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Wythe County will not issue summons to dog owner

By CALVIN PYNN

calvin@southwesttimes.com

 

A Wythe County magistrate did not find probable cause to issue a summons Monday morning to Mike Thomas, owner of eleven dogs on Walton Furnace Road.

According to a news release from the Wythe County Department of Public Information, the magistrate relied upon a recent letter sent to the county’s animal control officer from the state’s Office of Animal Care & Health Policy as a contributing factor in his decision.

This decision follows last week’s protest for action to be taken for the dogs from the national animal rights group “Dogs Deserve Better,” led by founder Tamira Thayne.

In the letter, state veterinarian Carolynn Bissett stated that the dogs in Thomas’ care are not in immediate danger and do not need to be seized.

“I do not believe these dogs will be well served by removal from Mr. Thomas’ care,” Bissett said in the letter.

According to the release, Bissett was accompanied by members of the Virginia State Police, as well as the Botetourt County Commonwealth Attorney, during her visit late last month.

Bissett also said in the letter that each of the eleven dogs were individually examined and found that all eleven dogs were provided with adequate care. From her exam, she found that the dogs were in good physical condition, with clean coats.

According to the release, these assessments seem to back up the observations of previous professionals who have examined the dogs, including local animal control officers and veterinarians.

The letter also stated that Thomas was providing adequate exercise for all dogs.

“Inadequate exercise is easily diagnosed on physical examination by the lack of muscle definition and discernible muscle atrophy,” said Bissett.

Bissett also found the animal’s shelter to be free of drafts and containing windows and ventilation. However, she wrote in her letter that, in her opinion, adequate shelter was not being provided for the dogs on the property.

The veterinarian reported a moderate amount of hair and dust in the shelter, as well as a chain link containing several sharp edges. The county’s magistrate, however, did not feel that these items were enough to warrant a summons against Thomas.

County officials are currently working with various non-profit organizations, as well as the representatives of the landowners to build a new shelter for the dogs. They plan to demolish the old one, which has become a source of national attention through “Dogs Deserve Better.”

In the meantime, Wythe County animal control officers will continue to monitor the dogs.

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