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Proposed legislation to state code evens field for animal farmers, shines light on rural issues

Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 7:16 am

Citizens of Essex County have been flocking to Wesley and Abbey Gauvin’s sides to show their support for Upright Alpaca Farm, which continues to reel from the loss of 13 alpacas four months ago.

Now, the central organizer of the watchdog website Essex Sunshine.Org (ESO) has lent his support to the farmers through a proposition that would revise a section of state code that concerns the loss of livestock.

ESO anchor John Clickener said his proposal could not only benefit Essex County, but serve as a beacon for rural communities throughout Virginia.

“It involves any of the rural parts of Virginia where there’s a significant amount of livestock or fowl farming taking place,” Clickener said of his proposal, adding that the revision to the legislation could bring attention to Tidewater Virginia as being a major rural center of the state with a significant population of livestock farmers.

“It’s been my observation that within the Commonwealth of Virginia when they speak of rural Virginia, they’re talking about Shenandoah Valley, Southwest and South Side,” said Clickener. “They very seldom make any mention of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula…it’s almost as if we don’t exist.

Clickener also said that the legislation which he draws attention to with his revision, Section 3.2-6553 of the state code, does little to cover the cost of devastating situations such as the slaughtered alpacas last August.

“It’s a concern,” he said, adding that the Gauvins suffered “not only with the loss of animals, that I would acquaint to being pets along with being an income-producing form of livestock, but also a huge financial loss.”

During the Sept.  11 Essex Board of Supervisors meeting, Wesley said that he and his wife lost their life savings “over the period of twenty-four hours.”

One month later, Wesley said that the $5200 he received from the board as compensation for his killed livestock hardly covered the veterinarian bills they incurred from the attack, the value of the livestock and the funds they invested in their breeding program.

“It’s a drop and a half but…every little bit helps,” he told the board during their Oct. 9 meeting.

Gauvin received $400 per livestock killed in the attack, the maximum amount that the state code currently allows for compensation. Clickener was critical of the ceiling for compensation, saying that it did not make up for the actual value of the livestock in question.

“$400 is not a whole lot of money when you consider calves, colts and even sheep for that matter,” Clickener said, adding that the section of code which he called “a very old piece of legislation” is even harsher on compensation for farmed birds such as chickens, geese, Emus and ostriches.

“For fowl, the maximum is set by the code at $10,” Clickener said. “Ostriches still have a fair amount of value…their skin is used in cowboy boots and other things. $10 [per fowl] won’t cut it.”

In Section 3.2-6553 of Virginia’s code labeled “Compensation for livestock and poultry killed by dogs,” Clickener proposed two changes. The first concerned replacing $400 as the compensation ceiling for killed livestock with “the fair market value at the time of death or injury per animal.”

Clickener also suggested replacing $10 as the maximum aid for killed poultry with “the fair market at the time of death or injury per fowl.”

The watchdog site administrator highlighted his ambition in finding two patrons to help update the maximum amount of financial assistance per farm animal to current market value.

Although Clickener has approached Virginia State Senator Richard Stuart and Del. Margaret Ransone with his proposal, he has continued to send it out to other delegates and senators from rural areas in hopes of enlisting their support and possibly their willingness to introduce the revised legislation to the Virginia General Assembly.

In other news, Clickener continues to offer $2000 to anyone who provides information that will lead to the capture of the pit bulls who killed the Gauvins’ alpacas and were stolen from the animal shelter on the eve of their execution.

“Hopefully they will contact [Tappahannock Police Chief] Jim Ashworth,” said Clickener. “As far as I’m concerned he’s the sole authority on who gets the reward [and] the only person I consider appropriate to make the determination of whether [the provided information] helps close the case.”