Thursday, March 14, 2019

March 2019 Meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission

Hello, all,
Here is a summary of the Commission's March meeting.

            AGENDA
                                      March 12, 2019

1. Call to Order
2. Roll Call-Determination of a Quorum-In attendance were Deborah Stone Hess, Roy Plummer, Ann Gearhart, Larry Townsend, Janice Vincent (by phone) and Julianne Zimmer (by phone).

3. Approval of minutes-Here are the minutes as approved:

BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES
ADVISORY COMMISSION
February 19, 2019

The thirty-sixth regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, February 19, 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 (by phone).

Minutes

Minutes from the January 15, 2019 meeting were motioned and approved with changes.

Motion – 

Motioned by: Larry Townsend
Second by: Anne Gearhart
Decision:  Approved

Police/Health Department Meeting

Gerald Brooks was invited to participate in a meeting between the Animal Abuse Team and Animal Services. He was invited as a member of the department and as a commission member.  
The meeting’s aim was to develop a more cohesive relationship and to discuss division of responsibilities. Calls come thru 911, police department and animal services, and the goal is to figure out how to funnel these calls into one place. Gerald said all emergency calls need to go through 911. 
Deb asked if Animal Services is ever the first responder in any of the calls that come in. Gerald said that in most cases, the patrol officer responds to the call first, and a determination is made at that point to have Animal Services respond after an assessment of triage is conducted of the facts and evidence available. 
 If it is not a criminal offense, abuse or neglect, then Animal Services would respond. 
Gerald advised that the meeting lasted for about 30 minutes to one hour and they will meet again. Attendees included Dr. Jones, Gary Klunk, and members of the Animal Abuse Team.
Two members of the Animal Abuse team attended the Commission meeting. Officer Mo Gardner said everything is going well. He did not have statistics (numbers of calls and types of calls that the Team has responded to), as he was notified at the last minute of the meeting. Deb will ask Sgt. Gaynor for the statistics. Officer Gardner advised they are working on creating relationships with patrol units and residents.   
Officer Kolbicki, of the Animal Abuse Team, advised things have smoothed out on their end. 
Joy asked how are hoarding cases are handled. Officer Gardner advised that if the call comes in through 911, a patrol unit would respond first to identify whether Animal Services or the Animal Abuse Team are needed to go in to get the animals, not using forced entry. 

Adopted, then Loose

A German shepherd was adopted from the Baltimore County Animal Shelter (BCAS) on a Thursday, then was seen running loose in Dundalk several days later. The adopter no longer wanted the dog. Someone was able to get the dog into their car and transported it to Dundalk Animal Hospital, which then surrendered the dog back to Animal Services. 

Website Postings Update

Deborah reached out to Donna Metlin who is administrator of a Lost and Found Pets in Baltimore County page. Donna had previously said that BCAS website postings for strays were sometimes delayed. Deborah said Donna advised that website postings for strays has slightly improved.  She said sometimes animals are still posted late, when some of the stray hold period has elapsed, and sometimes after the stray hold is over. 

Baltimore Sun/Towson Times Article

The Baltimore Sun/Towson Times did an extensive article in January about Commission findings concerning owner requested euthanasia.  The Commission learned through interviews with BCAS staff that BCAS pressures owners who surrender pets to request euthanasia, using this to keep live release statistics higher than they really are. The article documented this claim with interviews with BCAS staff.  Deb emailed the article to commission members.

Asilomar Accords

BCAS says that starting in 2015, it began recording data according to the Asilomar Accords. The Asilomar Accords resulted from a gathering of animal welfare industry leaders from across the nation in Asilomar in Pacific Grove, California in 2004. The purpose was to build bridges across varying philosophies, to develop relationships and create goals focused on reducing the euthanasia of healthy and treatable companion animals in the United States. 
They then put forward the Asilomar Accords. Here is what the Accords say about Owner Requested Euthanasia:

“Owner/Guardian Requested Euthanasia (Unhealthy & Untreatable Only): The number of unhealthy and untreatable dogs and cats your shelter or animal group euthanized at the request of their owners/ guardians and the number of dogs and cats ordered to be euthanized by legislative, judicial or administrative action. Do not include any dogs and cats your shelter or animal group euthanized at the request of their owners/guardians and who were considered to be healthy, treatable-rehabili- tatable or treatable-manageable at the time of death. [See M, N, O, P for definitions of healthy, treatable-rehabilitatable, treatable-manageable, unhealthy & untreatable.]” 

The practice of pressuring owners to request euthanasia as a means of influencing live release rates clearly does not comport with the principles of the Asilomar Accords. 

Dog Introduction Video

A video was posted on the BCAS website of a dog named Druzy. In that brief video, the BCAS Behavior Coordinator, was holding a bully breed in a run area. Another staff member introduced Druzy to another dog head-on. Joy freedman who is a Commission member and animal behaviorist said this is not the proper way to introduce dogs to each other. 
That sentiment was echoed by another behaviorist Deborah contacted who said, “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.”

Adopter Returns

Deborah is requesting information from Baltimore County on pets that are adopted from BCAS and then returned. Deborah is interested to learn how many of these animals are returned and whether BCAS learns the reasons why they are returned. If it turns out that the reasons are behavioral, BCAS might want to look into the possibility of offering behavioral resources to adopters. 

Need for TNR Law

Deb talked about the TNR law in Baltimore City which enables BARCS to more easily carry out its TNR program. Deborah would like to examine the possibility of having a similar law in Baltimore County. Deb would like to form a committee to create legislation to aid the Baltimore County TNR program. She believes this may eliminate the problem of owners refusing to accept community cats back on their property as the TNR law would require cats to be returned where they were trapped. This appears to be a reason why BCAS is sometimes returning cats in locations other than where they were trapped. 
Gerald advised that the County Executive Team has a legislature representative, Charles Conner, and we should consider consulting him about this. 
In addition, Julianne expressed concerns that TNR cats at BCAS are not given care for medical conditions they may have.
Several members of the Commission talked about the fact that other TNR programs do provide this care and they are concerned that BCAS does not. In addition, cats brought in for TNR at BCAS are never put in the adoption room even if they are friendly and adoptable and there is available cage space in the cat adoption room.

Upcoming Meeting with County Representative

Joy, Deb and Darla Feeheley, a former member of the commission and who was involved in the drafting of Oscar’s Law, will be meeting with Sam O’Neil. The meeting has been tentatively scheduled for March 5, 2019.  

Any Other Business?

Janice distributed an email about attending one of the County Executive’s Town Hall meetings where she expressed concerns about BCAS. She urged those wishing to contribute ideas or express concerns to email an address set up by the County Administration to take comments. Comments can be sent to Ideas@baltimorecountymd.gov  

Janice talked about a previous visit to Fairfax County’s municipality shelter, and discussed the fact that they, like many other shelters, have a 501C3 group that raises funds for them. Discussion ensued about the possibility of creating a “Friends Of” charity to benefit BCAS.

Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 12, 2018 at the Loch Raven Library, 1046 Taylor Ave, Towson, MD 21286, at 6:30 p.m.

Adjournment

Motion to adjourn
Motion by: Gerald Brooks
Second by: Ann Gearhart
Motion approved.

Adjourned at 8:10 p.m.



4. Commission Membership-Our Commission is now down two members. Robert McCullough (Julian Jones's appointee has been promoted to Col. in the Police Dept. and is unable to continue to serve on this Commission. In addition, Maryanne Martin Bailey's work obligations are preventing her from attending our meetings. We'll miss them both and appreciate the contributions they have made.

5. County Responses-The Commission's questions previously had to be directed to Fred Homan. Since his departure from the County, our liaison is now Stacie Burgess, Chief of Communications in the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Stacie has been great. She gets the answers we request and responds quickly back with responses. In addition, when I submitted questions involving salaries at Animal Services, I received a call from Kevin Reed at the Dept. of Health who spent close to 45 minutes on the phone with me, and he responded to followup questions via email.
It appears that Johnny O's promises of transparency are being carried out by those working in the County and we are deeply appreciative.

6. Info on Adoption Returns-One of the questions we have submitted concerns information on animals that are adopted from BCAS and then returned. We're attempting to learn how many animals are returned, and whether BCAS keeps track of the reasons for return. If it turns out that most are returned because of behavior problems, it's clear that BCAS needs to begin offering resources to adopters, including classes on what to expect with a new pet, how to be a responsible and loving pet owner, and classes in obedience training. BARCS offers every dog adopter a free six week course in obedience training.
The goal must always be to not only facilitate adoptions, but to do everything we can to make those adoptions successful, so that animals don't once again find themselves at a shelter.

7. BCAS Salary Information-As mentioned above, I spent a good deal of time on the phone with Kevin Reed of the Dept. of Health and Human Svcs.  learning more about salaries paid to management at BCAS. I appreciate the time he spent to do this,
Salary information is public information. Here is what I learned:
 
The previous Chief of Animal Services, Charlotte Crenson's title was Supervisor Animal Services Division-She was earning an annual salary of $95,467.

Dr. Melissa Jones
While we were told by the former County Administrative Officer Fred Homan that her title is Chief of Animal Services, the salary list we have lists the salary for Chief AS as "0". Mr. Reed confirmed that she is being paid a salary for a position titled,"Senior Administrative Assistant to the CAO (County Administrative Officer)." It appears that title gave Fred Homan the ability pay her a higher salary.
We had wondered whether she was also getting paid as one of the 5 vets at BCAS. She is not.

 (Fiscal year starts on July 1 each year-so July of 2015 was start of FY 2016)

July, 2015 she earned $149,262.
July, 2016 her salary was increased to $172,441. There was a  2% COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) that year. Her salary increase was 15.5%.
July, 2017 there was again a 2% COLA. Her salary went to $181,182. That is just over a 5% increase.
July, 2018 there was no increase. An increase took effect in January, 2019.
January, 2019 there was a 3% COLA which she received and her salary is now $186,617.

Since July of 2015, her salary has increased by 24.8%

Gary Klunk
in July of 2015 Gary Klunk made $82,406
July 2016-his salary increased to $95,171 a year -there was a 2% COLA that year. His pay increase was 15.4%.
July 2017-he was paid $107,105 a year- there was a 2% COLA that year.  His increase was12.5%.
No raise in July of 2018 but on Jan. 1, 2019 everyone in the County got a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) of 3%. Gary got an additional 1.6% (so a total of 4.6% increase)  and now his salary is $112,065.

Since July of 2015, Gary Klunk’s salary has increased from just over $82,000 to just over $112,000. That’s an increase of 36.6%.

8. Police Animal Abuse Unit Stats-Here are stats we have received from the Animal Abuse Team:
Cases assigned- 186
Cases sent to State’s Attorney’s Office- 29
Animals seized- 25
Cruelty- 18 cases
Neglect- 54
Abuse- 6
Animal complaints- 70
Domestic related- 3

There were a lot of questions about these numbers including:
1.What happens in the cases that are domestic related, i.e. were social workers brought in? 
2. Was the Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee part of that process?
3. If children were involved, what was the followup with Youth Services?
4. What happened to all the cases that were not referred to the State's Atty?
5. What was the outcome of those cases that were referred to the State's Attorney?

I will be following up on these questions with the Animal Abuse Team and will report back to the Commission about what I learn. I'll also request that someone from the Team come to our April meeting so we can learn more. Sgt. Gaynor of the Animal Abuse Team is always responsive to my calls and questions. 

9. Health Dept. Visit to BCAS-We have told by numerous BCAS employees that representatives of the Health Dept. including Dr. Branch have visited BCAS recently. On one of those visits, we were told that Dr. Branch said that the incident involving the guinea pigs almost being taken top a snake farm was untrue. Staff members told us they were very upset about this because they knew the story to be true.

10. Meeting with Administration-Joy Freedman, Julianne Zimmer, Darla Feeheley (a former Commission member) will be meeting with Samantha O'Neill who is Senior Advisor in the
Office of the County Executive on March 14th to learn more about the Administration's plans for BCAS. This meeting was referenced in our last meeting and was scheduled for March 5th but was rescheduled for the 14th.

11. General Assembly Legislation-Here is a summary of Animal Welfare Legislation that has come before the General Assembly in the current legislative session. These are proposed bills that have been supported by MD Votes for Animals.

a) HB 501
This bill would have established minimum, commonsense protections for dogs by ensuring that they are not left outdoors and unattended during temperatures below 32 or above 90 degrees.
Status: Was introduced several weeks into the session by Del. Karen Young of Frederick with good intention but without consulting  any animal groups.
Status: This bill did not make it out of committee.
It looks like this might be better handled county by county rather than through statewide legislation.

b) SB 355/HB 641
It is not currently a crime in Maryland to advertise, traffic, or solicit animals for sex on the Internet.
There needs to be a clear definition in Maryland Law about what constitutes sexual abuse to animals so that perpetrators of these crimes cannot escape punishment due to lack of clarity under the current law.
Moreover, the law needs to penalize individuals involved with animal sexual abuse like those who allow their pets to be sexually abused by others (usually for a profit) or force others to sexually abuse animals.
Animal sexual abuse is the single strongest predictor of increased risk for committing child sexual abuse.
Status: Hearing was held in House and Senate committees.  Waiting to see if it comes out of committee.

c) SB-143/HB-213
Cownose Ray Fishery Management Plan and Moratorium on Contests
In 2017, Maryland passed legislation that prohibited Cownose Ray killing contests and required the Department of Natural Resources to prepare a species management plan.
During these brutal contests, often lasting for several days, hundreds of defenseless Cownose Rays were shot with arrows, hit with bats, and then dumped into the Chesapeake Bay.
Since Cownose Rays migrate to the Chesapeake Bay when they are pregnant, many of the victims of these contests are pregnant.
The deadline for the species management plan has passed and the moratorium on the Cownose Rays Killing Contests will expire on July 1, 2019.
SB 143/HB 213 would extend the moratorium on the killing contests and ensure the safety of the Cownose Rays.
Status: Passed unanimously in the Senate with an amendment saying the ban will continue until and unless the Dept. of Natural Resources passes a Species Management Plan.
House version of the bill also passed.

d) SB-152/HB-135-Costs of Care: Criminal Law - Cruelty to Animals - Seizure and Removal
This bill would establish a legal process for individuals whose animals have been seized due to cruelty.
If a court determines that the seizure was lawful and the costs requested were reasonable, they could be required to pay for the animals’ care while the criminal case is being decided.
This would provide relief to animal control agencies in Maryland from incurring debilitating costs in animal cruelty cases, saving tax dollars and animal lives.
36 states have this law, including: Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware.
Status: Had Senate hearing. Sen. Bobby ZIrkin put forward a different bill that says if an animal is seized and the person is found guilty they must pay restitution.
This is not very different from current law which
Says they MAY pay restitution. This bill says they WILL pay restitution.
Status: The bill passed full Senate unanimously and has crossed over to the House.
Expected to pass.

e) Insurance- Homeowner’s and Renter’s Policies – Breed Discrimination – SB 647
     -This bill prohibits an insurer from discriminating against certain breeds or mixed breeds of dogs in a homeowner's or renter's insurance policy.
    - Insurance companies maintain that certain breeds of dogs create more claims than other breeds. Therefore, there companies exclude coverage, or surcharge homeowners or renters, based upon that information.
    -Getting homeowner's and renter's insurance can be difficult, if not impossible, for Marylanders with certain breeds of dogs. As a result, people sometimes are faced with a difficult decision to surrender their dogs to shelters or rehome them because they can’t get the homeowner's or renter's insurance required by their banks or landlords.
    -Laws in Michigan and Pennsylvania prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to homeowners based upon the dog's breed.
Status: The hearing was held Tuesday, 3/12 in the Senate Finance Committee.

12. Any Other Business? I received a call from a good friend who accompanied someone recently in pulling a dog for a rescue. She said that everything went smoothly and the BCAS staff handled everything professionally.
We often focus on problems at BCAS. It's important to also comment when we hear positive feedback! As we have often said, there are many talented and dedicated staff members at BCAS who are working very hard for the animals there.

13. Next Meeting Date and Location-Our next meeting will be held April 16th at 6:30 PM in our usual room on the 3rd floor of the Drumcastle Building at 6401 York Rd.

14. Adjournment















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