OAK HILL - West Virginia's animal protection laws are ranked
38th in the nation by the Humane Society of the United States.
"We'd always like to be higher up on our ranking there, but we're working on it," explained Dr. Mindy Osborne, owner of Oak Hill Animal Hospital. "We're trying to get better laws passed."
A first offense of egregious cruelty results in a felony penalty. Counseling is required for animal cruelty offenders.
Therapist Hamlet Smith of Life Strategies said when dealing with animal abuse, it is important to get to the psychological root of the issue. "Somebody who has been exposed to some kind of personal trauma is likely to be tempted to act out in that same kind of trauma," explained Smith. "And it often starts with animals because animals are so vulnerable."
In West Virginia, adopted animals must be spayed or neutered. Owners must fill out a promise deposit to have the procedure done, but not all owners have their pets go through with the surgery. This forces those animals to be reclaimed and sent back to the already overcrowded shelters.
"It's a real tough situation," said Co-Founder of Operation Underdog Erica Stock. "If everyone would just be a responsible pet owner and spay and neuter like their contract said, then we would definitely have a lot less coming back into the shelter."
Limits are also placed on the inhumane chaining of dogs in West Virginia. Carrie Carr, co-director of the Fayette County Animal Control Center, said chains are not ideal for dogs, but she thinks they are better than nothing. "If you can build a cage for them, a pen, that's good," said Carr. "But I'd rather they be on a chain than be hit by a car."
Stock described the mountain state's animal protection laws as the "bare minimum." "I would love to see the laws stepped up so that our animals here in West Virginia have a better life," she said. "Because that's no kind of life. Nobody wants to live like that."
You can see a full list of West Virginia's animal protection laws here