Everyone got to know the unofficial West Virginia pandemic mascot, Babydog. The one-year-old English bulldog has lent his kindness to the governor as part of his campaign to convince people to get vaccinated against COVID.
This marketing tool works because it gets to the heart of something we know all too well, a beloved animal. From expensive toys to top notch care, most pet owners would do anything for their pet.
This includes making sure they are getting quality nutrition from the food they eat. The ingredients on food labels guide us in understanding whether the pet food we buy is really good for our pet.
We can trust these labels because an entity has verified that these products tell the whole truth. That trust rests with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) as part of our mission to protect our furry friends.
If a food company wants to do business in Mountain State, it must help fund the WVDA’s consumer protection initiative. This is important because there are 473 companies that sell 10,751 products. It takes a lot of supervision to protect the animals we all care about.
The fees these pet makers pay also help nonprofits and local government control wild populations. Passed in 2017 by the legislature, additional fees were added for 10 years to provide subsidies for sterilization and sterilization programs.
These grants, administered by the Department of Agriculture, have been extremely successful, resulting in nearly 30,000 procedures to help control feral dogs and cats in West Virginia.
Our laboratories went even further during COVID by vigilantly researching the possible spread of the virus to and from pets. As the public and media tried to understand the potential spread to our pets, our staff conducted several investigations.
This required working with local vets, as well as humane shelters, to treat and verify the results of potentially infected animals. The good news is that we have not found any evidence of spread to animals in West Virginia, but it was part of our mission to help with the pandemic response and to reassure the citizens of our state.
The Department also helps local law enforcement ensure animal welfare by setting standards for farm animal care or participating in sensitive investigations.
Although the power to look after animal welfare is left to law enforcement, most of the time these local services do not have the resources to deal with large animal cases.
Tight budgets do not minimize the sensitivity or importance of cases, which is why law enforcement relies on the expertise of agencies such as the WVDA. Regardless of the size or breed of the animal, our staff are always ready to intervene when animals are in danger.
West Virginia pet and livestock owners, including the Governor, want reassurance that someone is ensuring the honesty of the pet food businesses and the safety of our animals. We want to know that when we open the box or bag of pet food, our animals receive all of the nutrients listed on the label.
This is where your WVDA comes in. Our staff work tirelessly to keep the minds of pet owners comfortable and our pets safe, whether that is checking food labels or intervening to assist law enforcement authorities.
WVDA isn’t just about farms and livestock – our mission is to protect all domestic animals in Mountain State.
Kent A. Leonhardt is the Commissioner of Agriculture for West Virginia.