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Update 9/15/09 – Meeting with the Lawyer

Please See Update 9/14/09 – Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings!

PETITION

Caroline Watembach had been operating Saving Furry Friends Rescue in the Town of Saltville, VA for more than four years now and has rescued and saved about 500 animals from death.  On September 8, 2009, the Town Council passed a new ordinance limiting the number of dogs that “any owner, occupant, tenant or person whatsoever”  on any property located with the town limits to 6.  This ordinance was passed without an announcement, without a public meeting, without any notice whatsoever.  The first Caroline knew of it was when she was served papers by a Saltville police officer informing her that she had less than 30 days to comply or would she would be cited and charged.

My friends, SFF needs our help!

This is what Caroline had to say on her blog:

Today I was greeted at the door of my home by a Town of Saltville Police Officer who handed me an envelope. In the envelope was a letter from the Saltville Town Manager informing me that the Saltville, VA Town Council passed a new ordinance on on Sept 8th stating that anyone residing within the town limits could no longer have more than 6 dogs on their property, excluding dogs under 6 months.

Limiting the Number of Dogs!Despite the fact I have 4 acres and have been operating here for 4+ years and our property is zoned for agricultural use, which as you may or may not know, management of domestic animals fall under the Jurisdiction of the Dept of Agriculture, if Saving Furry Friends Rescue cannot fight this, the Town of Saltville will be essentially shutting us down!

It is my opinion, the Town of Saltville is protecting the breeders in town by putting in a clause to prohibit puppies under 6 months of age from being counted toward the 6 dog limit, while punishing us, Saving Furry Friends, the ONLY rescue in this town. It appears that Saltville is more interested in adding to the problem of pet over population than it is in solving the problem. It seems they are also protecting hunters with a limit of 6 dogs where most ordinances usually limit the number to 3-4 dogs. In essence, this new ordinance will affect only us, Saving Furry Friends Rescue and Sanctuary!! Is there a reason that we seem to be specifically targeted?

It should be noted that EVERY animal control officer in this county has been here and complimented us on the work we do as well as the care of the animals and the cleanliness of our rescue. Thankfully we have written references from them. We also have several reference from neighbors in regard to how our animals are cared for, how clean our rescue is, etc. In fact on one occasion we were actually called by the Saltville PD to please come and pick up a stray beagle, which we did.

As for the animal loving citizen’s of this town, we ask that you remember these council members as well as the mayor come election time. If you happen to be a resident of Saltville, VA, please contact the Council Members and let them know what you think about this.

Those wishing to help us in our fight may make a tax deducible donation to help us defray legal expenses. Donations may be made online on our website www.savingfurryfriends.com or thru snail mail:

Saving Furry Friends
PO Box 741
Glade Spring,Va 24340

PERMISSION IS GIVEN TO CROSS POST AND IS APPRECIATED!!! WIN, LOSE OR DRAW I WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW HOW THIS TOWN’S OFFICERS REGARD ANIMALS

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Thanks to SFF and its volunteers, almost 500 animals have been spared. Some where adopted to be therapy dogs, some were adopted to widowers whose only company and companionship comes from an animal they adopted through us, many many more were adopted to families with children; by parents who wanted their child to have a pet to grow up with, to teach them unconditional love, compassion and responsibility.

Aside from rescuing and adopting pets that where on death row, our rescue has distributed petfood to low income families in the community who, without our help would be unable to keep their pet(s). Our rescue has also picked up pets belonging to the citizens of this town, some of them shut-ins that did not have a way to get their pet to the vet to be vaccinated, and transported them to the veterinarian, at our cost. Our rescue funded the surgery of one Saltville woman’s dog after he was struck by an automobile and required an amputation of his front leg. She called us for help upon realizing she herself could not afford his much needed surgery, surgery I might add he would have had to been put to sleep without.

We have also, through rescuing dogs, saved the tax payers of Smyth County over $8000.00.  Monies that did not need to be spent for the medications used for euthanizing dogs, for feeding them, for housing and caring for them because they were here at Saving Furry Friends Rescue, and for hauling off the bodies of animals that would have been euthanized if not for our efforts.

Perhaps you are not an animal lover, not everyone is as passionate about them as I am. But I ask you, what is my crime?? I ask you, how can I be guilty of a crime when they wrote the law FOUR YEARS AFTER I started this??? Per the new ordinance if I am not in compliance by 10/10/09 (note THAT IS LESS THAN 30 DAYS) I could be charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

We will be speaking to an attorney on Monday as I am not sure, but I believe this to be illegal as I feel we should have been grandfathered in.

I will update everyone on Monday after I meet with the attorney.

In any event if this IS legal, we will still continue to run our rescue utilizing fosters and boarding for the older dogs until such time that we can sell this property and secure another. We will continue taking in kittens/cats and puppies under 6 months old.

We are also asking our rescue friends, should it become necessary to move dogs, if any of you can commit to taking a dog in, should it come to that. If we are not able to fight this I don’t want to be scrambling to find homes/fosters/rescues at the last minute.

If anyone has any insight into matters like this please email me at savingfurryfriends@yahoo.com.

There is a great deal of background to this story and hopefully I’ll be able to fill in some of the blanks after I talk to Caro after she meets with a lawyer. Of course one of the problems here is that being a rescue, Caroline operates on a shoestring budget and even dealing with lawyer costs is going to be beyond a stretch. Saving Furry Friends is 501(c)3 incorporated.

TAKE ACTION!!

For now, please take a moment to sign the petition below. I will be providing contact info for the Town Council so that we can contact them and express our outrage and disgust.

PETITION

Contact Info

Saltville Mayor
Jeffrey L. Campbell – jcampbell@saltville.org

Saltville Town Manager
Steve Johnson – townhall@saltville.org

Saltville Town Council
Stanley Cahill
Danny Maiden
Thomas Holley
Neil Johnson
C. Todd Young
Dickie Dye

Saltville Town Hall
Physical Address: 217 Palmer Avenue, Saltville, VA
Mailing Address: PO Box 730, Saltville, VA 24370
Telephone: (276) 496-5342
Fax: (276) 496-4814

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You can also vote in the poll on the Topix boards and check out the comments there – Topix

UPDATE 9/14/09 – Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings!

The following is from Caroline this evening;

Today I met with the town manager for 2 hrs about the new ordinance. The ordinance was passed based on the assumption that SFF operated under a Smyth county kennel lic. This is incorrect we are actually exempt from having to purchase kennel lic and county tags as per Section 3.2-6524 of the Code of Virginia we are a registered releasing agency for Smyth County Animal Shelter.During this meeting I also presented 3 yrs worth of inspection reports from the Chief Animal Control Officer W. Turman. We also presented him with notarized letters of reference from two neighbors as well as one from the Chief of Police,at which point he informed me the town council wasn’t aware of this. We requested to be put on the agenda at the next town council meeting to discuss rescinding or amending this ordinance or grandfathering us in.

I also informed him, in a nice way that I was willing to fight this as hard as they were, including facing the possibility that I may be charged with class1 misdemeanor ( up to 1 yr in jail and 2500.00 in fines)

It isn’t going to look to good that you went after a rescue so fiercely but have a man in town that starved his dog to death in a closet and got community service.

I have a meeting with our lawyer Atty Wayne Austin at 10 am tomorrow to find out if we can get an injunction. We are also trying to challenge the law based on the fact the council changed an ordinance without holding a public hearing. We are also challenging it because it is specialized legislation meaning targeted at our rescue specifically.

THANKS TO ALL OF OUR FRIENDS FOR THEIR SUPPORT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I want to take a moment to thank ALL of the ACO at Smyth County Animal Shelter. They have taken it upon themselves to post the petition there. Chief ACO as informed me he was a county employee and enforced county laws not the Town of Saltville laws and that no one from animal control unless ordered to do so by the courts would be removing any animals from SFF

A world of thanks to my dear friend Deana Raeke who writes For the Love of the Dog for helping to get the word out. The friendship and support you have extended to me over the years means more than I could ever tell you.

Freedom Therry Jackson for all her help and support ONE LOVE!!!!

Becky Hoadley for being ready to take our animals in on a moments notice if needed.

ALL SFF BOARD MEMBERS, VOL, FOSTERS, I AM SORRY FOR ALL THE HELL YOU ARE GOING THROUGH WITH ME.

I also want to thank Smyth County Humane Society for all of their support, especially Bev Haddock and Joan Baldwin whom I met with this evening. Susan from Promised Land AR ( who by the way went to the shelter today and pulled Ruthie the sr hound for me, she is holding her at her rescue until we beat this) and Allen from the Siberian Husky Rescue, Bristol,Tn. I am so touched by the outpouring of support from people in the community. I knew we would have the full support of the people we have assisted but the effusive show of support from local people I have never met humbles me.

UPDATE 9/15/09 – Meeting with the Lawyer
Today I met with our atty, who actually used to be the atty for the town for 15 yrs. He assured me a public hearing was supposed to be held.

In the meantime the town manager as informed us that we are on the agenda for Tuesday’s town council meeting.

We are going to handle this, at least for right now, reactively. If the town is willing to work with us as far as amending, grandfathering us in the issue is over. If they do not we will have atty Wayne Austin file suit in Smyth County Circuit Court, at a cost of 2500.00 to SFF.

We also met with reporter Dan Kegley today from the Smyth County News and Messanger. During this meeting we also presented him with hard copies of references from AC/Adopters/Vol/the town police chief. The story will appear in tomorrows paper.

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