A sad-eyed beagle, rescued after a dramatic rush-hour chase on Shirley Highway earlier this week, is now struggling to survive the bureaucracy of the Alexandria city pound.
But for the concern of the dog's rescuers, several would-be owners and the press, the little brown and white dog initially was given little more than 10 days to live unless the city found a qualified applicant who could give the animal a good home.
Finding that qualified home, however, may take some doing.
"We just don't give the dog to anyone," said Elijah Kirklend, assistant director of the Alexandria Animal Control Shelter, which has custody of the beagle. It was plucked for the region's most heavily traveled highway Thursday by a jogger after a two-mile chase.
The jogger, Don Barber, took the frightened female beagle home, hoping to locate her owner. He was forced to turn the dog over to the pound the next day when he was called out of town on business for the weekend.
"I feel terrible," said Barber, an Alexandria auto parts representative who has received many calls from people wanting to give the dog a home. He tried, without success, to get the dog back from the pound so he could give it to one of the callers or to a group that keeps homeless animals indefinitely.
What he learned to his chagrin was that he and anyone else interested in giving the dog a home would have to undergo Alexandria's formal "adoption" process. That includes a check of the prospective home, which must feature a fenced-in yard and -- most importantly -- an Alexandria address.
Kirklend, whose pound displays photographs of mistreated animals, said such requirements are for the protection of the pets, which otherwise may be abused and even sold for laboratory experiments.
"It's like you're adopting a kid," he said. "We have to know where our animals are going, and we can't do follow-up visits out of our area."
Initially Kirklend said that the dog would be kept for five days while the pound searched and advertised for her owner. After that, "it could be another seven or eight days," depending on space and other factors, before the animal "will be put to sleep," he said.
By day's end, however, the harried assistant pound director was promising to do "my damndest" to find the beagle a home. "As a matter of fact, I even put a 'hold' on it for people to check with me before anything happens to the dog."
Kirklend's pound has 30 other dogs also living on borrowed time. Other pounds, he said, have more dogs than they can handle. "We get crowded here, and we just have to put the dog down, but we don't like to," he said.
Several people interested in adopting animals, however, say the Alexandria pound and other area animal shelters are notoriously strict in their requirements for placing pets.
"It's ridiculous," said Patty Wiles, who has offered the beagle a home in Dickerson, Md., where she would share a big yard with a German shepherd and another beagle. Upon calling the pound, however, she was told only an Alexandria resident could apply to take the dog.
Wiles said she found that rebuff no more logical than the time Montgomery County's pound rejected her application for a dog because both she and her husband work.
State Sen. Wiley F. Mitchell (R-Alexandria) said yesterday there is nothing in the state code or local ordinances that requires the pound to restrict pet ownership to Alexandria residents. Deputy city attorney Maston Jacks agreed.
"There's an oversupply of animals, and whenever you've got a decent home and someone wants to adopt the dog, the local animal people ought to do everything possible to accommodate the animal," said Mitchell. He suggested custody of the dog could be transferred to another jurisdiction instead of putting it to death.
Kirklend, who had earlier ruled out that possibility, said later he would look into it. "This dog is creating so much of a problem, I'll do everything I can."
In the Shirley Highway rescue Thursday, the beagle was pursued by Barber, a Metro bus driver and nearly two dozen commuters who tracked the dog in their vehicles for nearly 10 minutes and helped protect her from speeding traffic as she crossed back and forth across the highway.