But here are the agenda and minutes as well.
AGENDA FOR SEPTEMBER 20, 2018 MEETING
1) CALL TO ORDER
2) ROLL CALL-In attendance were Deborah Stone Hess, Joy Freedman, Roy Plummer, Janice Vincent, Gerald Brooks, Julianne Zimmer, Larry Townsend, and Maryanne Bailey
3) APPROVAL OF MINUTES-Here are the minutes from our last meeting in July:
BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES
July 17, 2018
The thirty-first regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 in the Main Conference Room of the Drumcastle Government Center. This meeting was called to order at 6:40 p.m. by the Chair Deborah Stone-Hess. Members in attendance were: Deborah Stone-Hess, Gerald Brooks, Jon Christiana, Joy Freedman, Roy Plummer, Larry Townsend, Janice Vincent (by phone) and Julianne Zimmer.
Minutes from the June 19, 2018 meeting were motioned and approved as submitted.
Motioned by: Joy Freedman
Second by: Julianne Zimmer
Welcome New Commission Member, Gerald Brooks
Mr. Gerald Brooks was able to attend. He introduced himself and was introduced to other members. Mr. Brooks was with the Baltimore County Police Department for 33 years, retired in 2012, and is once again working with the Police Department. He was involved in assembly of the Police Department Animal Abuse Team. The Commission welcomed him. Another member of the Police Department will soon be joining the Commission as Councilman Julian Jones’s appointee. His name is Major Robert McCullough.
Animal Abuse Team
Detective Mo Gardner, Sergeant Sundia Gaynor, Detective Monica Ward, and Animal Service Officer Allan Kulbicki from the Animal Abuse Team were present and answered questions.
Q: Where are most of the calls coming from?
A: We get calls from every entity. Animal Services, State’s Attorney’s office, vets, citizens, patrol, etc. We have investigated 42 or 43 cases to date.
Q: How many approx. have been referred to the State’s Attorney’s office?
A: 8 cases that have been forwarded to the State’s Attorney’s office.
Q: Do you see more coming soon to be forwarded to the State’s Attorney’s office?
A: We are unable to project how many more cases will be forwarded.
Q: In reference to calls of dogs left in cars unattended, if a citizen calls police, it goes to dispatch?
A: For all abuse complaints that go through the patrol cars or animal services, a report is sent to the Animal Abuse Team. Unless extreme cases, Animal Abuse Team does not investigate animals locked in cars.
Q: What is the process where it took four hours for patrol to respond to a case on Wareham Rd.? (This was a case involving two dogs tethered to the fender of a vehicle with the heat index over 100 degrees that day.) When citizen call the police, what is the process for a dog tied to a jeep in this weather?
A: The process hasn’t changed. Call goes to 911 and a patrol officer is dispatched. If an animal is not in distress, Animal Services is dispatched. If Animal Services is not able to contact a resident, then the Animal Abuse Team is dispatched.
Q: What is the criteria of whether dispatching a police unit or animal services? Who makes that decision?
A: Police department responds if there is a criminal act involved, and if not, animal services is dispatched.
Q: Who decides who handles the call (i.e. police patrol unit or animal services)?
Is there a flow chart of protocol?
A: Dispatch will send call to police if criminal in nature, or to animal services. If animal services advises there is criminal activity, information is forwarded to the Animal Abuse Team. It starts with patrol like the incident on Wareham Rd. The officer felt the dogs were not in any danger, until we got wind of it and looked at all the facts and decided to further investigate.
Q: What kind of training has been given to those on the Animal Abuse Team? What kind of training is in the future for the Team?
A: All members have attended a training put on by the State’s Attorney’s office. . They will also attend horse/equine training for two days at Days End in August. No more funds are available for additional training this fiscal year. We’re going to start going to different precincts and give them information. We have drawn up an investigative guide for them. We should complete that within a month. The unit will start roll-call training possibly on Thursday this week. They will explain scenarios that they have encountered within the precincts. This should be completed in a month. Once we have more experience we’re going to do training at our academy for new recruits.
Q: With police officers now often being dispatched on animal control type calls, how comfortable and informed are patrol officers with Article 12? Like not being able to sell pups at a flea market or Oscar’s law? How is the police department going to be trained to handle the nuances of animal control? We think it’s an insurmountable task. My concern is that things will slip through the cracks.
A: As this unit becomes more familiar with what they are doing, those around them will become more knowledgeable.
Q: Do you have equipment?
A: Yes, microchip reader, stretcher, rabies shots, poles and have ordered additional supplies, such as Tyvex suits for messy situations. Once the unit determines there is a problem or issue they are unable to resolve, they will come to the Animal Services Advisory Commission for assistance.
Q: Is there anything we, as the Commission, can do to assist the Team?
A: Whatever you think would help you could do. There are a lot of people that are not aware of Oscar’s Law. Whatever you can do to spread the word would be helpful. When the Baltimore County Police Department was looking for individuals with animal background, these people stepped up to be a part of the Animal Abuse Team.
Q: Is Allan’s salary paid by Animal Services or the Police Department?
A: Allan is employed by the Baltimore County Police Department.
Normally we request the quarterly statistics from Animal Services Administration and Baltimore County’s Administrative Officer. We requested them and they were not sent. We had to go to the Maryland Department of Agriculture to get them. Here are the stats for the 2ndquarter:
MARYLAND ANIMAL CONTROL SHELTER SURVEY / 1
Name of Shelter/Facility: Baltimore County Animal Services
Address: 13800 Manor Road Baldwin, MD. 21013
Shelter Manager: Lauren Pavlik EMAIL: email@example.com Phone: 410-887-7297
Name of Person completing this survey: Gary Klunk
Activity for Reporting Quarter: April-June 2018
A. Live Animal Count at
Beginning of Quarter
B. Stray/At Large
C. Relinquished by Owner
D. Owner Requested
E. Transferred in from
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)
2NDQUARTER 2018 STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
LIVE RELEASE: OVER 95%
LIVE RELEASE OVER 92%
COMPARISON WITH SECOND QUARTER 2017
2ND Quarter 2017
2ND Quarter 2018
Euthanasia Other than Owner requested
2ND Quarter 2017
2ND Quarter 2018
Euthanasia other than Owner requested
The statistics were discussed. Owner requested euthanasia statistics were discussed from 2015 first quarter to 2018 second quarter, mentioning the extensive increase in 2018 for both dogs and cats.
Election for Commission Chair
Roy Plummer nominated Deborah Stone-Hess for re-election to the Commission Chair position. Larry Townsend seconded the motion. All agreed - none opposed. Deborah Stone-Hess will remain Commission Chair for another yearly term.
Follow-up to Email Sent to County Administrative Officer and Management Analyst from Animal Services
Questions and answers were printed and distributed to all Commission members present.
County Administrative Officer and Management Analyst from Animal Services
The County Administrative Officer and the Management Analyst of Animal Services declined to attend tonight’s meeting.
Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location
The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 20, 2018 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rdfloor, Main Conference Room at 6:30 p.m.
Motion to adjourn
Motion by: Roy Plummer
Second by: Joy Freedman
Adjourned at 7:42 p.m.
5) MEETING WITH COUNTY EXECUTIVE DON MOHLER AND SUBSEQUENT MEETING WITH KEVIN LOEB-Julianne, Deborah, and Joy met with County Executive Don Mohler to discuss all of our concerns.
6) RECENT ANIMAL CONTROL ISSUES-There have been numerous problems that have occurred as the result of the county's transfer of Animal Control duties to the police department. They are included in our annual report.
7) ANNUAL REPORT-The Commission voted to submit its third annual report to the County Council and County Executive. Jon Christiana who was not able to attend the meeting emailed in advance he wished to abstain. gerald Brooks also abstained. Everyone else present voted in favor or submitting the report. It is below.
8) ANY OTHER BUSINESS? No
9) ANNOUNCEMENT OF NEXT MEETING DATE AND TIME-Oct. 16 at 6:30 PM in the Drumcastle Building
Third Annual Report of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission
Table of Contents
III. What’s Happening to Animal Control?
IV. TNR Concerns
V. A Dangerous Policy-The Affidavit
VI. BCAS Salaries
VII. Why is the Team Shelter USA Report so Different From This Report?
VIII. Conclusions and Recommendations
This is a tale of two sides of Baltimore County Animal Services.
On one side is a shelter that has accomplished many important things over the last two years. It reports high live release rates. It operates a valuable spay/neuter program reaching many low-income residents. It has increased participation in its volunteer program. It provides necessary enrichment, and embraces the life-saving concept of Trap Neuter Return (TNR).
The other side of BCAS is Animal Control, and this part of Animal Services is in crisis. BCAS has abdicated almost all of its Animal Control duties, transferring responsibility for them to the Baltimore County Police Department, whose officers have not been trained for these duties. Serious problems are occurring that need to be addressed.
The Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission has looked into numerous practices at BCAS, particularly those involving Animal Control and Trap Neuter Return (TNR), and we have some grave concerns.
It’s surely difficult to make sense of criticism when such high live release numbers suggest that all is well at BCAS.
Indeed, numbers are very important. But success must be measured in more than just statistics. Animal Services must also place extreme importance on methods, outcomes, animal welfare, and protecting citizens and pets from dangerous animals as set forth in Article 12 of Baltimore County code.
For two years in 2016 and 2017, Commission members worked closely with BCAS. Our Liaison Committee (currently made up of Deborah Stone Hess, Julianne Zimmer, and Joy Freedman) met monthly with the Baltimore County Chief Administrative Officer, the Baltimore County Animal Services (BCAS) Management Analyst, and the Chief of Animal Services.
During that time, the Commission issued two highly laudatory annual reports, and we believed we had a relationship built on trust with BCAS.
But when a dog named Oscar froze to death in his yard in Baltimore County, the dynamic instantly shifted.
We attempted to learn the facts about the Oscar incident. We requested a Liaison Committee meeting with the Baltimore County Chief Administrative Officer, the BCAS Management Analyst, and the Chief of Animal Services. These were logical requests, as our Commission is tasked with gathering information in an advisory capacity.
The County Administrative Officer refused to meet, and our questions went unanswered. He then retaliated against us for requesting information by shutting us out and terminating our monthly meetings at the shelter.
Until then, we had accepted all facts provided by BCAS at face value, and saw no reason to press further.
But the County Administrative Officer’s extreme response and lack of transparency led us to question whether all information provided to us was accurate, and whether problems were being hidden from our view. We began looking further.
In that process, we listened to citizens of Baltimore County and professional members of the animal welfare community who approached us with questions and concerns pertaining to BCAS.
We also spoke with leaders of Animal Service Divisions in multiple Maryland counties, administrators at the Maryland Health Department, TNR experts in our area, citizens concerned about dangerous dogs in their neighborhoods, and numerous present and former BCAS employees (including managers, staff, and veterinarians).
We do not wish to jeopardize the relationships BCAS has with other jurisdictions’ shelters. Their administrators value their relationship with Baltimore County’s Animal Services Division. They spoke with us merely to answer questions about how they operate, not to be critical of BCAS.
As a result, we do not specifically name other shelters’ leaders with whom we spoke.
We also do not identify current and former BCAS employees we interviewed, as all expressed fear of retribution. One could claim they merely have an ax to grind. But they all told such similar stories and we have so much corroboration, we believe these people are very credible.
We present our findings in this annual report, and submit it respectfully to members of the Baltimore County Council and the Baltimore County Executive.
In doing so, we request that Baltimore County look into practices we outline in this report, consider our recommendations, and determine appropriate actions that will add to BCAS’s success.
Oscar and his owner were well known for many years to Baltimore County Animal Services. According to a case summary prepared by the Baltimore County Administration, BCAS received 22 complaints (from citizens concerned about Oscar’s welfare) from 2009 until he died at the end of 2017.
Five complaints date to a few months before Oscar died. One came just three weeks before his death.
According to the County Administration case summary, BCAS determined that Oscar was fine because a doggie door allowed him to go in or out as he wished.
The last citizen call about Oscar’s welfare came on Dec. 30, 2017 at 8:12 A.M., with the temperature hovering around 20 degrees and with snow on the ground.
This photo of Oscar lying motionless in his yard was posted on Facebook.
When that call came in to Animal Control, BCAS personnel did not physically respond. Instead BCAS called Oscar’s owner on his cell phone, and accepted his promise to bring the dog in. But it appears Oscar’s owner was, in fact, unable to do this because he was out of town at the time.
The dog owner’s father told police he went to check on Oscar (and another dog that resides at the same address) after 6 PM that day (approximately 10 hours after the call to BCAS), and found Oscar in the yard, unable to stand. Oscar died later that night.
Four days later the Baltimore County Administration put out a statement saying that Oscar died of natural causes, and there was no wrongdoing in his death. At the time, a police investigation was still ongoing. The Administration’s statement was not only premature, it was ultimately proven false.
In the end, the truth came out. After a necropsy, Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore of Forensic Veterinary Investigations determined that Oscar died of hypothermia, and that he suffered from muscle wasting and arthritis.
Dr. Blackmore is a research assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. She’s also the Chair of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Committee and past President of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.
Based on her conclusions, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney charged Oscar’s owner with animal cruelty and making false statements to police. We do not yet have all the information on this case because it has not yet been heard in court. The court date is set for Oct. 16, 2018.
BCAS actions raise two grave concerns that must be addressed to avoid a repeat of the Oscar case.
1) BCAS should have gone to Oscar’s home upon receiving the call on Dec. 30, 2017.
Directors of other nearby Maryland Animal Control Divisions told us, that in cases where a complainant is concerned about the welfare of an animal, their Officers always respond.
2) Baltimore County Animal Control Officers did not notice Oscar’s deteriorating condition over time.
Dr. Smith-Blackmore, who issued findings in Oscar’s death, raised this concern in her report, saying, “Oscar had lost 23% of his body weight from his peak condition when he died. A dog’s body condition especially that of a dog with a fluffy hair coat, cannot be evaluated without a hands-on assessment. In over a dozen calls to police and Baltimore County Animal Control, Oscar’s fitness to be outdoors in inclement weather was not reported to be investigated through a hands-on assessment or mandated veterinary exam.”
This does not appear to be the fault of BCAS Animal Control Officers, but rather appears due to a lack of training, according to the Director of Animal Control in a nearby Maryland jurisdiction.
Another Animal Control Director told us that, with furry animals, putting hands on is critical, and their officers are trained to make such assessments. This Animal Control Director adds, “It would be negligent if they didn’t.”
Oscar’s case provides a teaching moment. The goal is not to criticize, but rather to recognize where things went wrong, and work to insure this kind of tragedy does not reoccur.
Instead it appears the risk of future Oscars has grown, due to the decision to transfer the majority of Animal Control responsibilities to Baltimore County Police.
III. What’s Happening to Animal Control?
Baltimore County Animal Services has dismantled its Animal Control Division.
The majority of Animal Control’s duties have been transferred to the Baltimore County Police Department. This puts both Police Officers and animals at risk because Officers are untrained in responding to these kinds of calls.
This unexpected and unreported transfer of duties is not only unprecedented in large jurisdictions with Animal Control Divisions, it is causing serious problems that are not the fault of the Police Department..
Here are four problems that unfolded within two and a half months of the implementation of the July 1, 2018 transfer of Animal Control responsibilities to Baltimore County Police:
• 2 pet dogs described as pit bulls in Halethorpe killed a neighbor's cat. Residents called 911 and Baltimore County Animal Control.
An employee of Animal Control told neighbors Animal Control could not do anything until a complainant provided a notarized affidavit. (We will deal with affidavit requirements later in this report.) A police officer responded, and told one neighbor if the dogs were in the front yard or out of the yard unsupervised within the next 10 days, residents should call Animal Control and the police again. Within weeks, another incident occurred. The 2 dogs and 2 others were running wild in the neighborhood. The dogs’ owners ultimately retrieved the dogs, and when one attempted to get away, its owner was seen punching the dog in the face.
Neighborhood residents called police who responded, and promised that Animal Control would be notified and would receive a copy of the police report. Days later, a husband and wife in the neighborhood pulled into their driveway. All 4 dogs were loose and surrounded their vehicle, and the couple could not get out of their vehicle until the dogs’ owners once again got them back inside their home. On another occasion, an elderly neighbor was menaced by the dogs. To this date, there has been no action from Animal Control. Residents of the neighborhood are terrified.
• A woman was asked by a neighbor to care for his cats because he was in the hospital for an extended stay. In his home, he had 16 cats. She found the home in filthy conditions. When she called BCAS, they told her it was her responsibility to bring the 17 cats to the shelter herself. How did they expect her to catch and transport 17 cats that did not even belong to her? After days of frustration, this citizen could not get help. Baltimore County Police got involved. They spoke with administrators at BCAS numerous times, and requested assistance. BCAS management refused. BCAS finally responded to the scene but refused to enter the home to help police trap the cats. The Animal Abuse Team was forced to respond to this incident, even though they are an investigatory unit and are not equipped to handle hoarding situations. Conditions in the home were so terrible, the Team was forced to purchase face masks, and hazardous condition clothing. Police were called to a home because someone had tethered two dogs to the fender of a vehicle during one of the hottest weeks of the summer. Responding officers, not knowing about Oscar’s Law, determined the dogs had adequate shelter because they had crawled under the vehicle to escape the sun.
• A citizen reported a dog in a vehicle on a summer weekend day. Its owner had cracked the window a bit and left the car. Police responded, but took no action and advised the citizen to call the Animal Abuse Team on Monday.
Surely these dangerous situations will multiply as Animal Control continues to abdicate its responsibilities under Article 12, expecting Police to do the job of Animal Control. When this transfer of duties took place in July, 2018, it seemed sudden, but, in fact, it appears to be the final step in a process that began two years ago. That’s when BCAS managers reportedly implemented policies preventing Animal Control Officers (ACO’s) from investigating cases of cruelty and neglect.
Several former Baltimore County Animal Control Officers say they were forbidden from pursuing these cases or contacting the State’s Attorney’s Animal Abuse Unit. This claim appears to be borne out by the fact that BCAS sent fewer than a dozen cases of cruelty, abuse or neglect to the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office during this two-year period. Strangely, a 2018 Progress Report provided by Baltimore County indicates that BCAS handled a total of 4302 cruelty cases in 2016-2017. If this number is accurate, BCAS sent only 0.27% of these cases to the State’s Attorney. This is an alarmingly low number, particularly in a jurisdiction the size of Baltimore County.
With over 831,000 residents, Baltimore County is larger than Baltimore City (approximately 620,000 residents) and Howard County (approximately 320,000 residents). Yet Animal Control Divisions in these jurisdictions send a much larger percentage of cases of abuse, neglect and cruelty to their State’s Attorney’s offices.
Baltimore City Animal Control receives 4500 calls a year for animals in danger or at risk, and sends approximately100 of them to its State’s Attorney’s office. That’s 2.2%.
Out of 127 calls for cruelty, neglect or abuse in 2017, Howard County Animal Control forwarded 10-15 cases to its State’s Attorney. That’s approximately 10%.
Here are two cases Baltimore County Animal Control Officers wanted (but were not allowed) to pursue.
• An Animal Control Officer, responding to a complaint, found an animal that was “skin and bones” with terribly infected eyes. Here is a picture of that dog:
The ACO tracked down the dog’s owner, and wanted to investigate what appeared to be a case of serious neglect, but says the BCAS Management Analyst and Chief of Animal Services refused to allow it.
• In another case, a citizen asked to have his dead dog transported for disposal at BCAS. This is a picture of that dog and its alarming condition.
Once again, no investigation took place.
Animal Control Officers say they were also sometimes not allowed to remove animals from dangerous situations, like a dog left on a balcony for several days or one (seen below) that was tied to a four-foot chain without food or water.
Why would BCAS administrators implement these policies? We don’t know. We surmise that they wanted to keep intake as low as possible, so as not to affect live release numbers. This conclusion seems plausible because numbers appear to play such a vital role in BCAS decision-making.
For example, we’ve received information on 11 cases where BCAS has been notified by the public of the whereabouts of found stray pets, but BCAS failed to follow up by contacting the finder to inform them of a mandatory surrender law for strays. This law requires citizens who find a stray to turn it in to BCAS for a three-day stray hold period so that owners can find their pets.
In light of these reported failures, it is good news that the Baltimore County Police Department created an Animal Abuse Team on May 1st, 2018. Their task is to investigate suspected cases of abuse, neglect, and cruelty. The staff appear dedicated and motivated.
It is important to note that this Team is not designed to handle day-to-day Animal Control issues. Those issues should be handled by Animal Control.
But, as mentioned above, on July 1, 2018 BCAS pushed many of these routine Animal Control duties onto the Police Department too.
Animal Control is a job that requires preparation and training. Other nearby Maryland jurisdictions provide 6 months of training to teach new Animal Control Officers the safest protocols in dealing with potentially dangerous animals and situations. Baltimore County Police Officers received no such training.
An Animal Services Division should be made up of two equal parts:
1) A well-operating shelter
2) A highly trained Animal Control Division
It appears that BCAS wants only to handle the county’s animal shelter.
It is dangerous to push Animal Control’s obligations onto the Police Department. Its members have enough responsibilities. Add to that the real possibility that some Officers may be unfamiliar with or even fearful of animals. This creates a very real possibility of injury for a Police Officer.
For the welfare of Baltimore County’s police and animals, this decision should be reversed.
IV. TNR CONCERNS
For years, animal advocates encouraged BCAS to embrace Trap Neuter Return (TNR), which the ASPCA describes as “the only proven humane and effective method to manage community cat colonies.” Through TNR, community cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, ear tipped (so they can be identified as having been TNR’d) and returned to the place where they were originally trapped. To its credit, BCAS launched a TNR pilot program, then later expanded it and hired a TNR Coordinator. But BCAS implementation of TNR does not follow nationally accepted best practices.
• Returning cats as far as ½ mile away from where they were originally trapped (In other jurisdictions, this is considered abandonment.)
• Returning some cats too soon after surgery
• Failing to provide for other medical needs of TNR’d cats, as other area TNR programs routinely do
Let’s address each of the concerns listed above:
Returning cats too far from where they were originally trapped
TNR’d cats must never be returned more than 300 feet from where they were trapped so they can find their source of shelter and food. This is confirmed by Best Friends Animal Society, nationally recognized as the authority on animal issues.
But according to the County Administrative Officer, “If a property owner does not want the cat returned to their property, we typically look for the caregiver within 1⁄2 mile of the property where the cat was trapped. That distance is impacted by barriers such as major roads, waterways and fences.”
Cats cannot navigate major roads, waterways, and fences to get back to their caregivers, particularly if the distance is ½ mile away or more.
TNR experts say if cats are returned to an unfamiliar area, they face difficulties finding shelter, food and water. They’re vulnerable to predators. And if they’re lost, they often roam miles away and could starve or succumb to the elements.
Returning some cats too soon after surgery
The Management Analyst at BCAS has told the Commission that Baltimore County returns all TNR cats one day after spay or neuter surgery.
TNR experts agree it’s perfectly safe to return many cats 24 hours after surgery, but say that some cats should be held longer before return.
The MD SPCA policy is that all females and older male cats should be held 48+ hours.
A TNR expert in the Baltimore area says pregnant cats, particularly those in the third trimester, require a larger spay incision and should be kept for observation for at least two days, to ensure the incision is healing properly.
Failing to provide for the medical needs of TNR’d cats
The BCAS Management Analyst has informed us that BCAS does not provide medical care beyond the basic TNR package. When asked about this, the County Administrative Officer has told Commission members BCAS is concerned primarily with quantity when it comes to TNR.
But other TNR programs place equal importance on quality. They routinely offer medical treatment for cats that are sick or injured when they are brought in for TNR.
For example, BARCS and the MD SPCA often treat TNR cats for problems like upper respiratory infections, and even perform amputations, remove infected eyes, and give injectable antibiotics.
The point of TNR is to provide a humane solution to the problem of community cats. Returning cats too far from the trapping point, too soon after surgery, and without needed medical care is not humane.
VI. A Dangerous Policy-The Affidavit
As stated earlier in this report, before BCAS will begin an investigation into any complaint, including one involving an attacking dog, the victim must file a notarized affidavit.
We checked with numerous jurisdictions (Anne Arundel County, Howard County, Harford County, Carroll County, Prince Georges County, Talbot County, Montgomery County and Baltimore City) to find out whether they have such a requirement.
None of these 8 counties require a notarized affidavit to launch an investigation. And there are good reasons why.
The Administrator of another Maryland jurisdiction’s Animal Control Division says, quite often, a person doesn’t want to file an affidavit because they’re intimidated by the animal’s owner, and says, “Our (Animal Control) Officers… interview the victim...and that’s enough to prove the incident occurred.”
The Director of another Maryland Animal Control Division says, “Requiring an affidavit creates obstacles for the victim who might not have transportation to a notary’s office or the money to pay for that service.”
And a third Animal Control Director says that requiring an affidavit would be “a deterrent for the public to call in” because they wouldn’t want to “go through the legwork on their end.”
Requiring an affidavit delays investigation and action to protect the public and their pets.
VII. BCAS Salaries
Because BCAS is a county agency, taxpayer dollars are paying for its operation. So, it’s concerning that BCAS management salaries far outpace those paid in surrounding jurisdictions.
The following chart of BCAS salaries was provided to us by Baltimore County Administrative Officer.
(I APOLOGIZE. THIS CHART WILL NOT REPRODUCE ON THIS BLOG PAGE.)
The person in charge of BCAS is the Chief of Animal Services. We cannot determine her salary because the salary for Chief AS (Chief of Animal Services) is listed as “0”.
One would assume the Chief of Animal Services makes the largest salary at BCAS. But the person earning the largest salary is designated as Senior Administrative Assistant to the CAO (County Administrative Officer). We have been unable to get an answer as to whether the Chief of Animal Services holds this position and, if so, why she would be designated in this way.
The recommended salary for that position in FY 2019 is $187,662. That appears to be higher than the salary for the Baltimore County Executive listed online as $175,000.
There are actually two people in charge at BCAS, the Chief of Animal Services and the Management Analyst, the person who would appear to be in charge of Animal Control.
The salary for this position is also confusing. There are two different Management Analyst positions listed, Management Analyst IV and Management Analyst FT.
In FY 2018, there is no salary listed for Management Analyst IV, but in FY 2019, the salary for that position is $106, 801.
The salary for Management Analyst FT is $109,214 in FY 2018 but there is no salary listed for this position in FY 2019. If both of these positions are held by the same person, his salary would have gone down in 2019 over 2018, which seems unlikely.
Unlike BCAS, some nearby Maryland jurisdictions have only one person in charge of both the shelter and Animal Control.
In Anne Arundel County, that person earns $83,000 a year. In Howard County, the person in that position earns $90,000 a year.
If the Chief of Animal Service’s salary is that of the Senior Administrative Officer to the CAO at $187,662, it appears the two people running BCAS cumulatively are making almost $300,000 annually in FY 2019.
As for other salaries, there are five veterinarian positions earning a total of $741,289. That would mean each veterinarian is earning an average of $148,257.80 a year in FY 2019. A former BCAS veterinarian who made $133,000 a year before leaving BCAS, describes that salary as “insane,” saying even veterinarians in private practice were making less.
We recommend an examination of positions and salaries at BCAS.
VIII. Why is the Team Shelter USA Report so Different From This One?
In early 2018, Baltimore County released the “Baltimore County Animal Services 2018 Progress Report,” prepared by Team Shelter USA. It provides an unconditional endorsement of BCAS.
Team Shelter USA is a private company created by Dr. Sara Pizano, DVM, MA, who used to work with an organization called Target Zero, which offers many shelter assessments at no charge. Target Zero provided a free assessment for BCAS in April, 2016. Target Zero still conducts assessments for shelters, and also offers a no-charge web-based interactive analysis option.
We spoke with an administrator of Target Zero and learned it is still in existence. But BCAS did not work through Target Zero for this progress report. Instead it paid Dr. Pizano’s Team Shelter USA $11,000 plus expenses for an assessment that offered little constructive advice. We spoke with Dr. Pizano, who told us the main recommendation she made to BCAS was to be open to the public for adoptions 7 days a week. This Commission made that same recommendation in its first report in 2016, and again in our 2017 annual report. Dr. Pizano’s report includes questionable facts and statistics that appear to have been provided to her by BCAS.
For example, the report states that BCAS handled 2023 cruelty investigations in 2016 and 2279 cruelty investigations in 2017. These numbers are difficult to reconcile with the facts. As stated earlier in this report, we know that BCAS sent fewer than a dozen cases of cruelty, abuse or neglect to the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office during those two years. That would amount to less than 0.3% of cruelty cases BCAS claims to have handled during that time. We know that Howard County sent approximately 10% of its cruelty cases to its State’s Attorney in 2017, and Baltimore City sends over 2% of its cases to its State’s Attorney each year.
If Baltimore County had sent 2% of its cases, it would have referred 86 cases to the State’s Attorney instead of fewer than 12 total over a two-year period.
We have questions about many other facts presented in the Team Shelter USA Report as well. We also question the judgment of paying $11,000 of taxpayer money for it. Its only major recommendation was the same one we made in our last two annual reports, which cost the taxpayers nothing.
The Team Shelter USA Progress report appears to simply be a PR document.
VIII. Conclusions and Recommendations
Here’s a summary of our most pressing concerns at BCAS:
1) BCAS is gutting its Animal Control Division, after two years of failing to properly perform Animal Control tasks. The majority of these duties have now been transferred to the Police Department. Police Officers are unprepared and untrained for these responsibilities, and should not have to add them to the long list of duties they have in keeping our communities safe.
2) The BCAS TNR program does not adhere to nationally recognized best practices, and, among other things, releases cats too far from where they were trapped.
3) BCAS requires victims to file a notarized affidavit before any investigation can begin, a policy that puts citizens and animals in the community at risk, and one that is not used by other Maryland jurisdictions.
4) BCAS salaries are exceptionally high compared to salaries paid by Animal Services Divisions in other Maryland jurisdictions.
5) BCAS operations are completely non-transparent.
In addition to these problems, we also found evidence that:
• BCAS needs to examine its procedures concerning dangerous dogs in the community. The Commission has evidence of a dog that inflicted serious damage in an attack that BCAS designated as menacing rather than dangerous. The case never went before the Baltimore County Animal Hearing Board.
• BCAS fails to properly enforce a county law requiring that all stray animals go to BCAS, where their owners might find them during a stray-hold period.
• Despite having an extraordinary Volunteer Coordinator who is universally praised by volunteers, volunteers say they feel disrespected, unappreciated and disregarded by management at BCAS.
• Every employee and former employee with whom we spoke described a toxic working atmosphere created by management at BCAS, where employees constantly fear for their jobs.
In light of all we have shared here, we urge the following actions:
• A recreation of a fully functioning Animal Control Division within BCAS
• A full audit of BCAS including grants it receives and provides-This audit should be performed by individuals who are independent of the shelter or the County Administrative office
• Examination of policies concerning dangerous dogs
• Elimination of the policy that requires complainants to file a notarized affidavit
• A review of the BCAS TNR program, and consideration of appropriate county legislation that could eliminate difficulties faced by BCAS in returning TNR’d cats
• A review of management/employee/volunteer relations at BCAS.
BCAS is filled with many caring employees who do everything they can for the animals there.
In addition, BCAS has made many great strides and reports high live release rates over the last two years.
But numbers are only one part of the puzzle. Full success includes placing equal importance on animal welfare, and must include success in Animal Control.
The death of Oscar raised serious concerns, and made it clear that there is no transparency at BCAS.
Transparency is the reason the County Council created our Commission. Now we find ourselves even more in the dark as BCAS and Fred Homan have shut the door on our members.
Transparency must be part of the goal going forward.
We believe numerous BCAS policies and procedures warrant review.
We can prevent another Oscar crisis if Baltimore County conducts that review and takes recommended steps.
The Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission requests meetings with the County Council and County Administration to discuss our findings. In addition to all that is provided here, we have additional information and documentation, not been included in this report, which we would like to share.
This report is hereby submitted by the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission.