Friday, April 19, 2019

April 16, 2019 Meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission

Hi, everyone. A great deal has happened since our last meeting. Chief of Animal Services Dr. Melissa Jones and Management Analyst Gary Klunk were removed from BCAS, along with the shelter's Behavior Coordinator and Shelter Manager. We have the fresh start that we've been hoping for. This post will bring you up to date.

On another subject, many of you attend our monthly meetings. At our most recent meeting, some of you requested a way for the public to be more involved in our discussions.
When the Commission was first formed I was instructed that the public was not allowed to speak during our meetings.
I'm now told that was intended to help us maintain order, and that if we choose to change the process we can. 
As a result, I'll be discussing with Commission members how best to bring the public more into our process, and I hope to have these new rules ready to roll at our next meeting.

A final note before we get into the main portion of this post. I want to thank so many of you for your investment in the welfare of BCAS and the animals in its care. Thank you to members of this Commission. Thank you to the caring, dedicated BCAS staff for EVERYTHING you do. . And thank you to the volunteers who give so selflessly of their time to make our shelter animals' lives the best they can be.

Now let's get started. Here's a summary of our April 16, 2019 meeting.

                                                            April 16, 2019

1. Call to Order
2. Roll Call-Determination of a Quorum-In attendance were Janice Vincent, Ann Gearhart, Deborah Stone Hess, Roy Plummer, Larry Townsend, Maryanne Martin Bailey, Joy Freedman, Julianne Zimmer, and Julie Salter.
3. Approval of minutes-Here are the minutes from our March, 2019 meeting as approved:
March 12, 2019

The thirty-seventh regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, March, 12, 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, Ann Gearhart, Roy Plummer, Larry Townsend, Janice Vincent (by phone), and Julianne Zimmer (by phone).


Minutes from the February 19, 2019 meeting were motioned and approved as submitted.

Motion – 

Motioned by: Larry Townsend

Second by: Roy Plummer
Decision:  Approved

Commission Membership

Maryanne Bailey will no longer be able to serve on the commission because of work obligations. She was appointed by Councilman Tom Quirk. In addition, a replacement is still needed for Robert McCullough. He has been promoted to the position of Colonel in the Police Department and can no longer serve on the Commission. Colonel McCullough was appointed by Councilman Julian Jones. 

There was discussion about other Commission members’ terms. Deborah will check with Tom Bostwick who is counsel to the County Council. 

Anne asked whether the Health Department is supposed to send someone to the Commission meetings. Deborah explained that when former County Administrator, Fred Homan, canceled meetings with the Commission’s Liaison Committee, he agreed to attend the Commission’s monthly meetings. Deborah explained that was done to provide Commission members a chance to ask questions. But since Fred Homan’s departure, Health Dept. Communications Director Stacie Burgess has become the Commission’s primary contact and has been very responsive, so it seems unnecessary to have someone from the Heath Dept. attend all Commission meetings. 

County Responses

As stated above, Stacie Burgess is now the Commission’s primary contact, and she has been great. She always replies to emails and gets information in a timely manner. 

Information on Adoption Returns

Waiting for information requested from Stacie Burgess about the number of adopted animals that are returned and the reasons for returns. Deborah said if behavioral problems are the primary reason, she would like to see BCAS offer resources to adopters like obedience classes.

BCAS Salary Information

Deborah obtained detailed salary information for Dr. Jones and Gary Klunk from Kevin Reed, Baltimore County Department of Health, Deputy Director of Finance and Operations. He confirmed that Dr. Jones’s salary is the one listed under the title “Senior Administrative Assistant to the Chief Administrative Officer”, even though Mr. Homan told the commission her title is Chief of Animal Services. Deborah provided detailed information on salaries for Mr. Klunk and Dr. Jones from 2015-present. 

Baltimore County Animal Abuse Unit Stats

Sgt. Sundia Gaynor sent Deborah statistics about the Baltimore County Animal Abuse Team. These were distributed and discussed.  29 cases have been sent to the State’s Attorney’s Office. This was important because, prior to the creation of the Animal Abuse Team, BCAS was sending very few cases of cruelty, neglect or abuse to the State’s Attorney’s Office. Deborah promised to get additional information about the statistics based on questions asked by Commission members.

Health Department Visit to BCAS

The Baltimore County Health Officer and Director of Health and Human Services visited the Baltimore County Animal Shelter. Commission members were told by current BCAS employees that Dr. Branch told them that a previous incident, which became public, concerning guinea pigs at BCAS was untrue.  Commission members had been told by BCAS staff members that a number of guinea pigs that came into BCAS were going to be sent to a snake farm to be used as food. But those transporting the animals brought them back to NCAS because so many people at BCAS were upset about this.

Staff members were very upset that Dr. Branch told them this didn’t happen. Deb will ask Stacie Burgess about this. 

Meeting with Administration

Julianne Zimmer, Joy Freedman, Darla Feeheley and Deborah Stone Hess were supposed to meet with Samantha O’Neill of the Johnny O Administration on March 5th. That meeting was rescheduled March 14 at 4pm. 

General Assembly Legislation

Deborah distributed a list of current legislation under consideration in the General Assembly.

Any Other Business?

Deborah received a call from a friend who pulled an animal from the BCAS for a rescue. She reported that everything went well and that staff at BCAS were very professional. 

Deb asked the volunteers in attendance at the Commission meeting about the bathroom situation at the BCAS. They said all of the bathrooms on the grounds were out of order but were fixed by the end of the business day. 

Still waiting for SOPs for BCAS. Anne advised that she thinks that Gerald has them. Deb would like to see the SOPs for the shelter and Animal Control to clear up how responsibilities are divided between Animal Control and the Police Dept.

Deb will request SOP’s from Stacie. 

Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 16, 2018 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rd floor, Main Conference Room at 6:30 p.m.


Motion to adjourn

Motion by: Roy Plummer
Second by: Ann Gearhart
Motion approved.

Adjourned at 7:30 p.m.

4. Commission Membership-We have a new member and one member who was going to leave but is able to stay. We will get to that shortly.

5. Dr. Donatelli Here-Dr. Lucia Donatelli of the Baltimore County Health Dept. joined us for our meeting to answer questions. Also in attendance were Stacie Burgess who is Communications Director for the Health Dept. and Sam O'Neil who is Senior Adviser to the County Executive. The Commission welcomed them all.
Dr. Donatelli had another engagement so her time with us was limited, but she answered numerous questions while she was there.
She started by telling us about herself, saying she wanted to be up front and say she has no animal experience. Her role since 2005 has been as a manger, administrator and clinician.
She came to the Health Dept. in 2005, and after about 5 years she left to become Medical Dir. at the MD School for the Blind. But she had always loved the Health Dept. and after a year, she returned as there was an opportunity to work in infectious diseases. She was promoted to Bureau Director in 2015.
Right now she oversees Communicable Diseases, Environmental Health, and Animal Services.
She explained that she thought everything was ok at Animal Services until she realized in December that there were problems.

Here are answers to several questions we posed to Dr. Donatelli:
Question: What is the Health Department’s vision for BCAS and what is the Health Department looking for in a new Administrator?
She said she sees the vision and mission as she sees the vision and mission of the Health Dept.., healthy people and pets living, working and playing in Baltimore County. The mission is promoting health, preventing disease through education, advocacy, linkage to resources and treatment and, in her words, "We do it from home to home and heart to heart."  The Health Department goals for BCAS are  finding as many forever homes for animals as possible, making sure that the animals are treated with compassion, dignity and respect while they are in the county's care, and doing all this while prioritizing public health and public safety. 

It will be Dr Branch’s decision as to who will fill the position of Chief of Animal Services. The job posting is up. Dr. Donatelli is looking for someone with Animal Control and  animal shelter experience who is compassionate, collaborative, a good manager and a good supervisor and someone who wants to work with the community.

Sam O'Neil added that this is a new administration, and December coincidentally was the period in which the new County Executive was sworn in. She mentioned that County Executive Olsziewski ran for office on a community-driven platform, transparency, and connectedness.
She mentioned that many of those in attendance at the meeting had spoken at town hall meetings that began in January and ran through February and said those were important public forums and also a venue by which things like the feelings and concerns about county services and programs were illuminated in a more public way.
Sam thanked the Commission members for their diligence, and said the new Administration has confidence in HHS to put a plan together that adddresses concerns and responds to some of the areas addressed in the Op Ex report commissioned by the Country Executive’s office. (More on the Op Ex report later in this post).
Sam said it will take some time and that transitions are tough, but that hopefully we all have seen that the new Administration is trying to be as responsive as possible and support the agency and bureau overseeing the shelter.

Question: What is the time frame for hiring a new Chief of Animal Services?
Answer: Filling this position is a priority, but it will all depend on finding the right person. So far several people have applied.  Plans will be made to begin the interview process.  Dr. Donatelli asked those in attendance to encourage qualified people to apply if they know of anyone who would be interested.

Question: Are you planning to implement new programs at BCAS? If so, what are they?
Answer: Yes. Right now they're working on expanding the foster and volunteer programs and are working on being more customer-service friendly, working on more opportunities for staff and volunteer training.
The staff wants to do more community education and Dr. Donatelli said she fully supports that. They are also evaluating the operational structure of BCAS.
Next month BCAS will separate the positions of Animal Control Officers and shelter staff. The previous shelter administration had combined these job positions, creating a title of ASO (Animal Service Officer).  Dr. Donatelli said they had determined this wasn't working.
(In the Commission's view, this is a VERY positive step.)
Dr. Donatelli added that the real change will come when we have a new Chief of Animal Services who can evaluate programs and put his or her own stamp on shelter programs.

Deborah said the Commission is there to help in any way it can. She asked Dr. Donatelli to consider the possibility of recreating the Liaison Committee to meet regularly with shelter administrators. Dr. Donatelli promised to consider that.

Question: There have been recent concerns that BCAS has not been enforcing the county law that requires citizens to surrender to BCAS strays they have found.
Answer: Dr. Donatelli said BCAS does make efforts to reach out to those who find strays when they have contact information. Unfortunately, these people often are angry at being contacted.
Dr. Donatelli suggested that the Commission examine how best to deal with this issue and make recommendations.
(The biggest concern is that those who lose pets have the opportunity to find them.)

Question:Is BCAS still offering traps to county citizens who want to trap cats for TNR?
Answer: Not at this time. The traps are expensive and they were often not being returned. It's something to be considered for the future. 

Question: Is there a chance we could work with the Administration to create a TNR law like they have in Baltimore City? This law requires TNR’d cats to be returned where they were trapped. It would remove the problem of owners refusing to allow the county to return them on their property.
Answer:  Dr. Donatelli said the more she learns about this the more complicated it is. She says she sees issues on both sides. She suggested the Commission make a recommendation on this matter.

Dr. Donatelli brought up a recent incident involving numerous cats in Bowley’s Quarters. A property owner had contacted a third party to trap the cats. Dr. Donatelli said that as soon as the Health Dept. learned about this, they called property management and informed them of the stray animal laws and about TNR and what they could expect to happen with the cats. They also talked to the third party trapper about humane trapping methods and the BCAS TNR Coordinator called property management back to discuss natural deterrents to keep the cats out of flower beds, etc. All of the cats that came in to BCAS from the trapper were TNR'd.

Dr. Donatelli stressed transparency. She said Dr. Branch would like to have the next Commission meeting at BCAS.
(That is yet to be determined).

Overall, Dr. Donatelli was forthcoming and clearly dedicated to the mission of BCAS. We thank her for coming to speak to us and appreciate the County's willingness to work with the Commission.

6. Introduction to New Member-Jon Christiana served out his term on the Commission. He was an Administrative appointment. The Administration has chosen Julie Salter to replace him. Julie read a recent article in the Towson Times about BCAS, involving claims that the former shelter Administration was pressuring those surrendering pets to sign forms requesting euthanasia. She was so concerned that she contacted the County Executive's office saying she would like to get involved. We're thrilled to have her on the Commission, and are grateful that she, as a citizen, stepped forward in this way.

At our last meeting, I announced that Maryanne Bailey would no longer be able to serve on the Commission and would be stepping down. She took steps to rearrange her workload so she can continue to serve as a Commission member. We're thrilled she is staying.

7. Answers to Previous questions-I sent an email to Communications Director Stacie Burgess with questions that came up at our last meeting. Here are those questions and the answers she provided:
Question: How many animals are adopted then returned to BCAS? Perhaps there are numbers for 2018? Also, does BCAS keep track of the reasons for return? If so, can this information be provided to us?
Answer: In 2018, there were 1525 adoptions (cats and dogs). The current data platform Accela does not have a way to retrospectively track return adoptions; however, the records are linked together so that medical and other information is kept with the animal’s new record. To pull this data, all of the adoption records would need to be searched individually.
Anecdotally, we believe the return rate of BCAS adoptions to be less than 10%. Also keep in mind, animals adopted from other local shelters that are taken in by BCAS because we are open-admission.

Question: Can you provide SOP’s for BCAS including those involving division of duties between the Police Dept. and Animal Control?
Answer: Beginning in 2016, BCAS began drafting SOPs and over 100 remain in draft form. As the new building has evolved, new programs have grown and new staff have come on board, many of these protocols have changed. BCAS is working on re-visiting these documents. Operationally, there are numerous training videos, informal instructions, staff emails and memos that guide staff, DOC and volunteers through daily tasks.
There are current policies regarding criminal and civil cruelty investigations, which may answer some questions.

Question: We have been told that Dr. Branch visited BCAS recently, and, while there, told staff that the guinea pig story was untrue.
This story involved about 60 guinea pigs that were surrendered to BCAS. Numerous staff members told us that Will Webster, the behavior coordinator at BCAS, was driving a number of the guinea pigs to PA, where they were to be given to the operators of a snake farm to be used as snake food. As we understand it, there was an uproar among BCAS staff and WIll turned around and brought the guinea pigs back to BCAS. Is it Dr. Branch’s position that this did not happen?
Answer: Dr. Branch has taken appropriate action concerning this matter.

8. OpEx Report Summary-As Sam O'Neil mentioned, the new County Executive formed a group called Operation Excellence (Op Ex) to look into several aspects of BCAS. That report has been posted. It's very detailed and covers numerous important issues. To help the Commission wade through it, I wrote a summary of that report. I'm encouraged by many of the report's findings, but there are also conclusions with which I disagree. These differences are included in my summary.
Here is my summary:
                                  SUMMARY OF OP EX REPORT

What the Op Ex Report Is

     The OpEx report examined “the current effectiveness of BCAS operations -- specifically with respect to the care of animals.” 
     It focused on the quality of the environment, medical care of animals, and general comparison of care metrics with respect to several other jurisdictions and overall operations. The report addresses one issue which the Commission has not examined: streamlining the purchasing process.  

What Wasn’t Covered by the Report:

1) An assessment of the policy decisions governing BCAS’ services. 
2) An assessment of BCAS staff salaries, workloads and organization structure. 

3) In-person observations of most of BCAS’ services and practices. 
4) Interviews with members of the Animal Services Commission or attendance at Animal Services Commission


The report determined that animal care at BCAS is generally very good, but that there are some shortcomings in communication both internally and externally that should be addressed. These are:
1) Coordination between BCAS and BPD Animal Abuse Team Needs Improvement 

2) BCAS Should Develop a Formalized Feedback System to Improve Communications with Constituents. 

3)  BCAS Should Improve Volunteer Management and Engagement. 

4) Communication Between Shelter Staff and Constituents Regarding Animal Surrender Should Improve. 

Owner Requested Euthanasia 

     The report examined this issue because of complaints that constituents felt pressured to request euthanasia during the animal surrender process. 
     The report recommends that all communication should clearly reflect that surrenders to the shelter bear the risk of eventual euthanasia, however there should be no pressure or encouragement from BCAS staff that the owner request euthanasia.
Intake Process
     BCAS should consider a more structured surrender intake process, i.e. managed admission which is becoming more common for shelters. 
This can be done with either scheduled surrender appointments or limited surrender hours. 
The intent is to structure the surrender intake process to create time between a constituent’s initial surrender inquiry to the surrender itself. 
In the meantime, BCAS should work to document all information regarding the reason for surrender to identify if the owner’s problem is a temporary one that could be fixed with support resources (such as medical, behavior or physical supplies/equipment).
     BCAS should provide all possible resources for alternative re-homing. 

 By providing the constituent with as many resources as possible and giving them time to consider all of their options before ultimately surrendering their animal, the shelter would be ensuring that constituents are making as informed a decision as possible before surrendering an animal. 

 The report also recommends that BCAS consider recording client interaction during surrender interviews to  

 Ensure BCAS employee accountability and accuracy of citizen complaint 

 Provide a full and reviewable record of all animal history details for both training and animal care/rehoming 

     The reports indicates the main possible drawback is potentially making constituents reluctant to be completely honest about the animal during the interview. 

Handoffs from BCAS Field Officers to the Animal Abuse Team (AAT)  

     The project team concurs there is some unclear delineation of responsibility between the two teams and unclear process when a case’s responsibility changes from one team to the other. Additionally, because of the multi-step review and approval process of police reports, 82% of police reports are received by BCAS within 2 days of the initial incident. However, 3% take over 1 week to be received by BCAS. This delay is a risk to potentially vulnerable animals. To improve this effort, the project team recommends either 
A) Clarify scope and training of AAT and BCoPD operations involvement 
B) Return initial triaging work to BCAS 

Until the new administration’s directive to begin meeting, AS and BCoPD had no formalized information-sharing process. This has since changed and AS and BCoPD now meet weekly to discuss cases and other information sharing issues. 


     The OpEx team recommends instituting monthly meetings between volunteers and BCAS management. Creating these monthly meetings might ensure that volunteers feel that their voices are being heard. 

     The report recommends giving volunteers more ownership of the animal care and enrichment program. 

Enrichment of Administrative-Hold Animals and those that are not readily adoptable. 

The report says it’s understandable that BCAS staff are reluctant to let volunteers handle these animals, but allowing more mentor volunteers to do so may help lessen the workload for BCAS staff and give volunteers more ownership of the enrichment program. This will likely require categorizing the animals more specifically than “admin hold” (ie: do they have medical concerns, behavioral concerns or aggression concerns). 
This would also allow BCAS to consider opening these rooms to persons looking for a lost animal. 

Public/Private Partnership

The report found pros and cons to the idea of turning BCAS into a charitable organization like BARCS. 

Pros include: some discount pricing, easier ability to rapidly respond to constituent concerns and streamlined bureaucracy.
Chief Con: If it becomes a non-profit, that would mean there would be 5 non-profit shelters in the Baltimore area.  That would create more competition for grants and donations.

Separation of shelter administration and municipal administration allows for faster response to public concerns. It also creates trust that the shelter is operating to meet their mission rather than being subject to the county’s focus shifting to a different priority. 

Review operating hours of Spay/Neuter Centers 

Based on volume and cost estimates, demand may not warrant current level of open hours each surgery center. 

Formalizing a feedback process for questions/concerns 

 The report found an erosion of trust and communication between BCAS and the Animal Services Commission. Repairing that relationship will require a more formalized and constructive feedback processes between the two organizations. This process will need to include: 

     The Animal Services Commission should be the primary venue for fielding concerns from constituents at large. 
However, feedback that is sent to the administration directly will be sent to BCAS for tracking and response. 

. Appoint a (possibly temporary) Accountable Party 
At least for the short term, this feedback process will require an accountable party – most likely within the Health Department or Administrative Office – to help facilitate policy decisions, implementation and communication. The purpose of this role is to: 
 Provide support and accountability to the Animal Services Commission regarding their concerns 

 provide resource support to BCAS management in receiving, compiling, triaging and prioritizing inbound 
concerns and communicating statuses and outcomes as improvements are made 

The report examined many of the findings of the Commission report and addendum.

Since we issued the report and addendum, BCAS has never responded to any of our claims. It’s great that the OpEx report obtained BCAS responses to our claims and then provided OpEx group’s determination on each issue. I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusions of the OpEx report on many of these issues. This is not a criticism. But I do think it should lead to further discussion. Here are some of the issues: 

a) Concern Raised by our Commission Report:

Baltimore County Police Animal Abuse Team is not prepared to handle animal control issues.

BCAS response:

“ASOs will retain all of their duties with the exception of initial investigations of animal cruelty, which have been transferred to BCPD. The Howard County Police Department and Harford County Sheriff’s Office are responsible for animal control investigations in their respective jurisdictions.”

OpEx Report Conclusion: 

“The project team verified that ASOs on the BCAS team continue to handle non cruelty/neglect issues. However, recommendations A and B speak to clarifying the roles and responsibilities and improving operational handoffs between BCAS and AAT.”

My Current Concern: 

This does not seem to address the Commission’s concern that police officers at large are not receiving much training in dealing with animal issues. In addition, neither police officers or ASO’s attend the Animal Control Officer Training Academy or other training programs. We have been told by numerous people and by Gary Klunk himself that he attended the Academy and determined it was a waste of time. 
It’s particularly strange to eschew this training because April Doherty and Adam Lippe of the State’s Attorney’s Animal Abuse Division teach some of the courses. 

b) Concern Raised by our Commission Report: BCAS is not following industry Trap-Neuter-Release best practices. BCAS releases TNR cats as far as a mile away from pick-up location 

Best practices: release no more than 300 feet from pick-up.

BCAS Response:

BCAS is not always able to return the cat to the exact location where it was found because it may have been trapped on private property and the owner does not want the cat returned. Cats regularly roam as far as a mile from “home”, so BCAS uses a 1⁄2 mile as the max radius for acceptable return. When finding a release point, BCAS keeps in mind that cats are not expected to cross major roadways or waterways. 

OpEx Report Conclusion:

“In general, policy decisions were not evaluated within the scope of this project—only management and performance within established policies. Items III i, III ii, and III iii all evaluate policy decisions and are therefore out of scope. 
However, the project team will note several things:
1) secondary research suggests that BCAS’ assessment of feral cats’ roaming range is accurate. This would indicate that the 300 feet standard is more restrictive than necessary. “

My Current Concern: 

The issue of property owners not wanting cats returned to their property is something we’ve discussed in our meetings. I believe we need to address this issue through county legislation that would mimic legislation in Baltimore City and other jurisdictions that requires trapped cats to be returned where they were trapped.
In addition, I reached out to someone who does TNR in our area for one shelter and shared BCAS’s position on this issue.
Here was their response:
“It is not acceptable to return cats that far away from the trapping site unless there is some concrete evidence that the cats are also familiar with that area, such as a previous confirmed sighting of the same cat in the immediate area of the return. It is true that cats can roam a mile or even further away from their home base, but that does not mean that they are roaming every street in every direction within that radius. Every colony is different. I've fixed many colonies who never leave the yards of their caregivers.
I understand that when faced with the dilemma of either euthanizing a cat or returning them to a randomized location that it may be tempting to avoid euthanasia, but returning a cat to a randomly selected location within a certain radius does not guarantee that the animal will survive. I would consider that to be a relocation. Successful relocations require a confinement period to acclimate the cats to the new location.”

c) Concern Raised by Our Commission: 

BCAS releases every TNR cat 24 hours after surgery. Best practices: older and/or pregnant cats should be released no sooner than 48 hours.
In addition, BCAS provides sick TNR cats with only “basic TNR package” medical treatment. 
Other counties provide additional treatment to cats through their TNR programs.

 BCAS Response:

“The goal is to release TNR cats as quickly as possible based on their medical needs and other factors. Some cats are kept longer than 24 hours, but some are kept less than that – lactating mothers that have kittens in the wild. The BCAS TNR coordinator is aware of the best practices and trained with the originator of those standards, Best Friends Society.
The goal of the TNR program is to decrease shelter intake and euthanasia, which requires a great number of spay and neuter surgeries. The goal is not to provide “all required medical care” to the many un-owned feral cats in Baltimore County. BCAS veterinarians do their best to evaluate animals to ensure that only “healthy, altered and vaccinated cats” are released.”

OpEx Report Conclusion:

“While best practices are often a good starting point for animal care operations, it does make sense that the BCAS medical staff choose to vary from those guidelines based on the medical needs of individual animals.”

My Current Concern:

It surely makes sense to deviate from best practices for animal welfare reasons. However, Gary Klunk made it clear to us that 24 hours was the general practice with no exception made for older or pregnant cats. Other area TNR programs do offer longer recovery times for these cats. BCAS should be doing it as well because it improves animal welfare.
Gary Klunk made it clear to our Commission that BCAS does not go beyond the basic TNR package. We know that other TNR programs regularly provide necessary health care so that returned cats are healthy and not suffering when they are returned. 
Understanding that quantity of TNR is important in reducing the population of community cats, returning a cat with an illness that will cause suffering and possibly death is an issue of animal welfare.

d)  Concern Raised by Our Commission:

BCAS requires a notarized affidavit to be submitted by a witness/victim before it will investigate “any complaint.” 

BCAS Response:

“Affidavits are not required to begin an investigation. Affidavits are required to issue menacing or dangerous dog declarations and to issue violations with civil monetary penalties and possible other sanctions. BCAS ASOs are not sworn officers, but they may be in other counties, which is why they might not need sworn affidavits.”
OpEx Report Conclusion:
“This process has been looked at several times by County OpEx and the explanation offered by BCAS has been found to be true. In previous project efforts, it was found that if an ASO is able to directly observe the behavior in the complaint, a violation can be issued primarily. However, if not, an affidavit is needed as a charging document to pursue further action/investigation. It may also be pertinent to note that there are certain situations in which even Baltimore County police officers are not permitted to directly issue charging documents and a constituent must file charges directly with the district court.”

My Current Concern:

The Commission has had numerous citizens complain that BCAS would not begin any investigation into their problems until they obtained the notarized affidavit.
Requiring people to get a signed notarized affidavit in any situation can be a deterrent to people making a complaint if they fear retaliation from the owner of the animal they are complaining about or if they lack the money to pay a notary public or if someone does not have transportation to a notary’s office. This issue deserves attention to determine what is necessary to do away with this process. 

e)  Concern Raised By Our Commission:

BCAS does not provide adequate enrichment to animals that are not available for adoption
- enrichment includes, walks, toys, play time. 

BCAS Response:

“BCAS provides enrichment to animals that are not available for adoption by reading aloud to them and providing toys, music, scent enrichment and treats. Non-adoptable animals that are safe enough to be handled, will be done so by staff members only.”

OpEx Report Conclusion:

“This is not an area of performance that currently has defined metrics or goals. If that is necessary to ensure animals are receiving adequate care, it should be defined through the process in Recommendation L 
However, Recommendations F and H also discuss volunteer involvement in general as well as specifically with regard to the enrichment of administrative hold animals.”

My Current Concern:

I understand there are no defined metrics or goals in this area. Allowing volunteers more involvement with these animals is a great starting point. New administrators at BCAS should address whether there are other things that can bring enrichment to these animals.

f)  Concern Raised by Commission:

BCAS will only pick up stray pets if a person requests the animal be picked up within 24 hours of finding it. 
After 24 hours, the person will have to bring the animal to the shelter. 

BCAS Response:

“Conversations with the Assistant Field Services Supervisor indicate that this concern is not at all an accurate depiction of their policy. There are many cases in which pickups will occur more than 24 hours after the animal is found (sometimes at BCAS request for scheduling/resourcing purposes). Most notably, BCAS allows people to see if an animal’s disposition/health is right to be adopted into their own home. BCAS will still send an ASO to pick-up that originally stray animal if it is not a good fit.”

Op Ex Report Conclusion:

“This was not a circumstance that the project team had an opportunity to observe primarily, because it does not happen very often. Their stated policy seems reasonable; if there are persistent concerns that this policy is not being properly followed, those concerns should be tracked and responded to according to Recommendation I.”

My Current Concern:

In hearing about this policy, I myself made a call to BCAS one day and said that a friend had found a stray and asked whether BCAS would pick it up. I was immediately asked how long ago the animal had been found and told that if it was within 24 hours, BCAS would pick it up.

g)  Concern Raised By Our Commission:

BCAS does not allow members of the public to enter stray hold room 
(which “can prevent the reunion of owners and missing pets.”) 
BCAS Response:
“BCAS does not allow members of the public to enter the stray hold room, but will bring animals to the shelter lobby, or in cases of aggressive animals, the outdoor kennel so owners can see the animal. Members of the public are not allowed in the stray hold room because animals in there may be too dangerous to interact with and the room is routinely being sanitized.”

Op Ex Report Conclusion:

“Allowing access to this room is a policy decision that could be revisited. Many shelters allow open access to rooms like this; it requires structure and monitoring, but is feasible. See Recommendation H as well.”

My Thoughts:

Revisiting this policy is definitely warranted.

h) Need TNR law-I would like to recommend consideration of a law mandating the rules for TNR cats in Baltimore County to ensure that all TNR'd cats are returned where they are trapped.

10. General Assembly Legislation-The General Assembly has completed its 2019 session, passing several pieces of animal welfare legislation. I spoke with Lisa Radov of MD Votes for Animals and she provided this information about two of the bills passed by the General Assembly:
a) The Costs of Care Bill which was amended to allow judges to authorize ( but not require) restitution to be paid by convicted animal abusers to the animal control agencies for the costs of caring for their animals. This was very watered  down and did not answer the question of the disposition  of the animals after they were seized. The original bill would have added a process.
b) The Animal Sexual Abuse Bill passed. It will add animal sexual abuse to the offenses covered under Aggravated Animal Cruelty, making it a felony as well as making it a crime to allow an animal to be used for sexual abuse by others. The judge can also not allow that person to own, posses, or reside with an animal and may have to pay for psychological counseling. This was a heavy lift, and a big win.

11. HEART Act and Letter Templates-An important bill has been introduced in the US Senate called the HEART Act. It's aimed at helping animals that are seized in animal fighting cases. Here is information provided by the ASPCA about the HEART Act:
Fact Sheet
Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act (H.R. 1228 / S. 513)
The Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act was introduced in the 116th Congress in the House by Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA) and John Katko (R-NY) and in the Senate by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
What will the HEART Act do?
The HEART Act will expedite the disposition process for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases and ensures the financial responsibility for the cost of theanimals’ care. This legislation will require claimants to reimburse the costs of caring for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases when the government prevails in civil forfeiture proceedings. The HEART Act will prevent unnecessary delays in the rehoming and rehabilitation of these animals by reducing from 60 days to 30 days the time period the government has to notify interested parties following the seizure of animals. It will also allow courts to take into account the animals’welfare when considering further delays.
Why is the HEART Act Necessary?
The status quo for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases poses two major threats to animal welfare. First, the significant length of time animals must be held before courts determine their disposition can result in serious physical and behavioral deterioration
due to chronic stress, even when shelters provide high quality care. Second, the astronomical cost of sheltering seized animals for long periods depletes the financial resources of animal protection agencies and local shelters. The uncertainty of who is ultimately responsible for the cost of care for the seized animals discourages future animal fighting investigations, which means fewer animals saved.
In August 2013, the ASPCA, at the request of the U.S.Attorney’s Office and the F.B.I., helped rescue nearly 400 dogs in one of the largest federal dog fighting raids in U.S. history. These dogs endured extreme cruelty. Tethered with heavy chains in the summer heat without food or water, severely wounded and scarred from fighting, these dogs suffered in desperate need of veterinary care for injuries and neglect. While many of these dogs now enjoy happy lives in loving homes, far too many of them spent more than a year entangled in legal limbo and red tape.
Who Supports the HEART Act?
Besides the ASPCA and other animal welfare organizations, the HEART Act is endorsed by theNational Sheriffs’ Association and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
Bam Bam’s Story: Bam Bam was two weeks old when the ASPCA rescued her from an Alabama dog fighting yard as part of a multi-state federal dog fighting ring bust. Once removed from a future of abuse and suffering, Bam Bam was brought to a temporary shelter. While there, ASPCA behaviorists and caretakers provided Bam Bam with food, shelter, veterinary care, and socialization. When she was three months old, Bam Bam was transferred to the Humane Society of Calvert County, where she was fostered until adoption. Because of the timely disposition, the certainty about the cost of her care, and the time and resources spent by animal rescuers and rehabilitators, Bam Bam now lives happily in a loving home in Maryland. The HEART Act will ensure that every animal rescued in a federal animal fighting raid will have an expedited disposition process and that the financial responsibility for its care is met.

I urge you to email our MD Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen in support of this bill. It's very easy to do this. Just google their names and each has a place on their Senate website to email them.
Here are two letters you can use as a template if choose: (These letters are slightly different from each other as Sen. Van Hollen co-sponsored a similar bill last year).

Dear Senator Cardin,
     I’m writing to ask for your support of S. 513, known as the HEART Act, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Susan Collins.
     HEART stands for Help Extract Animals From Red Tape. Its aim is to assist animals seized in animal fighting cases.
     As I’m sure you know, animal fighting is terribly cruel. And animals impounded in these cases endure a second hardship, as they’re held at shelters for long periods of time while courts determine their disposition.
     Even when shelters provide high quality care, such long periods in cages can lead to real diminishment of the animals’ physical and behavioral health.
     The HEART Act will expedite the disposition process by reducing from 60 days to 30 days the period the government has to notify interested parties following the seizure of animals. It will also allow courts to take into account the animals’ welfare when considering further delays.
    And, because the astronomical cost of sheltering seized animals for long periods depletes the financial resources of animal protection agencies and local shelters, the HEART Act will require claimants to reimburse the costs of caring for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases when the government prevails in civil forfeiture proceedings.
     Animals used in fighting rings are victims. They deserve an opportunity to find new and loving homes as quickly as possible.
     I hope you’ll consider supporting this bill, and possibly even choose to co-sponsor it.

Dear Senator Van Hollen,
     I’m writing to ask for your support of S. 513, known as the HEART Act, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Susan Collins.
     I know you cosponsored this bill last Congress.  I ask for your continued support of the identical measure this Congress.
     HEART stands for Help Extract Animals From Red Tape. Its aim is to assist animals seized in animal fighting cases.
     As I’m sure you know, animal fighting is terribly cruel. And animals impounded in these cases endure a second hardship, as they’re held at shelters for long periods of time while courts determine their disposition.
     Even when shelters provide high quality care, such long periods in cages can lead to real diminishment of the animals’ physical and behavioral health.
     The HEART Act will expedite the disposition process by reducing from 60 days to 30 days the period the government has to notify interested parties following the seizure of animals. It will also allow courts to take into account the animals’ welfare when considering further delays.
    And, because the astronomical cost of sheltering seized animals for long periods depletes the financial resources of animal protection agencies and local shelters, the HEART Act will require claimants to reimburse the costs of caring for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases when the government prevails in civil forfeiture proceedings.
     Animals used in fighting rings are victims. They deserve an opportunity to find new and loving homes as quickly as possible.
     I hope you’ll consider supporting this bill, and possibly even choose to co-sponsor it.

12. Please stop by BCAS-Joy Freedman recently visited BCAS and has signed up to become a BCAS foster. Awesome! She urged others to do the same if they can, or at the very least stop by BCAS to show the staff our support.

13. Any Other Business?-This is a sad announcement. Joy Freedman will be resigning from the Commission. Joy has been so dedicated to our work. But it has taken a great deal of her time, and  she needs to focus on her business and other areas of her life. She promised she will always remain involved. Joy has been such an important colleague and friend for me personally. She is a an amazing person and would do anything to help the animals in our community. Thank you, Joy, for your hard work, your warmth, and your support.
Joy's resignation will officially take effect in September.

14. Next Meeting Date and Location-Our next meeting will be held on May 21, 2019 at 6:30. Location TBD.

15. Adjournment

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