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Ashley Luck

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will meet on Thursday, August 21, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.  The public is welcome to attend.

Women more likely than men to finish college

By Ashley Luck and Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Not only are women more likely than men to attend college in Virginia, but they’re also more likely to graduate.

At Radford University, for example, 65 percent of the female students graduate within six years with a bachelor’s degree, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. For male students, the graduation rate is just 52 percent.

At the University of Mary Washington, another state-supported school, the disparity is slightly bigger: The graduation rate is 75 percent for women and 61 percent for men.

At two private schools in Virginia, there is a 22-percentage-point difference between male and female graduation rates. At Emory & Henry College, the rate for women is 67 percent, versus 45 percent for men; and at Shenandoah University, the female graduation rate is 65 percent, while the male rate is 43 percent.

At almost all of the public and private nonprofit institutions of higher education in Virginia, women are more likely than men to graduate.

The gap between female and male graduation rates is 12 percentage points at George Mason University, 10 points at Old Dominion University, 7 points at Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University, and 6 points at James Madison University. There’s even a disparity at the College of William and Mary (4 percentage points), the University of Richmond (3 points) and the University of Virginia (3 points).

 

There are only a handful of exceptions: At Washington and Lee University, men and women have the same graduation rate – 91 percent. At Bridgewater College, men are slightly more likely to graduate (54 percent) than women (53 percent). And at Virginia Military Institute, the male graduation rate is 75 percent while the female rate is 71 percent.

Dr. Linda E. Zyzniewski, undergraduate programs director in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, said higher education is changing.

“Historically, women didn’t go to college many generations ago, so now we’re seeing a big shift in it,” said Zyzniewski, an associate professor of social psychology. “Women are able to support themselves now in ways that 40 years ago they couldn’t. You couldn’t have a credit card in your own name as a woman 40 or 45 years ago.

“Within a reasonable number of generations, we’re seeing people have opportunities that perhaps in the past you had to be married to have. Now, women can support themselves and be independent, and so then there’s a need to grow and develop differently than men might.”

The changes are reflected in the gender composition of the student body as well. Of the approximately 290,000 undergraduates at all four-year colleges and universities in Virginia, 56 percent are women. Women outnumber men 2-1 at Longwood University, Hampton University and the University of Mary Washington. Of VCU’s 24,000 undergraduates in 2015, 57 percent were female and 43 percent male.

Universities across the country are seeing women graduate at rates higher than men. For instance, VCU has 25 peer institutions – a list designated by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. These institutions span the country and include New York University, Temple University, Boston University and the University of Miami. At 23 of VCU’s 25 peer institutions, women are more likely than men to graduate.

Zyzniewski said the opioid addiction crisis in the United States also could be affecting graduation rates and success in school.

“The addiction crisis we have right now in our society, of all substances but particularly opiates, there are gender differences in that kind of drug use,” Zyzniewski said. “So if you’re in an area where there’s a lot of that, you might not be able to be successful in school.”

The data used in this story may be found here

Colleges seek to improve graduation rates

By Ashley Luck and Jessica Nolte, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia was recognized by Time magazine in 2014 for having several of the best colleges in the country. While the state boasts some noteworthy institutions, many of the commonwealth’s colleges and universities are still striving to improve their graduation rates.

According to the latest federal data, the University of Virginia graduates 93 percent of its students within six years – the highest rate of any public school in the state. William and Mary comes close with 90 percent. James Madison University and Virginia Tech have graduation rates of 83 percent.

 

But the rates are lower at Virginia Commonwealth University (62 percent), Radford University (59 percent) and Old Dominion University (53 percent). And Norfolk State University’s graduation rate is just 33 percent.

Those statistics reflect the percentage of students who started at an institution and graduated within six years. The data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System does not include transfer students.

Among Virginia’s private institutions, Washington and Lee University has the highest graduation rate at 91 percent, followed by the University of Richmond at 88 percent.

Not all private schools maintain such high graduation rates. The rate is 47 percent at Liberty University, and several schools including Mary Baldwin University (previously called Mary Baldwin College), Ferrum College, Averett University, University of the Potomac and Virginia Union University all have rates under 40 percent.

Advising may help students succeed

Dr. Sybil Halloran, interim vice provost in VCU’s Division of Strategic Enrollment and Management, said VCU is always trying to find ways to improve its graduation rate.

“I think we have done some things to improve, and I think we can do some more,” Halloran said. “In 2001, VCU was at a graduation rate of 47 percent, whereas the statewide graduation rate was at 67 percent, so VCU was 20 percent lower. But if you go to 2008, VCU was at a 59 percent and the state only increased to 70 percent. The state only increased three percentage points and VCU increased by 12. It’s important to acknowledge the work that has been done.”

Halloran said the university recently revamped its advising and is continuing to look at ways to make things easier for students.

“I think there are things that we are starting to do and can continue to do,” Halloran said. “We are acknowledging how important advising is. We’ve done some restructuring of advising even just this year. We’ve got pretty strong freshmen advising. One thing we need to look at and should look at it is course scheduling.

“It would be really nice if we could say to a student coming in, here’s the next four years, these courses are scheduled then. Right now, you can know what courses there are, but not necessarily how they are scheduled. That could really help a student prepare for the next four years.”

In 2013, VCU launched a campaign called “Do the Math,”urging students to take 15 credits per semester so they can graduate in four years with 120 credit hours. According to the campaign, graduating in four years instead of six will save in-state students an estimated $50,000.

“We are continuing to encourage students to continue to take 15 credits a semester when possible,” Halloran said. “Now, that doesn’t work for everyone. There are a lot of students that come here and don’t really understand why that’s important. As much as we want students here, we want them to come here, enjoy themselves, get a great education, but we want them to leave with a degree.

“We are also continuing to encourage students to take classes during the summer. You can really knock out some courses during the summer.”

How tuition compares at different schools

In-state tuition, room and board cost about $25,000 a year at VCU, as well as at Virginia Tech. A year at U.Va. is about $30,000, while at James Madison, it’s just under $20,000, according to the schools’ websites.

VCU will likely increase tuition again next year. The Board of Visitors is reviewing proposals for a tuition hike between 3 percent and 6 percent.

According to VCU’s Reporting Center, the university admitted more than 4,200 freshmen last fall – its largest freshman class in six years. In 2010, VCU’s freshman class numbered 3,615.

Halloran doesn’t expect admissions to increase any time soon.

“I don’t envision us going bigger and bigger for freshman classes,” Halloran said. “You have to look at the applicant pool, what the right size is for VCU and everything from housing to advisers. It’s not my understanding that we will be bigger in numbers next year. I don’t think it’s our goal is to get bigger every year. Whether our freshman class is 100 students, 1,000 students or 5,000 students, for those students we always look at what we can do to improve the graduation rate.”

Halloran wants to know more about the 38 percent of VCU students who fail to earn an undergraduate degree within six years.

“Based on what research and data that we do have, I think some may go somewhere else, some may stay here longer and some may never get a degree,” Halloran said. “I think we will always have some people in those groups. I don’t think we will ever be at 100 percent; that’s not realistic, although we’d like to get close.”

Halloran expressed concern for students who take out loans to attend college.

“It’s one thing to leave with a degree and debt, because you actually have something in hand,” she said. “It’s not ideal for students to leave here with debt and no degree.”

The data used for this story may be found here.

New laws target puppy mills and allow lifetime pet licenses

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia soon will have three new laws that will impact its furry residents and their owners. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed bills that will bar pet stores from buying dogs from unscrupulous sellers, allow local governments to offer lifetime pet licenses and change the legal description of a “dangerous dog.”

McAuliffe signed the legislation last week. The bills will take effect July 1.

SB 852, introduced by Sen. William Stanley, R-Franklin, is aimed at brokers and breeders who sell dogs to pet shops. The new statute says the seller must have a valid license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Moreover, pet stores may not procure a dog “from a person who has received citations for one critical violation or three or more noncritical violations from the USDA in the two years prior to receiving the dog,” according to a summary of the bill by the Legislative Information System.

Violating the law will be a Class 1 misdemeanor for each dog sold or offered for sale. That is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Tabitha Treloar, director of communications at the Richmond SPCA, said the organization is grateful for the new law.

“SB 852 closed loopholes in a section of code that became law in 2015, making it clear that pet stores may not acquire pets either directly or indirectly from puppy mills,” Treloar said. “While adopting from a reputable shelter or humane society will always be the best way to get a new companion, this is a law that helps to protect Virginia customers, and we are grateful to Sen. Stanley for carrying this bill and to Gov. McAuliffe for signing it into law.”

McAuliffe also signed HB 1477, sponsored by Del. Robert Orrock, R-Caroline County. It will allow local governments to provide lifetime licenses for cats and dogs for a maximum fee of $50. (The cost of an annual pet license will remain at up to $10.)

The lifetime license will be valid if the animal’s owner continues to reside in the locality and keeps up the animal’s rabies vaccinations. If an animal’s tag is lost, destroyed or stolen, the legislation sets a $1 fee for getting a duplicate tag.

The bill also states that local ordinances can require an animal to have an identifying microchip.

Pet owners must get a license for any dog or cat that is 4 months or older. Guide dogs or service dogs that serve disabled people are exempt.

McAuliffe also signed HB 2381, sponsored by Del. Matthew Farris, R-Rustburg. It modifies the legal description of a “dangerous dog.” It’s a designation with big ramifications: If a dog is officially labeled as dangerous, it is listed in an online registry, and the owner must get insurance and pay a $150 annual fee.

Farris wanted to give a dog the benefit of the doubt if it bites a person or another animal. The bill will give animal control officers the option of determining whether a dog should be considered dangerous just because it inflicts a nip, scratch or minor injury on someone, or on another pet.

Matthew Gray, Virginia state director of the Humane Society of the United States, applauded McAuliffe for signing the bills but was disappointed that other legislation failed during the General Assembly’s 2017 session.

“We are grateful that these bills have been signed by Gov. McAuliffe, who has traditionally supported our agenda,” Gray said. “But the House of Delegates defeated nine of 11 bills that would have expanded protections for animals, including bills to protect dogs from living their lives at the end of a chainand to prevent indiscriminate euthanasia in animal shelters. That’s a dismal failure and a profound illustration of the challenge animal welfare advocates face in Virginia.”

Assembly amends description of ‘dangerous dog’

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Both the House and Senate have unanimously approved a bill that would change the legal description of a “dangerous dog” and possibly put fewer animals on a state registry.

HB 2381cleared the Senate, 40-0, on Tuesday after winning approval in the House on Feb. 6. The bill now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Del. Matthew Farris of Rustburg, wants to give a dog the benefit of the doubt if it bites a person or another animal. His measure would give animal control officers the option of determining whether a dog should be considered dangerous just because it inflicts a nip, scratch or minor injury on someone, or on another pet.

Current law requires the animal control officer to summon the offending dog’s owner to appear in General District Court to explain why his or her animal should not be considered dangerous.

If the court finds a dog is dangerous, the bill would give its owner 30 days to obtain a dangerous-dog certificate, which carries a $150 fee and places the animal on a state registry. Current law allows the owner a 45-day wait.

When HB 2381 was heard by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Feb. 1, the Virginia Animal Control Association offered support for the bill.

Virginia Newsome, a Loudoun County animal control officer, said the current law is too strict because it considers every dog that bites as dangerous. The legislation would give animal control officers discretion in making that determination.

“You can accidentally get bit by your puppy; that doesn’t make it a dangerous animal. We want to be able to give officers that discretion to look at the entire totality of each individual situation,” Newsome said.

Assembly OKs amendment to help surviving spouses of disabled vets

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A constitutional amendment to expand a tax exemption for surviving spouses of disabled veterans has passed unanimously in the House and Senate.

The amendment cleared the Senate on Friday after winning approval from the House on Feb. 6. It now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who will have until late March to act on the measure.

Currently, surviving spouses of disabled veterans get an exemption on the property taxes for the house in which they and their partner lived. Under HJ 562, the amendment proposed by Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, spouses would continue to get the exemption if they move to another home.

Assuming McAuliffe approves the constitutional amendment, it still has a long way to go. By law, it must be approved again by the 2018 General Assembly and then by voters in a statewide election in November 2018.

Moreover, if voters adopt the constitutional amendment, the General Assembly must craft legislation for implementing it, noted Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas. He is vice chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, which held a hearing on HJ 562 on Feb. 3.

During the committee meeting, Miller said the enabling bill could address a concern he has about the tax exemption.

“In the corresponding legislation, could it be written that a spouse of a deceased member of our military couldn’t purchase a far more expensive home in the commonwealth of Virginia? Could the legislation say that the tax value of the home would have to be equal to or lesser than the current home?” Miller said.

“The testimony we kept hearing is people wanted to scale down because they lost a spouse. And when they scale down, they would lose their ability based on the home they are in when their spouse was killed. The concern I have is, someone that would perhaps scale up from a $200,000 house to a million-dollar house and now not paying property taxes.”

The committee voted unanimously – 21-0 – in favor of the amendment. So did the full House (97-0) and Senate (39-0).

Senate passes bill to defund Planned Parenthood

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Senate on Tuesday narrowly passed a bill to curtail funding for Planned Parenthood and other health centers that perform abortions.

The Senate voted 20-19 along party lines in favor of HB 2264, sponsored by Del. Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst.

The bill states that the Virginia Department of Health “shall not enter into a contract with, or make a grant to, any entity that performs abortions that are not federally qualified abortions or maintains or operates a facility where non-federally qualified abortions are performed.”

That means the state would cut off funds for organizations that offer abortions that are not eligible for matching funds under Medicaid. This would include any abortion outside of cases of rape, incest or “gross fetal anomalies.”

Essentially, the bill would shift funding from the five Planned Parenthood clinics in Virginia to federally funded hospitals and rural clinics.

The House passed the legislation, 60-33, on Feb. 7. With the Senate’s approval, the bill now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe has said he will veto the measure.

Paulette McElwain, CEO of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, said the bill represents the state-level version of a national vendetta to defund Planned Parenthood.

“We are, of course, very disheartened that members of the Senate have turned their backs on underserved women of Virginia,” McElwain said. “This bill specifically targets Planned Parenthood and, if passed into law, would undermine the health of thousands of our patients who count on us for comprehensive care.”

McElwain said that as a result of the legislation, “Virginia women would no longer have access to free STI (sexually transmitted infections) testing, a subsidized service utilized by nearly 2,000 of our patients last year.”

“In their single-minded focus on damaging our organization, these Virginia senators are causing direct and possibly lasting damage to the health of Virginia women,” McElwain said.

Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, agreed. “The clinics our colleagues are targeting help women treat infections like Hepatitis B to make sure these infections are not passed on to newborns through no fault of their own,” she said.

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said “apologists for abortion centers” incorrectly blamed Cline’s bill for endangering women’s health.

“Virginia has a duty to steward taxpayer money in a way that ensures funds are distributed by priority to the most effective point-of-service health-care providers,” Cobb said. “This legislation simply ensures that hospitals, federally qualified health clinics and rural health clinics are funded over abortion centers.”

She said that more than 140 federally qualified and rural clinics in Virginia offer comprehensive services to women and that many of them are in areas where Planned Parenthood doesn’t have clinics.

Pet lifetime license bill passes in General Assembly

Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill allowing local governments to provide lifetime licenses for cats and dogs has been approved unanimously by the General Assembly.

House Bill 1477, by Del. Robert Orrock, R-Caroline County, would add the lifetime licensing provision to existing state law on dog and cat licenses.

The Senate approved the bill 40-0 on Tuesday, after a nearly identical version cleared the House of Delegates on a 98-0 vote on Jan. 30. The two chambers still must work out minor differences before the legislation can go to Gov. Terry McAuliffe to be signed into law.

The lifetime license would be valid if the animal’s owner resides in the locality and keeps up the animal’s rabies vaccinations. The bill also states that local ordinances can require an animal to have an identifying microchip.

The bill would remove the minimum annual tax for a dog or cat, making it no more than $10 each year or a maximum tax of $50 for a lifetime license.

In addition, if an animal’s tag is lost, destroyed or stolen, the legislation sets a $1 fee for getting a duplicate tag. To get another tag for the animal, an owner must apply to the treasurer or agent who issued the original license and show the original license receipt. With an affidavit from the owner, the treasurer can then issue another license tag that the owner must immediately put on the animal’s collar.

The time for an owner to pay the required license tax would be changed from before Feb. 1 for the year to within one month after the due date. If the owner fails to pay, the court can order confiscation and disposition of the animal.

Owners must start paying the tax no later than 30 days after their animal has aged four months, or no later than 30 days after they adopt an animal 4 months old or older. The tax is then paid each year during the animal’s life.

Owners with trained guide dogs or service dogs that serve disabled people continue to be exempt from paying the license tax.

Local ordinances may establish different tax amounts for owners with spayed or neutered dogs or cats versus animals that aren’t spayed or neutered. With the amendment, ordinances can’t tax more than $10 a year on either.

House amends description of ‘dangerous dog’

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The House has unanimously approved a bill to change the description of a “dangerous dog” in a way that could put fewer animals on a state registry.

Del. Matthew Farris, R-Rustburg, wants to give a dog the benefit of the doubt if it bites a person or another animal. So he introduced HB 2381, which would give animal control officers the option of determining whether a dog should be considered dangerous just because it inflicts a nip, scratch or minor injury on someone, or on another pet.

The House voted 97-0 on Monday to approve the legislation. It now goes to the Senate.

Current law requires the animal control officer to summon the offending dog’s owner to appear in General District Court to explain why his or her animal should not be considered dangerous.

If a court finds a dog is dangerous, the bill would give its owner 30 days to obtain a dangerous-dog certificate, which carries a $150 fee and places the animal on a state registry. Current law allows the owner a 45-day wait.

When HB 2381 was heard by the House Agriculture subcommittee last week, Virginia Newsome, a Loudoun County animal control officer, said that she and a group of fellow officers support the bill because they see minor accidents frequently with non-dangerous dogs.

“The intent of this bill was never for animal control officers to have to go out and get summons for every dog that bites,” said Newsome, who represented the Virginia Animal Control Association.

“There are certainly injuries that occur when you’re playing with your puppy,” she said.

“You can accidentally get bit by your puppy; that doesn’t make it a dangerous animal. We want to be able to give officers that discretion to look at the entire totality of each individual situation. There are certainly animals out there that do bite, and are dangerous. Those types of situations do deserve to go in front of a court and have a judge make a decision,” Newsome said.

“There are a lot of animals in a lot of situations that are simply just accidents. This bill will give us the ability to have clarification, for the officers and the courts. I also think it gives a much better relationship between animal control officers and the public and to be able to teach the public what the actual criteria is for a dog bite.”

Amendment would help surviving spouses of disabled vets

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A constitutional amendment to expand a tax exemption for surviving spouses of disabled veterans cleared the House Privileges and Elections Committee on Friday.

Currently, such spouses get an exemption on the property taxes for the home in which they and their military-veteran partner lived. Under HJ 562, the amendment proposed by Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, spouses would continue to get the exemption if they move to another home.

There was no opposition to the proposal. However, Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, vice chairman of the committee, raised some concerns.

“If this amendment passes, we have to come up with corresponding legislation,” Miller said.

“In the corresponding legislation, could it be written that a spouse of a deceased member of our military couldn’t purchase a far more expensive home in the commonwealth of Virginia? Could the legislation say that the tax value of the home would have to be equal to or lesser than the current home?” Miller continued.

“The testimony we kept hearing is people wanted to scale down because they lost a spouse. And when they scale down, they would lose their ability based on the home they are in when their spouse was killed. The concern I have is, someone that would perhaps scale up from a $200,000 house to a million-dollar house and now not paying property taxes.”

The committee voted unanimously – 21-0 – in favor of the amendment. It now goes to the full House of Delegates for consideration.

Panel amends ‘dangerous dog’ description

Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A House subcommittee on Monday approved a bill that would change the description of a “dangerous dog,” possibly putting fewer animals on a state registry.

Del. Matthew Farris, R-Rustburg, wants to give a dog the benefit of the doubt if it bites a person or another animal.

His HB 2381, approved by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources, would give animal control officers the option of determining whether a dog should be considered dangerous just because it inflicts a nip, scratch or minor injury on someone, or on another pet.

Current law requires the animal control officer to summon the offending dog’s owner to appear in General District Court to explain why his or her animal should not be considered dangerous.

Virginia Newsome, an animal control officer from Loudoun County, told the Agriculture Subcommittee that she and a group of fellow officers support the bill because they frequently see minor accidents with non-dangerous dogs.

“The intent of this bill was never for animal control officers to have to go out and get summons for every dog that bites,” said Newsome, representing the Virginia Animal Control Association.

“You can accidentally get bit by your puppy; that doesn’t make it a dangerous animal. We want to be able to give officers that discretion to look at the entire totality of each individual situation.

“There are certainly animals out there that do bite, and are dangerous. Those types of situations do deserve to go in front of a court and have a judge make a decision,” Newsome said.

“There are a lot of animals in a lot of situations that are simply just accidents. This bill will give us the ability to have clarification, for the officers and the courts. I also think it gives a much better relationship between animal control officers and the public and to be able to teach the public what the actual criteria is for a dog bite.”

If a court finds a dog is dangerous, the bill would give its owner 30 days to obtain a dangerous-dog registration certificate, which carries a $150 fee. Current law allows a 45-day wait.

The subcommittee heard no opposition from the audience and endorsed the bill with a unanimous vote. It now goes to the full committee for consideration.

Animal Tethering Bill Tabled By Subcommittee

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill to prohibit the tethering of dogs and other animals was rejected Monday by a subcommittee of the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee.

HB 1802, filed by Del. John J. Bell, D-Chantilly, would have allowed tethering only if the owner of the animal were outside and within sight of the pet.

The meeting of the committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee brought out both supporters and opponents of the tethering bill.

Supporters included representatives from the Richmond SPCA and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of the cruelty investigations department for PETA, said the organization sees many mistreated dogs tethered on chains.

“We’re in support of the bill because we see thousands and thousands of dogs in the commonwealth who are trapped 24/7 at the end of a chain, without any love, companionship or respect – oftentimes without the very bare minimums of life necessities,” Nachminovitch said.

“Man’s best friend deserves better than that.”

Speaking in opposition to the bill, Alice Harrington, a representative of the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders, said there were plenty of reasons to safely tether an animal.

“It should be tabled -- that’s what we wanted,” said Harrington. “Tethering is a tool that has been used for thousands of years to keep animals safe. When these kinds of bills come forward, most of them don’t tie to anything having to do with the condition of the dog.”

“There’s all sorts of reasons why people need to tether an animal -- like escape artists, whether they dig under the fence or go over,” Harrington said.

“Something you do when you have dog shows and field events with hunting dogs, the method of containing them is to tether them. You can’t enforce this stuff, especially where it says you have to stand in sight of your dog,” she said.

HB 1802 stated, “No companion animal shall be tethered outdoors unless the owner is outdoors within sight of the animal.” An initial violation would have been a Class 4 misdemeanor, subject to a fine of up to $250. A second offense would have been a Class 3 misdemeanor, with a fine up to $500.

Bell’s legislation would have amended section 3.2-6503 of the Code of Virginia, in relation to the care of companion animals. The code says owners must provide adequate feed, water, properly cleaned shelter, adequate space for the type of animal and veterinary care when needed.

The provisions of HB 1802 would have applied to anyone who owns or provides foster care to a companion animal, including animal shelters, dealers, pet shops, exhibitors, kennels, groomers and boarding establishments.

Most localities in Virginia do not have restrictions on the tethering of animals. The city of Richmond and a few others have prohibited it.

After hearing testimony for and against the tethering bill, the subcommittee voted to table it on a 7-1 vote.

Bill Would Outlaw Tethering Dogs, Other Pets

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Citing unpredictable and sometimes extreme weather conditions throughout the year in Virginia, Del. John J. Bell, D-Chantilly, has filed a bill that would prohibit the outdoor tethering of companion animals.

Tethering would be allowed only if the owner of the animal is outside and within sight of the pet, the bill says.

Bell said his wife, Margaret, works to rescue and foster mistreated dogs, and that motivated him to introduce House Bill 1802.

“My wife does animal rescue,” Bell said. “She’s fostered over 50 dogs over the last seven or eight years.

“We’ve seen many instances where animals were tethered for long periods of time in either extreme hot and cold weather. They were unattended and no one was around.

“In fact, we fostered one this year that the authorities had to take, where it was part of a court case. The animal was almost at death’s door. I feel that tethering for extended periods of time, particularly in harsh weather conditions, is cruel to the animal and should not be done,” Bell said.

An owner who violates the measure could be found guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $250. A second offense would be a Class 3 misdemeanor, with a fine up to $500.

Bell’s legislation would amend section 3.2-6503 of the Code of Virginia, in relation to the care of companion animals. The code says owners must provide adequate feed, water, properly cleaned shelter, adequate space for the type of animal and veterinary care when needed.

The provisions of HB 1802 also would apply to public or private animal shelters, dealers, pet shops, exhibitors, kennels, groomers and boarding establishments.

Most localities in Virginia do not have restrictions on the tethering of animals. The city of Richmond and a few others have prohibited it.

Robin Robertson Starr, CEO of the Richmond SPCA, said the tethering of dogs is a big problem in Virginia.

“It is a terrible thing for the dog and it causes dogs to become aggressive and territorial and thereby to become a risk to human safety,” Starr said.

“Leaving dogs outside is a tragedy. Dogs are highly social animals with an affinity for quality time to interact with and love their human family members. They should not be exposed for long periods of time to the elements outside, either in the cold of winter or the heat of summer.

“They should be living with us in the house and should go outside for limited periods of time in the company of their humans to get exercise and to relieve themselves, but otherwise should be kept indoors.”

HB 1802 has been assigned to the Agriculture Subcommitteeof the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee. The subcommittee is scheduled to hear the bill when it meets at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 30 in the seventh-floor west conference room of the General Assembly Building, 201 N. Ninth St., Richmond.

Lawmakers Start Tackling Virginia’s Opioid Crisis

By Ashley Luck, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia officials are scrambling to get a grasp on the state’s growing opioid epidemic, legislators and health-care leaders said Thursday.

William A. Hazel Jr., the commonwealth’s secretary of health and human resources, gave a presentation to the Senate Education and Health Committee and the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee about the opioid problem and how lawmakers should start to solve it.

Experts – including Dr. Mishka Terplan, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor of obstetrics and gynecology – joined in the presentation.

The number of deaths in Virginia caused by overdose has been on the rise. Hazel said overdose deaths in the state this year may exceed 1,000, possibly 1,100.

Hazel said 600,000 Virginians – 7 percent of the state’s population – used illicit drugs in the past month. “Of those who are addicted, 75 percent take a prescribed medicine before they’ve taken the heroin.”

Terplan proposed treatment plans for those addicted.

“Addiction is a brain-centered disease and the symptoms are behaviors, so you have to treat both,” Terplan said. “For the biological basis of treatment there’s medication, but also what’s essential is treating the behavioral component of addiction, and that’s through counseling.”

Several bills will be introduced during the 2017 General Assembly session to combat the opioid crisis. One involves community dispensing of naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of opioid overdose, and another bill would put a limit on opioids being prescribed in emergency rooms.

Del. Chris K. Peace, R-Mechanicsville, said the upcoming legislation also seeks to change criminal laws affecting the opioid epidemic.

“We’re going to be dealing with bills not only in the health care field but also in criminal justice,” Peace said. “I have legislation that tries to introduce peer recovery models into first offender programs like VASAP (Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program), and we’ve known that peer recovery programs are efficacious in aiding people who are in addiction and long-term recovery.”

Virginia legislators said they were well aware that they must take steps before the opioid crisis deepens. The joint committee meeting was just the beginning in addressing the issue.

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