FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA. (WUSA9) - The acting director of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter has resigned, just as WUSA9 was investigating some controversial practices at the taxpayer-supported facility.
Some of the images in the attached video are graphic and disturbing.
In the animal shelter industry, every effort is made to have a low kill rate. Insiders call it “positive placement” and it means that at least 90 percent of the dogs that come in to the shelter are adopted.
But some dogs may have been put on the adoption floor at a risk to public safety.
"It would start to show its teeth at me. And its body would start to tense up as if it was about to lunge for me," one adopter said.
The woman adopted a puppy, knowing the small dog had already been returned to the Fairfax County animal shelter.
"How it was addressed to me was it was a small nip to a child," said the woman. "After 20 bites that broke my skin, I insisted this dog be euthanized."
Remarkably, she was willing to try again and brought home another shelter dog.
"Within a few hours, I was very fearful this dog was going to maul me," she said.
She returned it and learned a week later, the shelter had placed the same potentially dangerous dog in another home.
"The county had to go in and extract the animal from the home because it tried to attack that owner,” she said. “I could have been attacked. I could have been mauled."
In fact, in just the last year, five shelter employees, or “caretakers,” as they’re called, have been violently bitten by dogs that were either on the adoption floor, or getting prepared to go there.
"There was an attack on one of our caretakers by a dog named Vern who I had just photographed the day before the attack," one former volunteer said.
Just last month, Vern attacked a caretaker as she was showing him to potential adopters. She was rescued by another caretaker.
When WUSA9 asked the former volunteer if Vern should have ever been on the adoption floor, the volunteer responded, "No."
The maulings have resulted in devastating injuries, like some inflicted by a German Shepherd named Chief. That unprovoked attack came 11 days after Chief had bitten another caretaker.
"It could have been me," said the former volunteer.
In February, a man adopting a dog named Gizmo was bitten in the face and hospitalized after he loaded the new dog into his car. The adopter said he had not been told of Gizmo’s fear of vehicles.
Was Gizmo known by the shelter to be a potentially aggressive dog?
"According to his pet point notes, yes," a former volunteer said.
WUSA9 talked off-camera with numerous shelter employees, who have been warned not to talk. They said there is a climate of fear and they wanted to keep their jobs.
Just before WUSA9 aired the story, the Fairfax County Animal Shelter announced it is "actively developing a transition plan for the shelter leadership."
Many of WUSA9’s requests for records are still pending. To be clear, the shelter does place many animals that don’t have any issues into homes. Last year, more than 1,000, which makes the apparent insistence to place dogs known to be aggressive in homes of uninformed families even more baffling.
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