Sunday, February 24, 2019

February 19, 2019 meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission

Hi, everyone. I apologize for the delay in posting this. We covered a tremendous amount in our February meeting.
Here is a summary.

                        February 19, 2019 meeting
                                 Baltimore County
               Animal Services Advisory Commission
                                           AGENDA
                                   

1. Call to Order
2. Roll Call (Determination of a Quorum)-In attendance were Deborah Stone Hess, Joy Freedman, Larry Townsend, Janice Vincent, Roy Plummer, Ann Gearhart, Gerald Brooks and Julianne Zimmer (by phone)
3. Approval of Jan., 2019 Minutes-

Here are the January minutes as approved:

BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES
ADVISORY COMMISSION
January 15, 2019

The thirty-fifth regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, January 15, 2019 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, Gerald Brooks, Joy Freedman, Ann Gearhart, Roy Plummer, Larry Townsend, Janice Vincent and Julianne Zimmer.

Minutes

Minutes from the December 4, 2018 meeting were motioned and approved as submitted. 
Ann Gearhart asked for a change of language in the first sentence under the title of Statistics indicating that it is not certain that the statistics are being manipulated but rather that the Commission has information that this is taking place. There was a vote on the motion. 

Motion Failed

Motion to approve the minutes as submitted – 

Motioned by: Joy Freedman
Second by: Julianne Zimmer
Abstained: Ann Gearhart 
The rest of the Commission voted to approve the minutes as submitted
Decision:  Approved

Owner Requested Euthanasia

There was discussion about documents concerning owner requested euthanasia (ORE) that was supplied by BCAS upon the Commission’s request. The Commission requested the documents because of questions as to why the number of ORE had jumped so dramatically. BCAS supplied over 800 documents, so Deborah was unable to review them all. Many of the cases appeared to be as one would expect involving pets that were old and sick. However, some appeared questionable, as did one case concerning an unaltered 2-year old English Mastiff named Cole. Information from Cole’s owner indicated that the dog had playfully bitten a family member when it was one year old, but the skin was not broken. The document later referenced aggression and referred to two bite incidents. But nothing was documented about the second bite. On one form asking whether the owner was requesting euthanasia, the box for “no” was checked, then crossed out and the “yes” box was checked.
There were also cases involving several kittens brought in together that were in very bad health and appeared to possibly be victims of severe neglect. However, the Commission learned that this case was never forwarded to the State’s Attorney’s Animal Abuse Unit. 

Oscar

The Oscar case has been resolved with a plea deal for Oscar’s owner. He pled guilty to one count of failure to provide shelter. He received PBJ, 6 months probation, a $500 fine, a fine of $2300 to pay the forensic vet in the case, and he cannot possess animals for 3 years.

Guinea Pigs

At the Commission’s last meeting, members requested more information on the number of guinea pigs that were euthanized out of a group of 60 that came into BCAS in October of 2018. BCAS had planned to take some of those guinea pigs to a snake farm in Pennsylvania to be used as snake food, but BCAS employees brought the guinea pigs back to BCAS after an outcry from BCAS staff. Of the 60 guinea pigs that were surrendered on October 1, 34 went to a rescue and 20 were euthanized. The remaining 6 were adopted. 

Failure to Quickly Post Photos of Animals on Stray Hold

A letter from Donna Metlin was shared with the commission. Donna administers a Baltimore County lost and found page online. She has documented numerous animals that have not been promptly posted on the BCAS website. This is of concern because there is a three day stray hold period. Any delay in posting reduces the amount of time an owner has to find their missing pet before it goes onto the adoptable floor at the shelter.  Donna has also found cases where the location of where an animal has been found is not correct.

In one case, a woman’s pet Rottweiler went missing. The owner called animal services and employees told her to check the website. There were two Rottweilers at BCAS, and one was, in fact, her dog. But someone at BCAS had mistakenly posted the same picture for both of the. The picture was of the second Rottweiler, not the one belonging to the woman. She asked to see the dogs on stray hold, and was not allowed to do so, as owners are not allowed into the stray hold room at BCAS, nor are they allowed to see the animals on stray hold. After the three day stray hold period, her dog went onto the adoptable floor. Luckily an animal advocate realized what had happened and ultimately the woman did get her dog back.
This could have been completely avoided if members of the public were allowed to see animals on stray hold.
Other shelters in our area allow people to see stray hold animals.

Deb, Julianne and Joy want to find out why there is a policy to forbid the public from seeing animals on stray hold.

Joy again said we need to see all BCAS SOP’s.


Releasing Information to Prior Pet Owner

Management Analyst, for BCAS, called a woman who had adopted a dog from BCAS and told her that the dog’s previous owner had filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to get the information of his dog’s adopter.
Klunk advised her that her personal information was going to be given to the previous owner. 
This contradicts what Commission members have been told in the past which indicated that personal info on adopters would never be given to a previous owner. Deborah reached out to the attorney that works in the County Council office. He then contacted the County Attorney who agreed not to release the information. 
Ann is to check with other agencies within Maryland to see if such information would be released under a Freedom of Information Act request. 

Spay/Neuter on Second Impound

Animals on second impound must be spayed or neutered before BCAS will release them back to their owners, however, the owner of a Yorkie that was on second impound did not want her animal altered and Commission members have been told that she took her complaint to the Director of Health and Human Services, Baltimore County, and he allowed the dog to be released back to her without being altered. There was extensive discussion about this and many Commission members expressed concern about someone being allowed to avoid this rule, which is intended to reduce animal overpopulation. Commission members believe the rule should always be enforced.

Dog Adopted to Elderly Man

A dog at BCAS that was extremely difficult to handle was adopted out to an elderly man who was not capable of handling the dog, He subsequently brought the dog back after receiving numerous bites. 
There was discussion about the importance of counseling adopters to adopt pets that are appropriate for them. 
Commission members want to know more about the number of animals that are returned to BCAS after adoption.

Quarterly Statistics

Commission members reviewed BCAS statistics from the 4th quarter of 2018. 


Meeting with Administration

Darla, Joy, Julianne, and Deb met with Sam O’Neil, administrative senior advisor, from the County Executive’s Office to discuss the Commission’s findings in its most recent annual report and addendum

Volunteers Request

Shelter volunteers requested that the weight of the dog be placed on the kennel cards at BCAS. They were advised by shelter staff that this would have to be approved by the Baltimore County legal department.

Health Certificates for Animals Going to Rescue

When dogs or cats are sent to rescues, Commission members have been told by representatives of rescue organizations, who wish to remain anonymous, that BCAS does not provide a healthy pet certificate. Commission members are checking on this.

Volunteer Question

Can BCAS turn down adopters?
The Commission is checking to find out under what circumstances someone will be refused adoption. 

Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 19, 2018 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rd floor, Main Conference Room at 6:30 p.m.

Adjournment

Motion to adjourn
Motion by: Julianne Zimmer
Second by: Roy Plummer
Motion approved.

Adjourned at 7:50 p.m.

At the start of this meeting, there was once again discussion about obtaining SOP's for BCAS. Last year BCAS provided its SOP's. However, they appeared to be more policies than actual procedures. Gerald Brooks has said on several occasions he would ask for the SOP's for us, but has not yet been able to obtain them. Gerald said he is communicating with Animal Svcs. to see how we can get access to the SOP's.

4. Police/Health Dept. Meeting-Gerald Brooks-Gerald attended a meeting with members of the Baltimore County Animal Abuse Team and representatives of BCAS. Gerald summarized what took place, saying that the meeting's purpose was to go over what some duties were, who was responsible for what and tried to develop a more cohesive relationship with Animal Svcs. and the Animal Abuse Team. They talked about where calls were coming from, how calls were coming in and who would respond to what calls. Gerald said nothing was decided, but some internal issues involving staffing and other things were resolved.
Deborah spoke with Sgt. Sundia Gaynor of the Animal Abuse Team after the Commission meeting. He said, "BCAS and the Animal Abuse Team have been increasing communication and addressing issues that will benefit all stakeholders involved to better care for the animals in Baltimore County."
Sgt. Gaynor and Gerald Brooks say another meeting will be held soon to continue discussions.

Gerald was asked what his title is in the Police Dept. He said he is Assistant to the Chief of Police.

5. Website Postings Update-At our last Commission meeting, Commission members discussed a letter from Donna Metlin who manages a Lost and Found Pets in Baltimore County website. Donna expressed concern that some stray animals' photos are not posted promptly online by BCAS. Since there is only a three day stray hold before stray animals go onto the adoptable floor, this is of real concern because any delay would shorten the amount of time pet owners have to find their missing pets. Deborah provided an update from Donna who says that there are still issues ongoing, that strays are sometimes posted a day or more after they come in to BCAS, and that an incorrect picture of one cat was posted for two days.
These are real issues because the public is not allowed to see animals on stray hold at BCAS and are always told to check the website for photos.
Deborah has requested clarification from Baltimore County officials as to what the policy is concerning stray hold animals and the public and why the public is not allowed in the stray hold room.

6. Baltimore Sun/ Towson Times article-There was an extensive article in the Baltimore Sun and Towson Times in January that lent credence to the Commission's findings that Baltimore County Animal Services pressures those surrendering animals to sign a form requesting euthanasia so that any euthanasia of these animals will not count against BCAS's live release rate.

7. Asilomar Accords-Deborah provided information on the Asilomar Accords. We have been told by Baltimore County that BCAS began recording data according to the Asilomar Accords in 2015. But according to the Asilomar Accords, the only euthanasia that should not be counted against a shelter's live release rate is the euthanasia of animals that are "unhealthy and untreatable." If BCAS is using a request by an owner to euthanize as an excuse to euthanize an animal that is healthy and treatable by definitions provided in the Asilomar Accords, it is not in accordance with the Accords.

8. Dog Introduction Video-A video was posted on the BCAS Facebook page of the BCAS Behavior Coordinator introducing a dog to another dog at the shelter. Joy Freedman who is a behaviorist and dog trainer said the method that was used to introduce the dogs went against everything that a behaviorist would do when introducing two dogs. Deborah reached out to another behaviorist in our area to have him watch the video and comment and he echoed Joy's concerns saying, "Very sad. They did nothing correctly You never intro dogs face to face on a tight leash with corrections. That is setting up the dogs  for failure."

9. Need for TNR Law-Deborah talked about BCAS's policy of returning TNR'd cats sometimes as far as 1/2 to a mile away from the trapping point. It appears this happens in cases where property owners where the cats were trapped  don't want the cats back on their property.
Returning TNR'd cats to the trapping location is critical so that cats can find their source of water, food, and shelter.Baltimore City has laws that require TNR'd cats to be "return the trapped Community Cats to their original location." Deborah wants to explore the possibility of creating legislation for Baltimore County that mimics the city's legislation.
Julianne discussed her concerns that TNR'd cats in Baltimore County's program receive no additional medical treatment beyond the basic TNR package. Very often this means cats are returned with health problems that will cause suffering and possibly death.

10. Upcoming Meeting with County Rep-Deborah, Joy and Animal Advocate Darla Feeheley will meet soon again with Sam O'Neill who is in Johnny O's administration. That meeting will take place in early March after the county has completed its audit of BCAS which is supposed to conclude at the end of February.

11. Any Other Business? Janice Vincent said she spoke at the District 6 Town Hall meeting on February 7th about the "ongoing perceived serious issues at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter."  She mentioned that there are many employees/former employees volunteers and rescue participants who want to share their experiences but feel they need a private environment in which to do so. She said that Johnny O felt they could do so in a private meeting or in private phone calls. He told her she would be receive contact info for someone on his Operation Excellence Team. She reached out to the District 6 Outreach Coordinator  who said he would like permission to share her information with the audit team. He also provided an email that those wishing to remain anonymous could use. The email address is ideas@baltimorecountymd.gov.

12. Announcement of Date and Time of Next Meeting-The Commission's next meeting will not be held on its normal date or in its usual location. It will instead take place on March 12 at 6:30 PM. The Drumcastle Conference Room is not available on that date. We are looking for another location to hold the meeting.

13. Adjournment