Sue Anne Reed, a spokeswoman for Care2. "There definitely is a movement among the animal activist community to adopt a nationwide no-kill policy. ... It's definitely an issue that those who care about animals are passionate about."
Passionate, yes. Practical, maybe not. Dr. Karen Diviney, director of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, said more than 2,000 stray animals passed through the shelter last year.
"As a municipal shelter, we are required to take in all animals that come to us, so a 'no-kill' policy is not an option," Diviney wrote in an email. She explained the shelter typically holds stray animals seven to 11 days before euthanasia is considered.
"During a stray holding period, lost and found reports are checked each day to determine if an owner is searching for the pet," Diviney wrote. "After the stray holding period, all animals are evaluated for suitability for adoption or possibly rescue placement. Animals that are euthanized after the stray hold are either not suitable for adoption (eg aggressive) or have serious medical issues. The shelter considers euthanasia as a last resort but we use it when appropriate."
Diviney did not know how many animals were euthanized in Fairfax County last year. She said 80 percent of animals admitted to the shelter were released to their owners or adopted.
The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is accepting no responsibility for Basie's death because a private clinic carried out the procedure, Diviney said.
But petition supporters have been quick to express their frustration with the status quo.
"I think this should be stopped no excuse for this to happen to any animal!" wrote Belinda Mosteller of Pennsylvania.
"This is a horrid statement of our society when killing is the only way we can deal with things...This needs to stop and that vet needs to be fired and stripped of his license," wrote Julie Adams of North Carolina.
"I am appalled at this!!" wrote Melanie Burrell of the United Kingdom.
Reed said Care2 is planning to deliver the first batch of petition signatures to Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
"We'll continue doing that until she see the light and changes the policy," Reed said. "We're in it until there is a change."