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News > No pet left behind: Ellsworth Veterinary Clinic stresses concerns
No pet left behind: Ellsworth Veterinary Clinic stresses concerns

Posted 9/28/2009   Updated 9/28/2009 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Abigail Klein
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

9/28/2009 - ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Due to an increasing number of abandoned pets found here, concerned Ellsworth residents and the Ellsworth Veterinary Services staff are readdressing base policies regarding pets.

This announcement precludes the upcoming high volume of Airmen who will be required to make a permanent change of station this winter, when the number of abandoned pets has been shown to increase.

"We understand that when families are PCS-ing to another base, particularly overseas, taking a pet can be somewhat of a hassle," said Kerry Gines, Ellsworth Veterinary Clinic veterinarian technician assistant. "Abandoning the pet by turning them outside is not the answer and is considered neglect and even cruelty because you are expecting an animal that has been taken care of its entire life to fend for itself."

When left to their own devices, abandoned pets are in danger of various hazards including poisoning, predation and starvation.

In addition to these factors, domesticated animals are often not accepted into feral populations.

"These animals become scavengers, succumb to disease and are often labeled as nuisances," Ms. Gines said.

Along with endangering the animals themselves, pet abandonment is detrimental to other members of Ellsworth.

"Bites from these animals are very dangerous and require immediate medical attention," Ms. Gines said. "A series of seven rabies vaccination injections are often mandatory because [the pet's] vaccination history is unknown."

The lack of vaccination records presents another problem for the staff of the veterinary clinic, as it is a sign that not all Ellsworth members are obeying base housing rules.

"The base housing sponsor packet states very clearly that all pets are to be registered at the veterinary clinic within 72 hours of their arrival," Ms. Gines said. "When people disregard these rules it only makes it easier for base housing to terminate its resident's privilege to have pets and also result in removal from base housing."

Despite these requirements, Ellsworth members continue to forgo registering and providing appropriate care to their animals, risking violation of state and military law.

"Allowing a fatally injured or diseased animal to suffer needlessly
is against South Dakota state laws and is a punishable offense and is often classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor," said Capt. Heather Rowlison, 28th Bomb Wing Legal staff judge advocate.

Violations of state law can also be transferred into violations under military law.

"If there is no military law directly on point in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, federal law allows us to assimilate a state or federal civilian statute," Captain Rowlison said. "This means that we take the state or federal civilian statute and use it as the basis for a military charge under Article 134, because the UCMJ is not designed to list every single offense that could possibly be committed."

To avoid endangering pets, Ellsworth members, and violating local and military law, the veterinary clinic staff recommends members review their base housing manual or contact the clinic for information regarding pet policies. These policies include, but are not limited to:

· both dogs and cats are to be kept either on a leash or inside a fenced area when outside
· provide adequate food, water, shelter, care and medical care for animals
· ensure that animals arriving at Ellsworth are registered at the veterinary treatment facility within 72 hours of arrival
· be responsible for maintaining the health and well being of all animals to include all vaccinations and testing in accordance with AFJI 48-131, or as directed by the base veterinarian
· be responsible for damages to real property or for injury to persons caused by their animals in accordance with South Dakota State Law
· do not bring animals into public facilities. This does not include Military Working Dogs or service animals performing work for a person with a disability
· transport animals involved in bite incidents to the base veterinary service for examination and comply with quarantine procedures mandated by the veterinary service, if necessary
· place current rabies vaccination tags on cats and dogs.

These regulations and others concerning pets in base housing can be found in chapter five of the base housing manual. Violations of these regulations can lead to removal from base housing, said Dennis Burdick, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron housing facilities chief.

For Ellsworth Airmen who are preparing to deploy or PCS and are unsure of other base's policies regarding pets or for Airman whose families are unable to take their pets with them when they move, the Ellsworth Veterinary Clinic offers alternative arrangements for the animal.

"Finding a new home for your pet can be as simple as contacting a friend or relative that might be willing to adopt the pet, even if temporarily," Ms. Gines said. "All of us at the veterinary clinic work hard to keep your pets safe and healthy and we hate to see them suffer or have to be given away just because [owners] think they can't take them with them."

Many groups, including the Humane Society, and other rescue organizations will offer assistance with pets and can also help find a suitable home. Members can also contact the local Humane Society of the United States, or visit their Web site at www.HSUS.org and click under the Happy Homes tab.

For more information about pet policies, contact the Ellsworth Veterinary Clinic at (605) 385-1589.

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