Pet Fox Returned to Owner

Costumed 'Swiper' was confiscated at Reston Town Center.

Swiper is free!

at the Reston Town Center on Sunday was returned to his owner on Monday evening.

Alayna Sitterson, a 20-year-old child care center staffer, was walking Swiper - dressed in a skeleton costume because it was Halloween - on a leash at the park in front ofat the town center. Someone alerted authorities, who confronted Sitterson, charged her with unlawful possession of a wild animal, and took Swiper to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.

"I work with children," said Sitterson, who lives in Sterling. "I take care of animals. I am not a fighter. I care about people. I want to be mad, but I am just disappointed."

Police, who have dropped the charges against Sitterson, said she did not have the proper permits issued by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Sitterson, who adopted Swiper as a baby from an Indiana breeder last spring, says she has been diligent in making sure Swiper is legal and safe. She researched the law for fox ownership in Virginia (it is legal to own a silver cross fox, but not a red fox, she says). Swiper, who weighs about 18 lbs., is neutered, fully vaccinated and litter-box trained.

"If I am going to own a fox, I am never going to do something silly," she said. "He was absolutely on a leash. I have done everything within the law.

"Virginia does not want you walking around with a big, scary animal," she said. "People see him and ask ' what kind of dog is that?' They usually do not realize he is a fox."

Sitterson's father, Allan, who lives in Herndon, said he called Fairfax County Police several times Monday to complain about the officer who took Swiper away.

In the end, though, Swiper and Sitterson were reunited in short order.

"When we were heading to the park, we had just come from , and I was going to let him play with his toy," said Alayna Sitterson. "When I picked him up, he got his squeak toy. He licked my hand the whole way home."


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