Wednesday, June 19, 2019

June 18, 2019 meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Svcs. Advisory Commission

Hi, everyone. We covered a lot in our latest meeting. Let's get to it.

                                            Agenda
                        June  18, 2019 meeting
                                 Baltimore County
               Animal Services Advisory Commission

                                           AGENDA
                                   

1. Call to Order

2. Roll Call (Determination of a Quorum) In attendance were Maryanne Bailey, Joy Freedman, Ann gearhart, Roy Plummer, Julie Salter, Larry Townsend, and Janice Vincent (by phone)

3. Approval of April, 2019 and May, 2019 minutes-At our last meeting we were not able to approve the April minutes. We did so at this meeting. here are the April minutes as approved:

"BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES
ADVISORY COMMISSION
April 16, 2019


The thirty-eighth regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, April 16, 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, Maryanne Bailey, Joy Freedman, Ann Gearhart, Roy Plummer, Julie Salter, Larry Townsend, Janice Vincent and Julianne Zimmer.

Minutes

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

Motion – 

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

Dr. Donatelli

Dr. Lucia Donatelli shared her work history. She is the current Bureau Director of Prevention, Protection and Preparedness, which covers communicable diseases. 

Her responsibilities at the Baltimore County Health Department include Animal Services. 
Dr. Donatelli discussed the current search for a new Chief of Animal Services. She is on the interview panel. A few applications have been submitted, but the position is still open. She said they want someone with animal control and shelter experience, someone who is compassionate and collaborative, is a good manager and a good supervisor and wants to work with community.  

She said BCAS is working on expanding foster and volunteer programs, working on more opportunities for staff and volunteer training, trying to be more geared toward being more customer service oriented. The staff wants to do more community education, and she said she supports that.
Next month BCAS will once again separate the duties of Animal Control workers and shelter staff. (The previous Administration had joined the two jobs under the title Animal Service Officer. This had meant that ASO’s on some days worked at the shelter and some days on the road in Animal Control.) Dr. Donatelli said it had been clear that it had not worked to join the two positions. 
 She said the real change will come when we have a new chief who can evaluate programs and put their own stamp on the operation.

Deborah said the Commission wants to be a part of the process going forward. She said she would like to see the Liaison Committee re-formed when the new chief is in place. Dr. Donatelli said she would consider this. 

Joy and Deb are concerned about those who find strays but fail to turn them in to animal SERVICES even though the County requires all strays to go to BCAS. Dr. Donaltelli said that BCAS does try to contact those who have found strays when they learn about it, but that these people are often angry to be contacted and accuse BCAS of harassing them.

Deb would like Baltimore County to enact a TNR law like the law in Baltimore City. Dr. Donatelli said TNR is complicated. There are issues from both viewpoints. Dr. Donatelli suggested the commission make a recommendation to the County Executive about TNR legislation. 

There was a recent incident where a mobile home park hired a third party trapper for cats on the property. , Dr. Donatelli says property management was called and advised of laws and TNR program. She also spoke with the third party trapper about humane trapping. The cats that came in were all TNR’d.
Dr. Donatelli suggested holding the next Commission meeting at BCAS.

Sam O’Neil, Senior Adviser in the Office of County Executive was also in attendance at the meeting.  
She said this is a new administration and that Johnny Olsziewski ran on a community-driven platform of transparency and connectedness. 
She thanked the Commission members for their diligence and said the Administration has confidence in HHS to put a plan together that addresses concerns and that responds to some of the areas brought up in the op ex report commissioned by co exec’s office. She said it will take some time and transitions are tough…but that this Administration is trying to be as responsive as possible. 

Ann asked if it would help to know stray policies in surrounding jurisdictions. Ann is willing to collect that information. 
         
Commission Membership

         Welcome to Julie Salter. Commission members introduced themselves. She is from the Towson area. She was interested in veterinary medicine in college, then switched to advertising and public relations. She loves animals and has a baking business, called Quite a Stir. She also works with the arthritis foundation and would like to find a way to connect animals with handicaps with people with handicaps. She believes that strong communication and public relations is needed for BCAS.

Notes for April Meeting

Questions were sent to the Department of Health Public Information Officer, Stacie Burgess, for a response. All of the questions were distributed to the members only. Deb would like to see training for new adopters. Standard Operating Procedures are still in draft form and working on revisiting these..

Deborah asked Stacie about the guinea pig situation. Stacie said Dr. Branch has taken appropriate action concerning this matter. 

OpEx Report Summary

The OpEx report looked at the effectiveness of Baltimore County Animal Services operations, but it did not address policy decisions or staff salaries, services and practices and none of the shelter staff or commission members were interviewed. Deborah provided a summary of the OpEx report to the Commission members.

 Communication has increased between the animal abuse team and the shelter. They are having meetings on a regular basis now. It is recommended that monthly meetings occur between volunteers and management. 

Julianne suggested that a small sampling of employees and volunteers should come to these meetings to discuss things, since they would have a good input. 
Deb said this kind of exchange of information could be accomplished through the liaison committee. Joy SAID they may want to discuss some subjects without administrators present. Julianne would like to see the commission have the ability to attend volunteer and employee meetings, in order to be able to help the shelter with what they need.

The issue of BCAS’s TNR program was discussed. Cats are being dropped off as much as a half mile away from where they were picked up, when it should be no more than 300 feet.
Deb reached out to a TNR person from another jurisdiction, who explained that while some cats may roam as far as a mile from their source of shelter and food, not all do. And even those that do don’t roam a mile in all directions. So dropping off cats a distance away from where they were trapped can often result in cats not knowing how to get back to their source of shelter, food and water. 

General assembly 

Animal bills that passed  in this year’s General Assembly session… – Protection of Animals from Sexual Abuse – Criminal Law- Animal Sexual Abuse HB 641: Makes animal sexual abuse a felony, closes loopholes in the current law, and strengthens Maryland’s prohibition against sexually abusing animals such as those who allow others to sexually abuse their pets, often for profit. Judges can order a defendant not be allowed to own or reside with animals and may also order a convicted abuser to undergo and pay for psychological counseling. Studies have shown that violence to animals has a direct correlation to abuse of children. Sponsored by Delegate Atterbeary and Senator Lee. Signed by Governor Larry Hogan on 4/18/19.
Extending the Ban of Cownose Rays Killing Contests – SB 143/ HB 213: In these cruel contests, participants compete to kill hundreds of Cownose Rays who migrate into the Chesapeake Bay while they are pregnant and then throw the dead animals back into Chesapeake Bay. This legislation extends the moratorium on these brutal contests until the Department of Natural resources creates a species management plan. Sponsored by Senator Young and Delegate Stein. Signed by Governor Larry Hogan on 4/30/19.
Cruelty to Animals – Payment of Costs – SB 152/HB 135:  Allows judges to award restitution to agencies for the costs of caring for animals seized due to cruelty. Sponsored by Senator Ready and Delegate Moon. Signed by Governor Larry Hogan on 4/18/19.


On a national level, there is a US Senate bill known as the Heart Act. HEART stands for Help Extract Animals from Red Tape. The bill would expedite the disposition process for animals seized in federal animal fighting cases and ensure the financial responsibility for the cost of the animals’ care. 

Deborah provided letter templates to send to lawmakers for anyone who wanted to urge passage of this bill.

BCAS Visit – Joy has been approved as a BCAS foster..She urged Commission members to become involved at BCAS. She also hopes employees and volunteers will reach out to the Commission with ideas about education programs and public relations for BCAS. She would like to see classes at BCAS and in the community.

Roy mentioned that when BCAS’s Cuddle Shuttle went to Northpoint, he offered to help but was told he could not because he is not a shelter volunteer. . 

Ann went through training as a volunteer. She said she could coordinate for commission to help with events with the cuddle shuttle. 

Anne would like to have BCAS information given to real estate agents to distribute to new home owners in Baltimore County and wants a FEMA brochure needs to be distributed in adoption packages. 

Janice mentioned a national organization called Dogs for Deployment. This is a foster program for dogs belonging to people who are being deployed in the military. Janice would like to give this information to vet offices and at the shelter. 

Any other business?

Joy announced she is resigning from the Commission effective in September 2019.Joy has been on the Commission since its inception in 2015, and has played an enormous role in the Commission’s work.  She thanked everyone. Once she retires from the Commission she promised   to remain active supporting the shelter. 

One of the volunteers in attendance suggested that those who attend meetingS BE allowed to speak. Deb proimised to find out if this can happen. She said she would contact Tom Bostwiuck WHO is the counsel to the County Council and is a laision to the Commission.  

Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, 2018 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rdfloor, Main Conference Room at 6:30 p.m.

Adjournment

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

Adjourned at 8:10 p.m."

We also approved minutes from our May meeting. Here they are as approved:

"BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES
ADVISORY COMMISSION
May 21, 2019

The thirty-ninth regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, May 21, 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, Maryanne Bailey, Joy Freedman, Roy Plummer, Julie Salter, Larry Townsend, Janice Vincent and Julianne Zimmer.

Minutes

Minutes from the April 2019 meeting will be sent via email for approval.

Motion – 

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

Search for Chief of Animal Services
The Health Dept. continues its search for a new Chief of Animal Services. Prior to the county’s interviews with candidates, Deborah sent an email to Stacie Burgess (Chief of Communications for the Health Dept.) saying the Commission would like to have input as to the kind of person the Commission would like the County to hire. Ms. Burgess asked for an email ASAP so Deborah sent one concerning the kind of person the Commission would like to see hired as Animal services Chief.

Joy feels that the Commission should be a part of the interview process since members have a lot of knowledge about the shelter and about sheltering in general.  
Deb said she spoke with Samantha O’Neil some time back and mentioned that the Commission would like to be part of the interview process. Sam indicated the Administration didn’t want to set a precedent for other commissions. 

Joy said that one of the visions we support is a public/private partnership. 
Deb thinks it would be ideal to consider a merger with BARCS. 

Julianne questioned whether anyone has assembled a five year business plan to introduce to the County Executive. 

If the county does choose to go to a public private partnership or a merger with BARCS, county funding would have to continue for some time, allowing a chance for fundraising efforts to bear fruit. 
         
First Quarter Statistics

BCAS first quarter stats were reviewed as well as a comparison of these numbers with the numbers from the first quarter of 2018. The numbers are not much different.. Next quarter’s numbers will be more revealing as they will be the first stats where Gary Klunk and Dr. Melissa Jones will not have been in charge.


Changes at BCAS

There is no longer a guard at the entrance to the shelter.
Volunteers no longer have to sign out for a key to use the restroom.
The public will now be allowed to go into the stray hold room to see if their pet is there.
A new greeter volunteer position has been added on the weekends allowing volunteers to welcome visitors to the shelter, provide info, and I think take people back to see the animals.


The Lawsuit

A lawsuit filed in 2014 against Baltimore County by a number of years ago by animal advocates claiming mismanagement of BCAS can move forward
after the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that taxpayers have the right to sue jurisdictions to prevent waste or mismanagement of their tax dollars.

Next Door

Commission members discussed a recent social media post concerning a citizen finding an animal and rehoming it, rather than taking it to BCAS. This may have occurred in Baltimore City, since it involved a phone call to 311. 

Roy mentioned a story about a friend who had captured a raccoon in his trashcan, called animal control which did not respond and told him to call police who told him to call a private trapper, whom he had to pay $100 to remove the raccoon. 

Hot Car Protocol

A post on the Next Door app concerned a dog left in a car. Someone called police who said they could do nothing unless it was AT LEAST 85 degrees outside. Deborah emailed Stacie and Sam about this incident asking what is the protocol for this in the police department. She expressed serious concern since a car can heat up very quickly even on days when it is not 85 degrees outside.

Someone looked online and found an item indicating Maryland is one of 19 states that law enforcement and animal control officers are able to break into a vehicle to release an animal from a hot car. The animal has to look distressed. 

Commission Annual Report

Would like to get a committee together to work on our annual report. 

Visitors

Deb learned that she is allowed to permit those attending meetings to speak. So the Commission now has a sign up sheet for those who wish to talk at the end of the meetings.

Commission Announcement

Julianne announced she will resign from the commission, as soon as the Administration chooses someone to replace her. Julianne has been an active Commission member, and Deborah thanked her for her service on the Commission. 

Any Other Business?

Joy wants to know the future of the Rescue Well grant. Deborah said she would attempt to find out.

One of those in attendance talked about some concerns: There is no one to ask when there are questions as to what to do with behavior problem dogs. There are not many volunteers trained to walk the dogs with behavioral problems. 
Dogs are only getting out once a day for thirty minutes maximum. 
She said BCAS needs kuranda dog beds. Julianne will contact a woman she knows to see if she can help provide these beds. . Also need slip lead leashes. Julianne said she can donate some slip leads. 
There is an amazon wish list. 

Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rdfloor, Main Conference Room at 6:30 p.m.

Adjournment

Motion to adjourn
Motion by: Larry Townsend
Second by: Janice Vincent
Motion approved.

Adjourned at 7:51 p.m."

4. New Business-
It’s important to say up front with many of these issues under New Business that we recognize that BCAS is in a period of transition…that there is no leader permanently at the helm…that many things will surely change once leadership positions are filled. That said…the Animal Services Advisory Commission is here to advise. We want to make sure our advice is not perceived as criticism. But it is important that we continue to be vigilant and continue examining all pertinent issues as we go forward so that we continue to do our job.
We know that the Health Dept. is working diligently to find the right people to move BCAS in the right direction with tremendous support in this effort from the County Executive’s office.

a. Search for Animal Svcs. Chief
As you may know, the listing for the Chief of Animal Services position was removed from the County site and then was posted again. The county had chosen a candidate for the job who unfortunately decided it wasn’t the right fit. So we are back to square one. I know of one person who is applying who I think is a very strong candidate. And there are others who we’ve been told have applied.

b. Animal Abuse Team
The Animal Abuse Team is being dismantled as  of July 1st.  I spoke with Shawn Vinson, the public Information Officer for the County Police, and he explained that they looked at the type of calls and number of calls that the animal abuse team was responding to and felt that the volume of calls didn’t warrant having a unit just dedicated to these cases.  The process now will be basically what it was before the Animal Abuse Team was created.
If someone calls 911 a patrol officer will respond and start the initial investigation. That officer’s report will  go to the Investigative Services Team for that precinct. There are Investigative Service Teams in each precinct.
Detective Monica Ward, who has been a member of the Animal Abuse Team, will work out of the Criminal Investigations Bureau but will also coordinate investigations between the police, the Health Dept. and the States Attorney’s office.  We’re going to have to see how this works out. We’ll have to follow the number of cases referred by police to the State’s Atty’s office to see if those numbers remain consistent with what they’ve been under the auspices of the Animal Abuse Team.

c. Southwest Area Park Spay/Neuter Center closure
This facility was opened on the county’s West side to be like the spay/neuter center in Dundalk, but this location had never done well. They had a difficult time getting clients to schedule appointments for spay/neuter surgery. As a result, that fhe Southwest Area Park spay/neuter center shut down on April 30th.

d. Meeting with Samantha O’Neil
I met with Sam O’Neil, Senior Adviser t the County Executive, and Joy joined us by phone to discuss numerous issues that are ongoing. Here’s what we covered.
We talked about the Chief of Animal Services position.
In reference to the changes with the Animal Abuse Team, Joy and I discussed our concern that Animal Control Officers need to once again be trained as Officers in other jurisdictions are trained. You might remember that the previous Administration had basically stopped this training. It’s very important that our ACO’s are fully trained to handle all kinds of things they might face, and also be fully trained in how to conduct animal welfare checks. If officers had been trained for that, someone would have put hands on Oscar after one of the many citizen complaints about his welfare and would have noticed that he was wasting and suffering from serious physical problems.

(Ann Gearhart asked whether any ACO's will be attending the annual Animal Control Officer Training Academy. I will check on this.)

Joy brought up the affidavit process which is used by Animal Services. Requiring complainints to get a notarized affidavit to a file a complaint is not done in other jurisdictions and Joy and I both urged sam to take a look at this issue.

Sam mentioned that the Administration will be appointing two new members to our Commission to replace Julianne Zimmer who is resigning and also to replace Gerald Brooks. Sam said both Gerald and county officials felt it put him in an awkward position to be a county employee and also serving on this Commission.

e. Open Positions at BCAS
There are other important positions at BCAS besides Chief of Animal Services that need to be filled including Shelter Supervisor and Chief Veterinarian. I had heard the Veterinarian position has been filled but had not confirmed this as of the meeting.

f. Rescue Well Grant
We've inquired as to the status of the county's grant to Rescue Well to learn whether it will be continued in this coming fiscal year. We have not yet been able to find out. We hope to know by next months' meeting.

g. BCAS Budget
We inquired as to how much the now approved Fiscal Year 2020 budget allots to BCAS. I attempted to look it up before the meeting, but computer problems prevented me from doing so. I'm working on this and will have more at our July meeting.

h. Adoption Returns/Apartment Leases
We’re told that in just one week 4 dogs were adopted and returned within 24 hour periods and that in these cases, either the dog was too much for the adopter to handle or a landlord wouldn’t allow the adopter to keep the dog.
There are two serious issues here. One is whether those who are working with adopters make sure they ask the right questions.
What is the adopter’s lifestyle? If the person is largely sedentary, adopting an animal that needs lots of exercise is not the right fit.
Adopters should be advised about the temperament, the activity level, the strength, andf the personality of the dogs they are considering. Making the right choice can ensure that a dog does not end up back at BCAS.
Joy Freedman says there are rules in municipal shelters that restrict what questions can be asked of adopters. I need to look into this.
The second issue involves many rental properties…some don’t allow dogs at all…some have prohibitions on dogs of a certain size or certain breeds. If adopters are renters, perhaps they should be required to provide a letter or some form of documentation from their leasing agent that they are allowed to own a dog or perhaps a call can be made while the adopter is there to ask the rental office what its policy is concerning pets.
In any case, this needs to be examined and a procedure put in place to make sure adopters don’t have to bring pets back. We want adoptions to be forever.
Joy Freedman said that in municipal shelters there are restrictions about what questions can be asked of adopters. I'm looking into this.

i. Feeding schedule
Another issue that’s come to our attention is the dog feeding schedule at BCAS. We’re told that typically, adult dogs are fed once a day at BCAS in the morning…and receive kongs with food inside as a source of social enrichment in the evenings.
I checked with another area shelter on this issue and was told 1. When dogs gorge themselves by only eating once a day it puts a lot of added stress on the GI system.
2. When dogs eat rapidly, as most do even with two meals, let alone one, it greatly increases their risk of gastric torsion (bloat).
3. An average dog empties their stomach in 6-8 hours so making them wait a full 24 before getting a meal again is unfair.
4. Having the dogs ravenous can lead to resource guarding and makes dogs pretty snappy for treats.
5. Although not much, it's still providing more enrichment and stimulation for the dogs, which they all definitely need.”
I’ve emailed Dr. Donatelli to ask whether BCAS might consider going to two feedings a day for these reasons. She promised to discuss this with BCAS vets and get back to me.
That said, Roy Plummer said he works with a veterinarian who believes that once a day feedings for dogs is best. Joy freedman disagrees. We'll wait and see what the vets at BCAS have to say on this issue when Dr. Donatelli discusses it with them.

j. Drug Addiction/Pets
I spoke with a county resident who is dealing with a terrible issue. Her neighbor is a drug addict, and has frequently become unconscious on her front porch…the woman who called me has called 911 numerous times and police have had to revive the neighbor with Narcan.
Unfortunately the neighbor has two pets. One is a dog that, according to the woman I spoke with, appears underfed, and also frequently jumps its fence and gets loose in the neighborhood. It is apparently not friendly with children or other animals. So it appears it’s putting other people and pets at risk.
Also the neighbor has a small cat and she left the cat overnight in her vehicle with a litter box in it, and it seemed that was a plan for a long-term solution.
The woman who called me made numerous calls to police and Animal Control and said the ACO who responded cited the woman for keeping the cat in the vehicle and the cat is apparently now being kept in a screened porch. But the woman I spoke with is concerned for the welfare of the cat and the dog considering the neighbor’s drug addiction.
I spoke with the Director of Animal Control in another jurisdiction who told me it appears the animals are being neglected, and if that were true, that jurisdiction's Animal Control unit would remove them from the home. It sounds like this response makes sense in this case, from what we know, but of course, we don't have all the details.In any case, it seems there should be a BCAS Standard Operating Procedure that ACO's remove animals that appear to be facing neglect.

k. Kitten Season in full swing
It's kitten season and we're told the shelter is full of cats. If you want to be a foster, now's a great time to do it :-)

l. Annual Report Committee
The Commission is required to provide an annual report. I asked for volunteers of those who would like to work on this with me. Joy freedman and Bob Swensen (who will be taking Joy's seat on the Commission when she resigns in September as well as Maryanne Bailey volunteered and we will begin working on this.

m. Next Month Chair Election
July, 2019 will be the 4th anniversary of the Commission's existence. It will be time to have our annual election for Chair.

5. Old Business
a. Kuranda Beds and Slip Leads
One of the visitors at our last meeting said BCAS was short on kuranda beds and slip leads. Since then, slip leads have been donated and Julianne Zimmer has connected one of the shelter's volunteers with a woman whose organization provides kuranda beds. Work is underway to get the beds.

6. Any Other Business?
We had a discussion about what happens when someone finds a stray in the off hours of BCAS? Bob Swensen traps and has often had situations where stray animals are trapped during overnight hours, and ACO's are not available to pick animals up until 10am. Ann Gearhart mentioned that there used to be holding pens at police stations that could be used for this. I will ask about whether the county might be willing to bring these back.

7. Announcement of Date and Time of Next Meeting
Our next meeting will take place on July 16, 2019 in our usual location on the third floor of the Drumcastle Building at 6:30 PM.

8. Adjournment