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2018-3-20

61 SUSPECTED FIGHTING DOGS SEIZED IN EMPORIA

~ AG Herring's Animal Law Unit assisted in the forfeiture hearing as investigation continues ~

EMPORIA (March 19, 2018)-Attorney General Mark R. Herring's Animal Law Unit and Greensville/Emporia Commonwealth's Attorney Patricia T. Watson successfully won an order for the forfeiture of 61 dogs after evidence was presented in court showing that the dogs owned by Jeffrey Shanel Scott had been systematically fought as part of a dogfighting operation. The forfeiture was ordered on March 6 by Judge Stephen D. Bloom and the time for an appeal has now expired. The animals were seized on February 22, 2018 by federal and state authorities at a property on Low Ground Road in Emporia as part joint investigation by local, state, and federal authorities into suspected dogfighting and other illegal activities. While the investigation remains ongoing, the dogs are being assessed and cared for by the ASPCA in hopes of responsibly placing them with animal shelters and rescue groups to be made available for adoption.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Michelle Welch and Assistant Attorney General Kelci Block prosecuted the case for the Office of the Attorney General alongside Commonwealth's Attorney Watson. The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Office of the Attorney General Animal Law Unit.  In addition, the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, Virginia State Police Narcotics Task Force, Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office, Emporia Police Department, Greenville County Sheriff's Office, and the ASPCA assisted in the seizure and related proceedings.

Celebrate the Faces of Agriculture During Virginia Agriculture Week

By: M. Ray McKinnie, Dean/1890 administrator, College of Agriculture at Virginia State University.

With the arrival of spring comes a perfect time to celebrate the industry and all the people working on the frontlines and behind the scenes. First thoughts may be the farmer on his tractor already at work at dawn, the sun rising over fallow fields, rows of freshly plowed soil. Virginia Agriculture Week is March 18-24, and Tuesday, March 20 is National Agriculture Day. I ask you to think about the people who are the heart and soul of American agriculture and those who support agricultural industries.

For more than 100 years, Virginia State University’s (VSU) College of Agriculture has supported farmers and provided a rigorous curriculum for its students who have gone on to successful careers in agriculture. Our alumnae have made and continue to make notable contributions to the industry, and our current students the next generation of rising stars. Students with Ag degrees pursue careers in state and federal government agencies, in agribusiness, teaching and research, veterinary medicine, and traditional farming and ranching.

These are some of the many and diverse faces of agriculture.

They’re the people who plan and administer 4-H programs, like Dr. Maurice Smith, a 2009 VSU graduate, who recently returned to oversee the university’s 4-H programming with Virginia Cooperative Extension. Smith will develop innovative programs to meet the needs of urban and hard-to-reach youth that are not aware of 4-H. 

They work in state and federal government agencies to advance and implement agricultural policy. Ronald Howell Jr., a 2009 VSU graduate, has had an impressive career with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and most recently served as a special assistant in the Office of the Secretariat for Agriculture and Forestry in Virginia. Dr. Robert Holland, a 1978 VSU graduate, serves as the associate director for operations at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) after an outstanding career in veterinary medicine.

They have dedicated their entire careers to agriculture. People like Dr. Clint Turner, who is the first Virginian and first VSU alumnus to be inducted into the George Washington Carver Public Service. Turner started as an Extension specialist, then served as associate vice president for agriculture and Extension with the College of Agriculture. He is also a former Virginia commissioner of agriculture and consumer services.

On the frontlines, it’s people like Cliff Somerville, who has spent 30 years working alongside farmers in the field as part of our Small Farm Outreach Program. Dozens of Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists and agents are at work every day at VSU to support farmers across the commonwealth.

And they’re the future of the industry. As one of three universities in the commonwealth that offers a four-year degree in agriculture, VSU prepares the next generation agricultural workforce. VSU students and USDA/1890 Scholars like Ivi Mitchell and Keia Jones will be well equipped to pursue post-graduate studies and careers in agriculture and to contribute in a global economy.

Agriculture is a growth industry. Each year it contributes $70 billion to Virginia’s economy. A study conducted by the UDSA-NIFA and Purdue University, suggests each year there are 57,900 job openings in agriculture and related fields. Annually 35,400 students graduate with a bachelor’s degree or higher in Ag, which means there are 22,500 vacancies. Annual starting salaries in agriculture are more than $51,000.

I strongly encourage urban and rural youth to consider a career in food and agriculture. There are almost limitless opportunities and the future is very bright. Design your preferred future—become an agriculture major!

Virginia Schools and Youth Groups Kick Off Statewide Campaign Today to Encourage Safe Teen Driving During Upcoming High-Risk Months

~Virginia’s Teen Drivers Most At Risk from May through August~

Salem, VA – More teen drivers in Virginia will be involved in traffic crashes between the months of May and August than any other time of the year, statistics show. To help save lives and prevent such crashes during the high-risk warm weather months, Virginia schools are kicking off a statewide teen safety campaign this week to establish safe driving and passenger safety behaviors among youth and teens. The campaign, called "Arrive Alive," focuses on the increased risk of teen driver crashes during the spring and summer months and during prom and graduation.

Close to 50 high schools, middle schools, and youth groups are participating in Arrive Alive which kicks off March 19 and runs throughMay 4. During the campaign, students will work in peer-to-peer groups to develop programs and social media messages that influence their peers to be safer on Virginia roadways.  Middle school students will focus their campaign on how to be a safe passenger, pedestrian, and cyclist. High school students will focus on preventing such risky driver and passenger behaviors as texting and driving, speeding, driving with too many passengers, not wearing a seat belt, underage drinking and driving, and joy riding or “cruising.”

“Arrive Alive provides a unique opportunity for teens to take the lead in making sure their friends and peers always arrive home safely,” said Casey Taylor, YOVASO Program Development Coordinator.  “Students across the state will be actively promoting safe driving and passenger safety through innovative programs and exciting activities! Our goal is to reduce crash risks during this dangerous season for teens by keeping them informed and reminding them that it only takes one mistake to turn a good time bad.”

Statistics from the Virginia DMV Highway Safety Office show that over the past five years, teen drivers in Virginia were involved in 42,033 crashes during the months from May through August, with 152 of those crashes resulting in a fatality to themselves or other motorists and passengers. During the same five-year period, 117 teens aged 15-20 were killed, 14,103 were injured, and 1,944 were seriously injured in crashes between the months of May and August.  

Throughout Arrive Alive, students at participating schools will develop a creative project for the student body designed to influence change in risky driving behaviors and attitudes. In addition, schools will hold pre and post distracted driving checks as students arrive at school to determine the campaign’s impact on reducing distracted driving.  Other activities will include wrecked car displays, mock crashes, pledge signing events, attaching “TXT LATER. BUCKLE UP NOW. ARRIVE ALIVE.” cards to prom and graduation corsages and invitations, organizing safety rallies, and other creative messaging and programming.

Middle schools will focus their creative project around good passenger and pedestrian safety habits including seat belt use, bicycle helmet use, and how to be safe when walking and biking in neighborhoods. Middle schools will also complete a variety of safety programs, including pledge banner signings with students promising to be safe passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Arrive Alive is sponsored by Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) and the Virginia State Police, and is funded by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Highway Safety Office. In addition, grants from Allstate and State Farm will support prizes and educational incentives and materials. UNITE will donate the Arrive Alive Tour program to a non-competing school for their outstanding efforts during the campaign. The Arrive Alive Tour uses a high-tech simulator, and impact video to educate teenagers about the dangers of texting and driving and impaired driving. WFXR Television in Roanoke is the media sponsor for both the middle and high school campaigns.

For more information or to register your school or youth group for the Arrive Alive campaign, contact Casey Taylor, Program Development Coordinator at 540-375-3596 or visit yovaso.org. YOVASO is Virginia's Peer-to-Peer Education and Prevention Program for Teen Driver and Passenger Safety and is a program of the Virginia State Police. Membership in YOVASO is free and open to all Virginia high schools, middle schools, and youth groups. YOVASO currently has 100 active member schools.

Here are tips to help keep teen drivers safe during the high-risk warm weather months:

  • Buckle up every time and in every seating position.
  • Slow down and obey posted speed limits.
  • Limit the number of teen passengers in the vehicle and obey Virginia's passenger limitation law for teens. Remember, teens under 18 are only allowed to carry one passenger under age 21 for the first year of licensure unless accompanied by a licensed adult.
  • Drive distraction-free. It’s illegal for teens under 18 to use a cell phone while driving.
  • Drive alcohol and drug-free. Virginia’s Zero Tolerance law makes consuming alcohol or driving under the influence of any amount of alcohol a serious criminal offense for teens under the age of 21. (Va. Code 18.2-266.1)
  • Avoid "cruising" and joy riding with friends. This leads to an increased risk for teen crashes.
  • Obey Virginia’s midnight curfew which restricts teens under 18 from driving between midnight and 4 a.m.
  • Never Drive Drowsy. Never drive if you are sleepy or on medication that causes drowsiness.
  • Celebrate responsibly during prom, graduation, and summer celebrations.  Make a commitment to being safe and arriving alive.
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