Here's a summary of our most recent Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission
SEPTEMBER 26,, 2017
1) Call to Order
2) Roll Call (Determination of a quorum)
In attendance: Deborah Stone Hess, Roy Plummer, Joy Freedman, Jean Townsend, Jon Christiana, Maryanne Martin Bailey, Ann Gearhart, and by phone Julianne Zimmer and Janice Vincent.
3) Approval of minutes from previous meeting
Here are the minutes as approved:
BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES
July 18, 2017
The twenty-second regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 in the Main Conference Room of the Drumcastle Government Center. This meeting was called to order at 6:30 p.m.
By the Chair Deborah Stone Hess. Members in attendance were: Deborah Stone Hess, Maryanne Bailey, Jamie DeRita-Rodriguez, Roy Plummer, Lavinia Ringgold (by phone), Jean Townsend, VMD and Julianne Zimmer (by phone).
Minutes from the June 20, 2017 meeting were motioned and approved as submitted.
Motioned by: Jean Townsend
Second by: Maryanne Bailey
Old Business – Circus Legislation
Maryanne reported that Councilwoman Bevins is contemplating drafting legislation. Councilman Kach, Councilman Quirk, Councilwoman Almond and Councilman Marks will be supporting it. Hoping that the bill will be introduced in August. Councilman Jones appears to be opposed. It’s unknown if Councilman Crandall supports or not.
Second Quarter Statistics
MARYLAND ANIMAL CONTROL SHELTER SURVEY / 1 (Boxes will expand as you enter text)
Name of Shelter/Facility: Baltimore County Animal Services Address: 13800 Manor Road Baldwin, MD. 21013
Name of Shelter Manager: Lauren Pavlik
Name of Person completing this survey: Gary Klunk
Name of Shelter Manager: Lauren Pavlik
Name of Person completing this survey: Gary Klunk
Activity for Reporting Quarter: April-June 2017
A. Live Animal Count at Beginning of Qtr
B. Stray/At Large
C. Relinquished by Owner
D. Owner Requested Euthanasia
E. Transferred in from another Agency
F. Other Live Intakes (impounds, births, animals placed in foster care, brought in for TNR, etc)
G. TOTAL LIVE INTAKE DURING QTR (B+C+D+E+F)
I. Returned to Owner
J. Transferred to another Agency
K. Other Live Outcome (includes TNRs released)
L. Died/Lost in Care
M. Euthanasia- at Owner’s Request
N. Euthanasia-All other than owner request
O. TOTAL DISPOSITION DURING QTR
P. Live Animal Count at End of QTR (includes Fosters). (A+G - O)
In order to better understand to what degree unowned cats are a source of intake and euthanasia, we need your help. To the best of your abilities, please indicate what percent and/or how much of CAT intake would you consider unowned (i.e. feral, or community cats) animals:
How many of the euthanized cats would you guess are unowned:
1/Pursuant to section 2-1602(H) of the Agriculture Article which states: “Beginning January 14,2014, each county and municipal animal control shelter and each organization that contracts with a county or municipality for animal control shall report quarterly to the Department on a form prescribed by the Department describing for the previous 3 months: (1) The number of cats and dogs taken in; (2) The number of cats and dogs disposed of, broken down by method of disposal, including euthanasia; and (3) Any other relevant data the Department requires.”Please return completed survey by email attachment to email@example.com or by mail to Maryland Department of Agriculture, Marketing Department (Spay and Neuter Program), 50 Harry S Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401. Questions call Jane Mallory 410-481-5766 email: Jane.Mallory@maryland.gov .
Summary of Liaison Committee Meeting
BCAS has a new website.
The Maryland 2000 has started, with 18 shelters participating. Deborah did a blog post on the Maryland 2000 and sent it to all members of the Commission.
The county has resumed its old policy of requiring Spay/Neuter surgery on the second impound instead of the first impound.
Emergency evacuation shelters that accept people, will take pets as well.
Foster care: 70 animals are currently in foster care, would like to locate 6 new fosters that would take Admin Hold dogs. Admin Hold dogs usually have a history of abuse and owner is being charged with a crime.
Float in July 4 Parade
BCAS had a float in a 4th of July parade.
Commission Annual Report Update
Joy, Lavinia and Deb are working on the annual report, which will probably be finished in August.
Chair Election in July
Roy motioned to re-elect Deb, Jean seconded and all approved.
Deb asked who would like to skip August meeting…all present approved.
Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location
September 26, 2017 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rd floor, Main Conference Room
Motion to adjourn:
Motion by: Jean Townsend, DVM
Second by: Maryanne Bailey
Adjourned at 7:10 p.m.
a) Circus Legislation-The bill that was introduced in the Baltimore County Council to ban performances in Baltimore County by circuses using wild, exotic animals has been pulled. It's hoped the bill will be re-introduced at a later date.
5) New Business
a) Liaison Committee Meeting Summary
Here's the summary of the most recent meeting between the liaison committee and the shelter:
1) RESCUE WELL GRANT-AS WE’VE PREVIOUSLYDISCUSSED BALTIMORE COUNTY AWARDED A 25 THOUSAND DOLLAR GRANT TO RESCUE WELL LAST NOVEMBER, ALLOWING RESCUE WELL TO DO A NUMBER OF THINGS FOR BCAS. RESCUE WELL HAS USED 23 THOUSAND OF THE 25 THOUSAND DOLARS. TIMING IS RIGHT ON TARGET. THE COUNTY PLANS TO RENEW THE GRANT THIS NOVEMBER.
2) CAN RESCUES USE THE COUNTY’S SPAY/NEUTER CLINICS?
THIS QUESTION WAS RAISED AT OUR LAST COMMISSION MEETING. THE ANSWER IS NO. HOWEVER, 99% OF ANIMALS PULLED FROM BCAS BY RESCUES WILL ALREADY BE SPAYED OR NEUTERED. THIS IS A SERVICE THAT’S PAID FOR BY BALTIMORE COUNTY TAXPAYERS AND THE IT COSTS THE COUNTY MUCH MORE THAN THE $20, THAT IS CHARGED. AS A RESULT, RESCUES ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BRING ANIMALS FROM OUTSIDE THE COUNTY TO BE SPAYED OR NEUTERED AT A BALTIMORE COUNTY SPAY/NEUTER CLINIC.
3) WEST SIDE SPAY/NEUTER CLINIC-THE COUNTY HAS BEEN TRYING TO FIND WAYS TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF SURGERIES THAT ARE BEING PERFORMED AT THE WEST SIDE SPAY/NEUTER CLINIC. THEY HAVE BEEN DOING SOME RADIO ADS, AND HAVE STARTED A GUFT CARD PROGRAM WHERE THOSE WHO BRING PETS TO THE CLINIC CAN GET A PET STORE GIFT CARD WORTH $20. THAT’S THE AMOUNT THEY PAY FOR THE SURGERY. SO IN EFFECT IT ENDS UP COSTING THEM NOTHING. THERE HAS BEEN A SLIGHT PICKUP IN SCHEDULED SURGERIES. THE WEEK BEFORE THEY STARTED THE ADS, THEY WERE AVERAGING 5-6 SURGERIES PER DAY. THE WEEK THE ADS STARTED THE NUMBER JUMPED TO AN AVERAGE OF 9 PER DAY. AND NEXT WEEK THEY HAVE AN AVERAGE OF 9 PER DAY SCHEDULED ON THE CALENDAR.
4) PROMOTIONS GUY-BCAS HAD HIRED SOMEONE TO PROMOTE THE SPAY/NEUTER PROGRAM. HE WAS ARRANGING FOR GARY KLUNK AND DR. JONES TO ATTEND MEETING OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS PARTICULARLY ON THE WEST SIDE. UNFORTUNATELY IT WASN’T HELPING MUCH. THE GUY WHO WAS IN THE POSITION HAS LEFT THE SHELTER AND HE WILL NOT BE REPLACED.
5) EMERGENCY RESPONSE-WHAT WOULD BALTIMORE COUNTY DO IF A MAJOR HURRICANE OR OTHER EMERGENCY FORCED COUNTY RESIDENTS TO EVACUATE? THE COUNTY ALREADY HAS COMMUNITY CENTERS THAT WOULD BE USED AS SHELTERS BOTH FOR PEOPLE AND PETS. IN ADDITION, COMMUNITY CENTERS WOULD BE USED TO TAKE ANIMALS FROM THE SHELTER IF NECESSARY.
6) KITTEN SEASON-YES, IT’S STILL GOING ON AND BCAS IS PRETTY FULL WITH CATS. NOT ONLY ARE A LOT OF LITTERS BEING BORN BUT THE SHELTER HAS ALSO HAD AN ADDITIONAL EVEN BIGGER PROBLEM: LOTS OF SURRENDERS OF CATS. AS A RESULT, THE FOSTER PROGRAM IS OF GROWING IMPORTANCE. NOT ONLY ARE PEOPLE NEEDED TO FOSTER KITTENS, BUT ALSO CATS WITH UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS. THESE CATS ONLY NEED A VERY SMALL SPACE. A BATHROOM WILL DO. THEY NEED TO BE KEPT CONFINED AND QUIET. USUALLY IT ONLY TAKES A COUPLE OF WEEKS TO GET THESE CATS HEALTHY AGAIN SO THEY CAN GO BACK TO THE SHELTER AND BE PLACED IN THE ADOPTABLE ROOM.
7) HALLOWEEN PROMOTION-BCAS IS PLANNING A HALLOWEEN PROMOTION CALLED THE ADOPTION SPOOKTACULAR ON OCT. 13. THE SHELTER WILL STAY OPEN TILL MIDNIGHT AND CAT ADOPTIONS WILL BE FREE. BCAS NEEDS VOLUNTEERS IF YOU CAN HELP CONTACT HEIDI GRISWOLD.
8) NEW MOBILE ADOPTION VEHICLE-THERE WAS AN ONLINE VOTE TO CHOOSE POSSIBLE NAMES FOR BCAS’S NEW MOBILE ADOPTION VEHICLE. ONCE ALL SUBMISSIONS WERE IN, SHELTER OFFICIALS ASKED THE LIAISON COMMITTEE TO MEET WITH THEM TO PICK THE TOP THREE POSSSIBILITIES. THEN PEOPLE AGAIN GOT TO VOTE ONLINE TO CHOOSE FROM THE THREE. THE NEW BCAS VEHICLE WILL BE KNOWN AS THE BCAS EXPRESS CUDDLE SHUTTLE. IT SHOULD ARRIVE BY THE BEGINNING OF NOVEMBER. THIS IS GOING TO BE MAJOR STEP TOWARD BRANDING BCAS AND GETTING ITS NAME OUT INTO THE COMMUNITY. IN ADDITION, ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICERS ARE GETTING NEW UNIFORMS WITH BCAS ON THE BACK. WE WANT PEOPLE TO BEGIN TO KNOW AND RECOGNIZE THE NAME. ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF BRANDING IS NOT ONLY TO BRING PEOPLE TO BCAS TO ADOPT BUT ALSO TO KNOW THAT THAT IS WHERE THEY MAY FIND THEIR STRAY PET AND ALSO THAT’S WHERE THEY SHOULD TAKE STRAY PETS.
b) 2nd Annual Commission Report Approval
The Commission approved the latest draft of its second annual report to the County Executive and County Council. Here is the report:
2nd Annual Report
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Introduction Page 3
2. Statistics Page 4
3. Spay/Neuter Page 8
4. Rescues Page 10
5. Rescue Well Page 12
6. Volunteers Page 14
7. TNR Page 18
8. Enrichment Page 21
9. Shelter Hours Page 23
10. New Mobile Adoption Vehicle Page 24
11. Marketing Page 25
12. Conclusions Page 28
The Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission has marked its second anniversary. The changes that have taken place at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter over this two-year period have been remarkable.
Since the Commission’s inception, the shelter has moved into a new facility and adopted modern-day best sheltering practices.
The atmosphere when one walks into the building is upbeat and helpful. The focus of the staff is clearly on saving lives. BCAS has a growing and active volunteer program, works extensively with animal rescue organizations, has a program for animal enrichment, has embarked on an in-house program for Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR), has opened Spay/Neuter clinics on the East and West sides of Baltimore County, and best of all, it has achieved amazing success in its live release rates.
Over the last year, shelter administrators have continued to meet monthly with members of a Commission committee, answering questions and keeping us informed of challenges and achievements.
The aim of this report is to provide a full accounting of the shelter’s progress since our last report and to make recommendations going forward.
This report is submitted respectfully and with great appreciation to Baltimore County lawmakers and administrators and to the management of BCAS.
In a time when it seems too difficult to find real success stories, the county has truly created one in Baldwin.
Statistics are the bottom line for any animal shelter as they calculate outcomes for the animals; how many arrive, how many are reclaimed by owners, how many are adopted, how many are pulled by rescue organizations, and how many must be euthanized. BCAS compiles statistics quarterly.
Numbers vary from quarter to quarter as admission numbers fluctuate. For example, the spring and summer months are especially challenging as they mark what is known as “kitten season”, a time when many kittens are born, and the number of cats at all shelters skyrockets. When that happens, rescues are inundated too, limiting their ability to alleviate shelter overcrowding.
A. Euthanasia Rates
BCAS is Baltimore County’s open admission shelter, and there is no such thing as a completely ‘no-kill” open admission shelter. There will always be some animals that are not good candidates for adoption or transfer to rescue, because they’re too ill, too old, or too aggressive.
The key is to keep euthanasia numbers as low as possible, creating live release rates that are as high as possible.
BCAS is doing an excellent job in that regard, with several consecutive quarters in the first year showing live release rates above 90% for dogs and one quarter above 90% live release for cats (which is especially difficult to accomplish.)
Here is the breakdown by quarter of BCAS’s statistics for euthanasia (other than owner requested euthanasia) for the 4 quarters since the Commission’s last annual report (3rd qtr. 2016, 4th qtr. 2016, 1st qtr. 2017, 2nd qtr. 2017):
N-Euthanasia ~ Not Owner Requested
4th Quarter 2016
1st Quarter 2017
2nd Quarter 2017
Dogs 31 of 523
5.9% 47 of 509
9.2% 33 of 491 6.7% 37 of 443 8.4%
Cats 202 of 953
21.2% 152 of 846
18.0% 56 of 709
7.9% 110 of 890 12.4%
If you total the last four quarters, the total numbers are as follows:
That’s a 7.5% euthanasia rate and a live release rate of 92.5% for dogs.
That’s a 15.3% euthanasia rate and a live release rate of 84.7% for cats.
These numbers are very good and indicate BCAS’s extensive efforts to find homes for every adoptable animal. At the same time, BCAS would especially like to increase its cat live release rates.
Cats are more challenging than dogs for several reasons.
First, many more cats, than dogs, enter the shelter.
INTAKE in LAST 4 QUARTERS
Second, many more owners reclaim stray dogs than stray cats.
PERCENTAGE OF STRAYS RECLAIMED
This disparity is typical in shelters around the country.
What’s the solution? It’s hoped that, over time, Baltimore County’s active spay/neuter program as well as its TNR efforts will reduce cat intake, thereby reducing cat euthanasia, and improving cat live release rates.
B. Adoption Statistics
Here is a breakdown of statistics by quarter for adoption.
3rd Quarter 2016
4th Quarter 2016 1st Quarter 2017
2nd Quarter 2017
Dogs 161 of 523 30.8% 160 of 509 31.4% 138 of 491 28.1% 104 of 443 23.5%
Cats 334 of 953
35.0% 377 of 846
44.6% 137 of 709 19.3% 224 of 890 25.2%
C. Transfer to Rescue Statistics
Here are the statistics for the number of animals pulled by rescue organizations over the last four quarters.
Pulled by Rescue (Transferred to Another Agency)
3rd Quarter 2016
4th Quarter 2016
1st Quarter 2017
2nd Quarter 2017
Dogs 122 of 523 23.3% 156 of 509 30.6% 141 of 491 28.7% 122 of 443 27.5%
Cats 284 of 953
29.8% 220 of 846
26.0% 225 of 709
31.7% 214 of 890 24.0%
You will find more extensive information on animals to rescue in the portion of this report that deals with rescues on page 11.
In conclusion, BCAS has done a great job over the last year in keeping euthanasia numbers down and corresponding live release numbers up.
The Commission encourages BCAS to continue its efforts to maintain an over 90% live release rate for dogs and to work to achieve above 90% live release for cats.
Spay/Neuter is the most important tool at the county’s disposal for preventing animal overpopulation, and therefore reducing the number of animals that come into the shelter in the first place.
It gets to the root of the problem by reducing the number of animals that are born.
Not only does BCAS spay/neuter all animals that are available for adoption, but it has also launched an ambitious spay/neuter program for the public. It performs surgeries for the public at the shelter and at two spay/neuter clinics, one on the West side and one on the East side of the county.
The clinic on the county’s east side opened at 7702 Dunmanway in August of 2015. The county opened the West side clinic at 3941 Klunk Dr. in December of 2016.
Baltimore County receives grants from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, which allows BCAS to offer free spay/neuter surgery to those in particularly low-income zip codes. For those who must pay full price, the cost is very low. For $20.00, citizens can have their cat or dog spayed or neutered, vaccinated, dewormed, micro-chipped and licensed.
From July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017, BCAS performed 4,889 spay/neuter surgeries for the public.
1003 of those were performed at the shelter in Baldwin.
3500 were done at the East side clinic in Dundalk.
386 were performed at the West side clinic.
Total spay/neuter surgeries 4889
Baldwin Surgeries 1003
West Side Clinic Surgeries 386
East Side Clinic Surgeries 3500
Baltimore County has been working to increase the number of surgeries performed at the West side clinic by putting out flyers, reaching out to churches and reaching out to community associations in the area.
The County also plans to begin offering gift cards at pet-related stores to clients at the West side clinic. The gift cards would be for $20, which is the same amount as the cost of the surgery.
If this isn’t successful, the Commission recommends reaching out to media outlets in the Baltimore area to enlist their help in this effort and to do targeted advertising.
Reaching out to prominent members of the West side community to be spokespeople in an advertising campaign could make it even more effective.
The Commission recommends these efforts not only to maximize its financial investment in the West Side clinic, but also to maximize surgery numbers, which will ultimately lead to lower intake numbers at the shelter.
Overall, Baltimore County should be congratulated for recognizing the importance of spay/neuter in reducing the number of homeless pets, and for implementing its ambitious program to reach as many county pet owners as possible.
501c3 rescue organizations play an important part of BCAS’s effort to save lives. They pull animals out of the shelter and then are responsible for all of the animals’ needs, including medical care, until they find each pet a home.
Because BCAS is an open admission shelter, it’s required to accept every animal brought in by citizens or Animal Control. With cage space limited, the goal is to move animals out as quickly as possible. This saves lives and ensures there is room for the next pets that arrive. Rescue partners help make that happen.
Over the last year, BCAS has increased its number of rescue partners from 94 to 136.
Some of these rescue groups are specifically dedicated to particular animals such as just dogs or just cats, some are breed-specific, and others take in a wide range of pets. Some rescues are more active than others in pulling animals from BCAS.
In all, out of 1966 dogs over the last year, 541 (27.5%) went to rescue.
Out of 3398 cats, 943 (27.7%) went to rescue.
PULLED BY RESCUE
Dogs 541 of 1966 (27.5%)
Cats 943 of 3398 (27.7%)
So, in the last year, rescue groups have pulled a total of 1484 animals from BCAS.
Just to give some perspective, it appears that BARCS (Baltimore’s open admission shelter) gets more help from rescue groups than BCAS.
BARCS has more active rescue partners (200 in all) and in 2016, they pulled 1958 animals from BARCS.
Because BARCS’ intake is higher (about twice that of BCAS) the percentage of animals that go to rescue is lower. But the actual number of animals pulled is higher.
While BCAS has not yet partnered with as many rescue groups as BARCS, it has substantially increased its number of rescue partners and is working to grow the list further.
The Commission is pleased to see the growth in BCAS’ rescue partnerships, and encourages BCAS to continue to grow its rescue program.
5. Rescue Well
Rescue Well is a local organization that, in recent years, offered extensive support to BARCS (the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter). Among other things, Rescue Well provided transportation for animals leaving BARCS for rescue and helped counsel those who came to surrender pets in an effort to find alternatives to surrender.
A couple of years ago, Rescue Well reached out to BCAS and offered its services. Since then, Rescue Well has developed a collaborative relationship with BCAS.
Previously Rescue Well came under the umbrella of a 501 c3 called ReLove Animals, but in October, 2016, Rescue Well became a federally-recognized non-profit in its own right.
In November 2016, it entered the grant process with Baltimore County and received a twenty-five thousand dollar grant to provide owner retention support and, when surrender is necessary, to provide shelter-diversion support by routing pets to new homes, rescues, or closed admission shelters.
Rescue Well leads a group known as the Coalition of Rescues – East, whose members represent over 70 regional organizations. These organizations often absorb owner-surrendered pets, bypassing local shelters altogether.
The Well-Placed Pet Program was started by Rescue Well in November 2014. Since then 150 pets have been re-homed, and fifty families chose to keep their pet.
Rescue Well also manages a crisis hotline that receives an average of 1200 calls per month. Roughly eighty percent of callers are in Baltimore County.
Callers are referred to the hotline by area crisis centers, social media and area shelters.
Because its goal is to keep pets in safe and healthy homes, Rescue Well provides these callers with pet food, supplies, veterinary care and other assistance. Veterinary and boarding expenses lead the grant expenditures.
In support of Baltimore County, Rescue Well has distributed over 1,000 flyers to educate citizens about the county’s spay/neuter clinics, and has staffed rabies clinics to provide additional support, provide onsite microchip registration and provide owners with Rescue Well’s hotline information.
An active and enthusiastic volunteer force is vital to the success of any animal shelter.
In the past, this has been a major issue in Baltimore County, as local animal advocates felt the BCAS volunteer program was lagging behind programs at other Baltimore area shelters.
The Commission’s first annual report in 2016 included information on the history of complaints about BCAS’s volunteer program.
Happily, this issue has greatly resolved, due to the hiring of the shelter’s newest Volunteer Coordinator, Heidi Griswold.
Heidi came on board in October, 2016 and quickly went about the business of
• adding volunteers
• expanding the number of off-site events where the shelter’s dogs and cats are taken to stores and events around town
• implementing online volunteer duty sign-up, with software called Volgistics
• establishing protocols
• improving training
• expanding volunteer duties
• and acting as a great cheerleader for volunteers
Here’s a detailed look at each of these areas:
The number of volunteers fluctuates as volunteers come and go, some of whom are putting in community service hours.
Currently there are approximately 64 active volunteers, but a better measure of progress can be seen in the number of hours volunteers are logging at the shelter.
In 2016, volunteers at BCAS logged approximately 642 hours.
From January to May. In 2017, the number of volunteer hours grew to over 16 hundred.
The number of off-site events has increased from 2 or 3 a month to as many as 10 a month
Establishing Protocols, Improved Training and Expanded Volunteer Duties
On arrival at the shelter, volunteers sign in, put on a volunteer smock, take a card which allows them access to the kennel areas and through doors, dog walkers check a white board which indicates which dogs have already been walked by volunteers, and put on their volunteer badge which is marked with either a green or a yellow dot. Green is for “Cadets”. Yellow is for “Captains.”
Feline and Canine Cadets receive initial training which allows them to spend time with animals that are the most calm.
After completing 20 volunteer hours, they can receive additional training to reach the level of Feline or Canine “Captain”. Captains are allowed to interact with animals that are more challenging, including dogs that are more difficult to walk on a leash.
As for volunteer duties, BCAS now offers volunteers a chance to be a Tour Guide, to walk potential adopters through the shelter, and to take animals out of their cages for “Meet and Greets” with these adopters.
Volunteers can be off-site counselors at off-site events.
There are several volunteers who photograph the animals. These great pictures are posted online, enabling BCAS to better market the animals for adoption.
There are ongoing efforts to expand the volunteers’ knowledge and understanding of shelter animals and teach them ways to increase adoptability.
For example, on the last Saturday of every month, BCAS Behavior Coordinator Will Webster gets together with the "yellow dot" volunteers to review skills and highlight new training tips.
Being a Cheerleader
Heidi Griswold regularly thanks volunteers for their efforts both in person and on social media, and BCAS recently held a Volunteer Appreciation picnic on the shelter grounds.
Heidi is beginning to organize social events so the volunteers can socialize together. And there’s also a new BCAS newsletter.
Here’s a comment from a volunteer that appeared in the shelter’s August, 2017 newsletter:
“In addition to providing animals with love and attention I deeply value the sense of community among the volunteers and staff at BCAS. I have made good friends and had many good conversations through the fence between the dog runs with amazing volunteers. I’ve also learned a lot from the staff and feel valued as a member of the BCAS community.”
Clearly, volunteers feel valued, and that’s a great incentive to continue volunteering at the shelter.
All in all, there has been enormous improvement in the volunteer program. The Commission applauds this progress, and encourages the shelter to continue expanding the number of volunteers and the duties they can perform.
There is one area where change is needed, and this was also a recommendation in the Commission’s 2016 report.
Volunteers are not allowed in the shelter on Sunday and Monday, the two days when BCAS is closed to the public for adoptions.
The animals, on the other hand, still need the enrichment volunteers could provide on those days.
This is a policy that needs to change. Volunteers should be welcome at BCAS seven days a week.
According to the ASPCA, there are tens of millions of un-owned free-roaming cats in this country. Like every other community, Baltimore County faces this overpopulation problem.
For many years, Baltimore County attempted to deal with this large numbers of cats by trapping and killing them. There is widespread belief that this process is not only inhumane, but also ineffective.
Many communities around the country have turned to another means of coping with the free-roaming cat problem. It’s called TNR (Trap Neuter Return).
Through this program, free-roaming cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and have the tip of one ear removed so they can be identified as having been TNR’d. They are then returned to the area from which they came.
As large numbers in an individual cat community are spayed or neutered, their numbers begin to dwindle.
Baltimore County, to its great credit, has embraced the TNR concept. It began a pilot TNR program in September of 2015, working with a local organization called Community Cats of Maryland (CCMD). The county gave CCMD space at the county’s East Side clinic in Dundalk to conduct TNR clinics once a month.
Since the Commission’s last report, the county decided to expand this program in order to TNR more cats. It offered CCMD the opportunity to manage the program…to line up cat caretakers who wanted their colonies TNR’d, create a schedule for the cats to come in for surgery and facilitate after-care and drop-off. CCMD was also asked to assist with mediating disputes between complainants and caretakers.
CCMD chose not to partner with Baltimore County on this endeavor and CCMD's access to BCAS's surgical facility ceased in November of 2016. At that time, BCAS hired its own TNR Coordinator who has been working to grow its program.
Cats can enter the BCAS TNR program in one of three ways:
1. They can be trapped by a cat caretaker, with or without a trap loan through BCAS.
2. They can be trapped by a complainant, where the TNR team is able to locate and return the cat to a safe location.
3. They can be trapped by the TNR team directly.
During the last quarter of 2016 through the second quarter of 2017, BCAS TNR’d 616 cats. BCAS is anxious to increase those numbers, but, as a government entity, faces some legal obstacles.
It must have permission from property owners to enter their property to trap cats and also to bring them back after they have been spayed/neutered. Many property owners are reluctant to have cats returned to their property.
An education campaign is needed here. And this calls for marketing and public relations efforts.
Again, reaching out to news organizations to educate viewers through reporting on this issue would be beneficial. A media campaign could also increase understanding of the cat overpopulation problem and could diminish opposition to the TNR program.
TNR is viewed by many as the only humane and effective way to cope with the overpopulation of free-roaming cats. Teaching the public about the problem and the humane way with which the county is managing it, could lead to a lessening of opposition to this program and an increase in the number of TNR’d cats in Baltimore County.
Enrichment involves providing environmental stimuli to alleviate some of the stress of the shelter environment. The aim is to improve the mental health of the animals and keep them calmer and happier, making them better candidates for adoption.
After all, people looking for a new companion are most likely to choose one that is not just physically healthy, but mentally healthy as well.
Without enrichment, animals that stay in a shelter for any length of time can deteriorate both physically and mentally.
Dogs might spin in circles, jump, bark frequently and hysterically, chew on kennel bars or on their own bodies. Cats may over-groom, over- or under-eat, sleep around the clock, sleep in their litter boxes, hide under bedding or resist leaving their cubby hole.
In serious cases, both cats and dogs may become aggressive, making them unsuitable for adoption.
In addition, stressed animals are more likely to get sick.
BCAS has a Behavior/Enrichment Coordinator. He works to ensure that animals receive enrichment in multiple ways including:
• Olfactory Enrichment: Diluted, animal appropriate essential oils are misted in all animal rooms and hallways.
• Auditory Enrichment: Calming music is played on timers in all animal rooms.
• Tactile Enrichment: Day-time toys, PM stuffed kongs, interactive toys, slow feeders are distributed to the shelter animals when appropriate.
• Social Enrichment: Dogs: Training focuses on manners (sit, stay, down, loose leash) while social interactions build confidence in the dog and trust in the handlers.
Cats: Training focuses on sociability (approaching and interacting with potential adopters)
The Commission applauds BCAS’s dedication to providing enrichment for its animals and encourages the shelter to continue these efforts.
9. Shelter Hours
BCAS is open for redemptions (people reclaiming lost pets)
Saturday through Monday-8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tuesday through Friday-8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
BCAS is open for adoptions
Tuesday through Friday-12 noon to 6 p.m.
Saturday-10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There are no adoption hours on Sunday.
Sunday is a day when many people don’t work, kids are not in school, and families are together.
It must be noted that BCAS is achieving very good live release rates despite being closed on Sunday.
However, many shelters like BARCS in Baltimore City and the MD SPCA say that Sunday is one of their busiest days of the week.
In the interest of providing good customer service, and considering that adoptions could increase further with Sunday hours, the Commission continues to urge BCAS to have adoption hours on Sunday.
10. New Mobile Adoption Van
This is one of the most exciting developments at BCAS. Baltimore County is purchasing a mobile adoption van for the shelter. Other shelters in our area have mobile adoption vans and find them of huge benefit.
• A mobile van makes the shelter portable. BCAS can go to events in the community and bring adoptable pets to locations where there are many potential adopters. These people might not have planned to adopt at that moment, but, when greeted by an adorable pet, might just make the leap.
• For those who either don’t know about BCAS or find it inconvenient to visit its location, this, in effect, can take the shelter to them.
• The van will be a big step toward branding to increase awareness about BCAS.
Baltimore County involved the community in the naming of its new van. This was a welcoming gesture, making the community part of this exciting development. People were encouraged to suggest names on the BCAS Facebook page. Once all submissions were in, members of the Commission’s Liaison Committee helped choose the three finalists. Then those three were put up for a vote on the Facebook page.
The new van will be called the BCAS Express Cuddle Shuttle. It should arrive by November, 2017.
The Commission commends Baltimore County for taking this exciting step, increasing efforts to brand the shelter and raise awareness as well as giving new opportunities for happy homes to the shelter’s animals.
The BCAS Express Cuddle Shuttle will be an important tool in raising awareness about BCAS. However, more is needed. Many people in Baltimore County don’t know anything about the shelter, where it is, or that it is the place to redeem lost pets, and the place to take strays found in the community,
There are numerous ways to remedy this problem. One is through off-site events that reach potential adopters who might not come to the shelter. As previously noted in this report, BCAS is participating in a growing number of these events.
The Commission applauds these efforts.
Social media is also important and the shelter has an active Facebook page.
BCAS has also found great success in participating in all three of our area’s Mega Adoption events, where multiple shelters come to one location, waive adoption fees, and adopt out large numbers of cats and dogs.
The most recent Mega Adoption event was held at the Timonium Fairgrounds in June, 2017. Five shelters including BCAS participated.
BCAS took 83 pets to the event. 68 of them were cats. It was an ambitious number, but the shelter was full of cats and they were hoping to get as many adopted as possible.
As it turned out, all 15 dogs were adopted, and 40 cats found homes.
BCAS is also one of 18 Maryland shelters that participated in the “Maryland 2000”, an event that offered free cat adoptions through the month of July, with an aim of achieving 2000 cat adoptions among the participating shelters.
With 18 shelters taking part, each needed to find homes for 111 cats to meet its portion of 2000. BCAS surpassed that number with 169 cats adopted in July! The total for all 18 shelters was 2395.
But despite its Facebook page, its increased presence at off-site events, and its participation in large-scale happenings like Mega Adoption events and the Maryland 2000, more is needed.
The Commission recommends the creation of a marketing communications plan for the shelter to increase its visibility.
This plan should include:
Regular Press Releases
a) Positive press releases about good news and feature story ideas about unusual or interesting adoption stories at BCAS. Our community should know what a great job we’re doing.
b) Emergency press releases-It may seem counter-intuitive to call attention to serious problems, for example, when the shelter is overflowing and faces the potential of increased euthanasia. But in an open admission shelter, euthanasia is a reality. Asking the public to come forward in these difficult times to provide homes for pets is a sign of transparency and allows the public to be part of the solution. Last summer, WJZ did a story on the huge numbers of cats and kittens that needed homes at the shelter. Many cats got homes as a result. Some who had seen the story travelled long distances to adopt, including one from Annapolis and one from the Eastern Shore.
c) Pet of the Week – Other shelters have arrangements with local news operations to bring in adoptable animals to showcase on news shows. Viewers are quick to call in to offer a home after they have seen an adorable pet on television. That one pet goes quickly, but those who call in can be told to please visit the shelter’s web page and see all the other wonderful animals that need homes. It works. In addition, being on a news program with a pet increases awareness of the shelter and its location.
d) Media Partner – The Commission urges the County to reach out to local television stations seeking a partnership. A media partner could agree to cover important and positive stories that could improve the shelter’s visibility, and sponsor events in connection with BCAS.
It would be ideal if the shelter had a staff member who was in charge of marketing and PR. If the budget will not allow it, current staff could be trained to do it and also could train volunteers to help with many of these duties. That serves the additional purpose of creating new duties for volunteers.
The Commission is very pleased BCAS continues its positive growth. Its dedicated and friendly staff has fully embraced modern-day sheltering methods, and is creating live outcomes for a vast majority of animals, either through adoption or rescue.
Baltimore County’s spay/neuter program is successfully altering large numbers of animals.
The number of BCAS rescue partners continues to grow and many animals are being pulled by these organizations.
The volunteer program has blossomed, bringing in new enthusiastic volunteers who are given a broader range of duties. Off-site adoption events are increasing.
Baltimore County has fully embraced TNR, and while there are challenges, the program is moving forward.
BCAS offers multiple kinds of enrichment for its animals. These efforts are extremely important in keeping pets mentally and physically healthy during their stay at the shelter.
With all of these positive efforts, there is still room for improvement.
1) Volunteer Program-The BCAS volunteer program has grown by leaps and bounds. Yet volunteers are still not allowed to volunteer at BCAS on Sundays and Mondays, when the shelter is closed for adoptions. The animals need the volunteers seven days a week. Volunteers should be welcomed every day of the week.
2) Shelter Hours-The Commission continues to recommend a change in shelter hours to include adoption hours on Sunday, when many people are off work and are spending the day with their families.
3) Marketing-The Commission recommends a broad marketing campaign to help the shelter in numerous ways.
a) To alert the public to the good work of BCAS and to enlist the public’s help when cage space becomes limited and the possibility of euthanasia is real.
b) To spread the word about the importance of spay/neuter and the availability of very inexpensive spay/neuter surgery both at BCAS and at its satellite clinics on the east and west sides of the county.
c) TNR-Many in the community don’t know about the problem of free-roaming cats or about the futility of conducting trap and kill efforts. Baltimore County needs to educate the public about TNR, about its use in many communities across the nation, and why it is the only humane and effective way to cope with the cat overpopulation problem. We need to enlist the community’s support and diminish opposition to these efforts.
BCAS experienced a large amount of negative publicity in past years. There’s no doubt this made many nervous about media attention. It’s no longer necessary to be gun-shy.
BCAS is a well-functioning modern-day shelter. Its staff is passionate about the animals in its care. This is the time to enrich its relationship with the public through the media.
Increased outreach will lead to more community involvement at the shelter, which can increase adoptions, inspire new volunteers and fosters, and create quick response by adopters in times of overcrowding.
The Commission calls on Baltimore County to increase its transparency and its outreach to the public through the media. This can not only further enhance the shelter’s efforts to save lives, but will also give BCAS the attention it deserves for what it has accomplished in two short years.
The Commission submits this report respectfully to the Baltimore County Council and the County Executive.
6) Date and Time of Next Meeting-The Commission will hold its next meeting on Oct. 17, 2017 at 6:30 PM at the Drumcastle Building.