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Rendering of the new South County Police Station and Animal Shelter in Lorton (via Fairfax County)

When Fairfax County’s new animal shelter opens next year, some of its first residents will likely come from across jurisdictional lines.

Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the City of Fairfax to provide services and housing to animals under their care. The city cares for fewer than 100 animals a year. In 2021, it cared for 31 dogs, 20 cats, and 11 other small animals.

On track to open in the spring, the new South County Animal Shelter in Lorton is expected to provide plenty of space for these furry friends.

“[The Department of Animal Services] already has a long history of supporting the City with meeting their animal welfare needs,” a county staff report said. “With the opening of the second facility in Lorton in Spring 2023, DAS will have ample space and appropriate staffing to accommodate additional animals from the City.”

The 23,000-square-foot facility on Lorton Road will be the second county-operated shelter, joining the existing Michael R. Frey Animal Shelter on West Ox Road in Fairfax.

The South County Animal Shelter will likely begin operations in late spring when construction is completed, DAS Director Reasa Currier confirmed to FFXnow.

The board is expected to approve about $2 million to help provide services, staff and maintain the shelter as part of a fiscal year 2022 carryover package.

“This facility will allow us to substantially grow the geographic reach and impact of our work for the residents of Fairfax County,” Currier said by email. “Not only will we be able to create even more families through adoption, but the second shelter will provide a hub for essential services from behavior and training support, veterinary medical care, pet supplies, and other critical services that help keep pets together with their families.”

Currier says the Lorton shelter will be “similar in size and footprint” to the Fairfax one, with 88 dog kennels, 42 cat condos, 2 catios, and a “state-of-the-art” veterinary clinic. There will also be an 20,000-square-foot outdoor space for the animals.

Like other shelters nationwide, the county’s lone animal shelter has faced its share of capacity challenges. Even before recent influxes of rescued beagles as well as cats and rabbits, there was a clear need for more shelter space in the southern part of Fairfax County.

“For too long, the many services and resources provided by [DAS] have been inaccessible for the residents in South County,” Currier said. “We are very excited about the location and are looking forward to serving South County residents and their pets. We are already hearing from residents who live nearby the new shelter who are eager to begin volunteering and participating in our programs.”

The shelter will share a new $30 million building with the South County Police Station, which will be about 31,000 square feet and is expected to open at the same time.

The building will have a number of sustainability features, including electric vehicle charging stations and space for solar panels, and energy-efficient systems. Landscaping will be made up of native plants and be bird-friendly.

The facility is on Lorton Road between the intersections of Workhouse and Hooes roads. Called the “Triangle” by the county, the parcel was specifically acquired in 2001 for public safety use.

In 2015, voters approved a $151 million bond referendum that included money to fund the Lorton project, which broke ground last May.

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A lost community pig was returned to its owner (via Nalls Produce/Facebook)

A pig that found its way to a local business that happen to be trained in proper swine handling has been returned to his owner.

The pig was caught by staff at Nalls Produce, a garden center located in the Kingstowne area, which turned the loose community pig to the county’s animal control division. 

“How serendipitous that a loose pig wandered one of the only places in the area that has staff trained in proper swine handling with pig feed in stock,” Nalls Produce wrote in a statement on social media.

The pig was returned to the owner after a community search, according to second Lt. Kathleen Prucnal of the county’s animal protection police.

Our officers occasionally encounter pigs in Fairfax County and they prioritize public safety and animal welfare when doing so.  There were several calls received by dispatch over the course of a few days and we attempted to locate and confine the animal each time it was reported,” Prucnal wrote in a statement.

The Fairfax County Police Department advises anyone who comes across a loose pig to contact their non-emergency dispatch number 703-691-2131, though 911 should be used if it’s an emergency situation.

Nalls Produce described the pig as a “young full size piggie” and not a “mini” like Penny, the pig owned by the business.

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Fairfax County Police Lt. Dan Spital talks to the media at Lake Accotink after a coyote bit three adults and two dogs (via Fairfax County Police Department)

Fairfax County Animal Protection has seen an increase in the number of coyote-related calls since a rabid coyote bit three adults, two dogs and an officer last month.

“The recent incident of the rabid coyote at Lake Accotink has understandably created concerns for many residents about wildlife and public health and safety,” the Animal Protection Police said.

However, they say rabid coyotes are relatively rare, and none of the calls have indicated the animals sighted have rabies.

Coyotes are well-established in the county, and it’s normal to see them in parks and residential neighborhoods. They generally avoid human contact. The coyote that was spotted in June displaying signs of rabies — biting vehicle tires and other aggressive behavior — was killed after he bit an officer.

Since then, there have been 12 calls for service related to coyotes in the Springfield area. Seven of those reported coyote sightings involved the animals living close to people but displaying normal behavior, two reported injured coyotes, and the others shared concerns.

Animal Protection Police says most of the behavior reported is not indicative of sick or rabid animals, “especially given the time of year with coyotes raising pups.” Park ecologists were also monitoring the site and did not detect any unusual wildlife behavior on camera, police said.

“Based on the information received, the Animal Protection Police and Wildlife Management Specialist do not consider there to be an increased threat of rabies at Lake Accotink Park,” Animal Protection Police said.

In one call reported in June, a coyote followed a person on a trail, but when Animal Protection Police arrived, the animal was gone.

“The event notes stated the coyote seemed to be displaying normal behavior per the conversation with the caller,” police said. “The behavior described sounded like the coyote was engaged in ‘escorting’ behavior where coyotes will sometimes escort people and pets out of their territory, especially if there might be a den nearby.”

Another call in June reported a coyote “circling, barking, and snarling” at Greentree Village Park, and on Monday, July 18, a caller said he was approached by coyotes twice in Lake Accotink Park but was able to scare them away.

“The caller was fearful that the coyotes might attack him and requested an escort from the park,” police said. “A patrol unit provided him a ride out of the park. There was no mention of symptoms or behavior consistent with rabies in the event notes.”

Police said most of the calls were not within the immediate Lake Accotink area and were reported several miles from the park throughout the greater Springfield area.

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A bear crosses GW Parkway in Belle Haven (courtesy of Jaclyn B/Nextdoor)

(Updated at 7:40 p.m.) Why’d the bear cross GW Parkway?

Possibly to find an easy meal or explore its landscape after a winter hibernation, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

A bear was sighted in the Belle Haven area on Thursday (June 9), and one Nextdoor user snapped some photos of it crossing George Washington Memorial Parkway near Belle View Boulevard, not too far from the Mount Vernon Trail.

The sightings piqued some social media users’ interest, with residents suggesting names for the bear and sharing photos of it around the neighborhood.

The Fairfax County Police Department says its Animal Protection Police and wildlife management specialist were alerted to bear sightings in the area over the weekend. The department has also received recent reports of a young bear moving through McLean.

Last week, a bear was also seen wandering around Arlington, though it’s unclear whether any of the bears that have been spotted are the same one.

While bear encounters aren’t common in Fairfax County, they’re not unusual during the spring and summer, when young bears old enough to be independent from their mothers spread out and seek food in green spaces that wildlife uses to travel, according to the FCPD.

Bear sightings have increased in recent years, as the animal’s population grows.

“This trend will continue in the future,” the county police told FFXnow. “Bears have adapted to living near people and we must also learn to adapt to bear activity and take responsible action to prevent conflicts from occurring in our communities by removing food sources that attract bears.”

The bear could be out looking for an easy meal as bears are emerging from their winter dens hungry, or it could be a cub exploring the landscape, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which says it’s important for homeowners to secure all potential food sources to reduce bear encounters.

Homeowners should secure garbage, compost, barbeque grills, birdseed and pet food.

“The goal is to make human sources of food harder for a bear to get than what nature provides — especially food that is high in fat and calories,” says Nelson Lafon, Forest Wildlife Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Photo courtesy of Jaclyn B/Nextdoor

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A coyote (via Ross Sokolovski/Unsplash)

A coyote reportedly bit multiple people in the Springfield area this weekend, including a police officer who shot it.

The Fairfax County Police Department says it received a report around 8 a.m. on Saturday (June 4) of three adults being bitten by a wild coyote in Lake Accotink Park. The animal also bit two dogs, police later confirmed.

Animal protection officers launched a search of the park and coordinated with the Fairfax County Park Authority to clear it and close it to visitors. A police helicopter provided assistance, but the search wrapped up after dusk with no more coyote sightings.

The coyote reportedly resurfaced yesterday morning (Sunday) in the neighborhood along Carrleigh Parkway.

“Community members had seen the animal biting tires, which is indicative of rabid behavior,” FCPD Lt. Dan Spital said in an afternoon press conference.

According to the FCPD, around 12:15 p.m., the coyote bit an officer who was searching woods near the 7900 block of Carrleigh Parkway, just south of Lake Accotink Park.

“The animal snuck up behind the officer, and it did bite him in a lower extremity,” Spital said. “The officer discharged his weapon several times and did kill the coyote.”

Medics responded to the scene and transported the officer to a hospital for treatment. All four of the people who were bitten by the coyote  are expected to make full recoveries, police say.

Lake Accotink Park reopened at 3 p.m. yesterday, according to the park authority.

The coyote will be tested to confirm whether it had been infected with rabies. Results from the Fairfax County Health Department will likely be available tomorrow (Tuesday), the FCPD told FFXnow.

As of early May, Fairfax County had recorded 11 rabies cases this year, nearly all of them among raccoons. There have been reports in Arlington and D.C. of foxes carrying the disease, which affects the nervous system and is typically fatal if it reaches the symptomatic stage.

Photo via Ross Sokolovski/Unsplash

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A raccoon walking in grass (via Pete Nuij/Unsplash)

Recent rabies cases involving foxes in Arlington and D.C. might cause concern for nearby neighbors, but Fairfax County has not seen any such incidents so far this year.

The county has had 11 cases of rabies this year out of 72 tested animals, a typical amount, rabies program manager Bryant Bullock said on Tuesday (May 3).

The positive cases have involved 10 raccoons and a groundhog.

“Our whole area has been endemic for rabies since the…early 1980s,” he said. “Our numbers are trending typical.”

The county usually has 40-60 confirmed cases of rabid animals per year, with bumps in the spring, summer, and end of the fall. About half of the cases involve raccoons, a third foxes, and another third skunks, but the disease has also been detected in bats, cats, groundhogs, and beavers, Bullock said.

He said people should avoid wildlife acting strangely, either overly aggressive or overly friendly.

“We track all potential exposures to both humans and domestic animals, and if a human has been exposed, we recommend the treatment,” Bullock said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges people who may have been bitten or scratched to quickly consult a health professional, because once rooted, the disease is almost always fatal.

Bullock says rabies shots for pets are the best protection for people. He stressed the importance of reporting any bite or scratch from any animal.

The county has an online portal to report incidents as well as animal protection police to respond seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Potential rabies cases can be reported to 703-691-2131.

Fairfax County’s Animal Protection Police can also be contacted for animal bites, animal cruelty or neglect, and sick or injured wildlife.

Additionally, Bullock says people should contact animal protection police any time a bat is found in a home, adding that an officer should respond and the bat shouldn’t be let out of the home. Doctors can advise on next steps, such as getting rabies treatment.

Totaling around 300 per year, reports of bats found indoors are common in Fairfax County because the area is home to several species of structure-roosting bats.

Photo via Pete Nuij/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

A woodpecker perches on a tree branch (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

FCPS Proposes Limiting Phone and Social Media Use — “Proposed updates to school policies in Fairfax County Public Schools would ban students from using social media sites for non-academic purposes during school hours and define when cellphones can be used during the school day.” The phone policy has already been implemented at Herndon middle and high schools. [WTOP]

Falls Church Development Under Construction — Developer Insight Property Group will break ground today (Friday) on its 2.7-acre Broad and Washington project, which has been in the works since 2015. The mixed-use development will eventually include a 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods, 339 residential units, space for the theater nonprofit Creative Cauldron, a public plaza, and ground-floor retail. [Falls Church News-Press]

Police Officer Saves Glued Snake — “This little snake is alive and free tonight thanks to @FairfaxCountyPD’s Animal Protection Police Officer McLemore! The snake was caught in a glue trap, and it took time, care, and mineral oil to free him. Thank you for rescuing this little guy!” [Fairfax Animals/Twitter]

Metro Police to Increase Presence — “The Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) says they are increasing their visibility on trains, buses, and in stations to help deter crime…Crime has not spiked on Metro recently, but it certainly has not dropped at the same proportion that ridership has.” [DCist]

Vienna Plants Tree for Arbor Day — “Help Vienna celebrate the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day by planting a tree with us tomorrow, Friday, April 29! We’ll plant a white Dogwood with the help of local Girl Scout Troops 1489, 50056, and 50157. The event starts at 5 p.m. next to the Vienna Community Center front entrance.” [Vienna Happenings]

Meeting Planned on Mount Vernon RECenter Project — The Fairfax County Park Authority will update the public at a meeting on Wednesday (May 4) on its expansion plan, which will require a two-year closure starting early 2023. Staff will explain the project schedule, including the timing of the recently approved facility closure due to supply chain issues and key infrastructure system failures. [FCPA]

Tornados Becoming More of a Risk in D.C. Area — “While it has been 20 years since the La Plata disaster, its occurrence is a reminder that the D.C. region is vulnerable to devastating whirlwinds on par with those of famed tornado alleys in the Great Plains and Deep South. The D.C. region also sees much more frequent tornadoes of lesser strength.” [The Washington Post]

Consulting Firm Workers Help Clean Reston — “As part of Earth Day last week, employees from Virtual, Inc. picked up trash and helped to beautify the area surrounding their offices at 11130 Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston…Virtual is a professional services firm that works with associations and technology standards groups that are forming, growing and changing, according [to CEO Andy] Freed.” [Patch]

Registration Open for Hunter Mill Bicycle Tour — “Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is hosting the 2nd annual Tour de Hunter Mill on Saturday, May 14, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event, including a five-mile family route and a 18-mile route, begins in the Town of Vienna at the Town Green, located at 144 Maple Ave. East.” [Hunter Mill District Office]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 62 and low of 38. Sunrise at 6:14 am and sunset at 8:01 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Construction continues on the new South County Police Station on Lorton Road.

The station will include 34,000 square feet of space and a 23,000-square-foot animal shelter. It also has 20,000 square feet of outdoor space dedicated for the shelter, a fuel island to support fleet vehicles and parking.

“The addition of the South County Police Station will allow the department to organize smaller patrol areas and decrease response times throughout the county,” a Fairfax County Police Department spokesperson told FFXnow.

While the facility isn’t slated to open until the spring of 2023, the police department is already working to recruit officers. A hiring event is scheduled for Friday (April 8) at the Workhouse Arts Center.

The FCPD has added 70 positions over the past few years in preparation for the new station. An additional $290,000 for two initial positions to staff the animal shelter has been proposed in the county’s advertised fiscal year 2023 budget, which is currently being negotiated before the Board of Supervisors’ scheduled May 10 adoption.

Voters approved a $151 million public safety bond referendum in 2015. The facility is expected to cost roughly $30 million to design and construct, according to FCPD.

Here’s more from the county on why the project was chosen:

The growing population of southern Fairfax County will be served by the new police station and animal shelter. Officers will have a shorter distance to drive when responding to calls, and officers won’t be pulled away from their own districts. The new South County Animal Shelter will offer services such as rabies clinics, pet adoptions, spay and neuter services, wildlife education and a volunteer program in a convenient location.

The project was successfully bid out to Forrester Construction in February 2021, and workers broke ground in May of last year.

The county currently has an animal shelter in Fairfax.

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Firefighters rescued two cats from a house fire in McLean last night (Monday) caused by a kerosene lamp.

One of two occupants was transported to a hospital with minor injuries, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department wrote in a news release.

Investigators determined that the fire started at the house in the 6800 block of Churchill Road after an occupant accidentally spilled kerosene when refilling a kerosene-fueled lamp. When the lamp was turned on, the kerosene ignited and spread to nearby combustibles in a first-floor bedroom, the release said.

Both of the occupants evacuated the two-story house, which also had working smoke alarms that went off.

Units from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department and the Arlington County Fire Department were dispatched to the fire around 8:32 p.m.

Fire was showing from windows on the first floor when units arrived, FCFRD said. Crews quickly extinguished it.

“Two cats were rescued by crews and care was initiated by EMS,” a release from the department states.  “Animal Control transported cats to local vet. Both expected to recover. There were no firefighter injuries reported.”

The fire was contained to the bedroom and damages amounted to approximately $62,500.

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