Sunday, September 22, 2019

SEPT. 17, 2019 MEETING OF THE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES ADVISORY COMMISSION

Hi, everyone,
Here's a summary of the September 2019 meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission.

                         SEPTEMBER 17, 2019 AGENDA
                                     Baltimore County
                 Animal Services Advisory Commission

1. Call to Order
2. Roll Call-In attendance were Deborah Stone Hess, Janice Vincent, Louis Eguzo, Ann Gearhart,  Larry Townsend, Roy Plummer (by phone), and Julie Salter (by phone)
3. Approval of July 2019 minutes-Here are the minutes as approved:

BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES
ADVISORY COMMISSION
July 16, 2019


The forty-first regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, July 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 (by phone), Louis Eguzo, Joy Freedman, Ann Gearhart, Roy Plummer, Julie Salter, and Janice Vincent (by phone).

Minutes

Minutes from June 2019 motion for approval.

Motion – 

Motioned by: Roy Plummer
Second by: Joy Freedman
Decision:  Approved

New Commission Member

Louis Eguzo is a new member of the commission. He is excited to be a member. He loves animals. He is also a PhD student. He worked on the County Executive’s campaign. He is an Administrative appointment to the Commission.  

Positions Filled at BCAS

Dr. Sandra Andrulis has been promoted to Chief Veterinarian, and Shannon Lapinsky has been promoted to Shelter Supervisor. 

BCAS Update from Dr. Donatelli

While conducting interviews for Chief of Animal Services, she heard from several candidates that they are worried that the shelter might be privatized in the future and they could lose their job as a result. Dr. Donatelli worries that no one will take this job if they believe they will lose it due to privatization. Dr. Donatelli advised that privatization is not on the cCounty’s radar nor is it a goal and asked the commission to get that information out, so people will feel more comfortable to take the job. Deb wants to help to support Dr. Donatelli in her mission to hire a Chief. Dr. Donatelli advised we need leadership now, someone in place to make needed changes. She also wants applicants to know that the county strives to provide other employment whenever jobs are eliminated. For example, 14 positions were recently eliminated in Home Health, and new jobs were found for all 14 people. While the county cannot guarantee that an applicant would maintain a job, should privatization happen in the future, more than likely, the person in that position would continue employment. Dr. Donatelli is hoping to hire someone within a week or so.

Positive changes are taking place in BCAS policies. For example, the dogs now have pools and access to drinking water in the play yards. 

Will be hiring for Volunteer Events Assistant and the Assistant Shelter Supervisor. There will be an appreciation event for volunteers and organizations that help the shelter. 

Dr. Donatelli said BCAS is struggling to have enough help in the shelter between volunteers, staff and DOC workers. There are supposed to be seven DOC workers, yet have never had seven on staff since March. In need of more volunteers and DOC workers.

Starting to recruit more volunteers, starting with classes. We have 9 staff in the shelter, but need 10, so an ACO position is in the process of being moved to the shelter. 

A visitor to the meeting said that unfortunately volunteers sometimes don’t follow through with volunteering or don’t show up for shifts. 

Feeding Schedule

BCAS feeding schedule was one meal in the morning and a kong in the afternoon. Deborah reached out to Dr. Donatelli to ask whether dogs could be fed twice a day. Dr. Donatelli looked into it and said staffing doesn’t allow for a second feeding, but she arranged to order larger kongs which can accommodate more food and brought more freezers into BCAS so the kongs can be frozen which means it takes longer to eat what’s inside, providing more enrichment. 

Dogs Returned

Now tracking returned dogs, it appears to be occurring most often due to behavior issues. 

Animal Abuse Team

When the Animal Abuse Team was disabled in July, a position was returned to Animal Services, allowing for an ACO position to be transferred to a shelter position. 

Capt. Doug McManus will be the Commission’s Police Liaison. Deborah spoke with him.. He explained that when animal-related calls come in to 911, the operator decides whether animal services will be called or police will be dispatched. There is one person dedicated as an animal investigator in each precinct. Monica Ward is a Liaison between BCAS, Police Department, and State’s Attorney’s Office.

Hot Car Protocol

There was a situation where the Police responded to a citizen complaint concerning an animal left in a car. The citizen said police said the temperature outside must be 85 degrees for them to do anything about an animal left in a car. Capt. McManus promised to talk with Det. Ward so she can help educate officers how quickly vehicle temperature rises and can become dangerous to a pet. . 

Police Holding Cages

At the last Commission meeting there was discussion over the problem of citizens finding stray animals when Animal Control officers are off-duty. At the time, someone asked what happened to holding cages at Baltimore County Police Stations. Deborah heard from many people that the cages had been problematic because they were outdoors and offered no protection from the weather. Often animals would knock over the water bowl so they would have no water. The Commission wants to look into other options. 
Ann said Anne Arundel County’s holding cages work well. 


Annual Report

Maryanne Bailey, Joy Freedman, Joy’s future Commission replacement Bob Swensen, and Deborah Stone-Hess met about the annual report. 

Shelter Door

Shelter door is no longer locked and guarded. 

BCAS Budget

Budget has dropped approximately $700,000. Mr. Olszewski has inherited a troubled budget, so there were many cuts. Positions have been cut as well.  

Rescue Well Grant

This grant has not been renewed. 

Second Quarter Stats

The Second Quarter Stats were distributed to Commission Members and discussed. Owner requested euthanasia numbers dropped. Dr. Donatelli advised that staff has been instructed that surrendering owner must specifically request euthanasia if they choose and staff is never to pressure them to do so.  This request is not always honored and the animal can be put up for adoption if deemed appropriate. . 

Chair Election

This is the Commission’s four year anniversary. Roy nominated Deborah Stone-Hess to continue as Chair. Joy Freedman Seconded. All agreed, none opposed. 

Any other business?

Construction on sound proofing around BCAS will begin soon after many neighbor complaints. 

Volunteer Signed Up to Speak

Joyce Barnett – worked 18 years as an ACO, now retired. Concerned with law enforcement with BCAS. She is concerned that ACO’s and Police are not trained in problems they may see in horses and livestock. 
Joy – last year when working on Oscar’s Law, saw that Baltimore County annotated code is very ambiguous. Joyce advised there were reasons for that, to give ACOs more leverage. Joy advised that the code needs to be updated.


Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 17, 2019 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rdfloor, Main Conference Room at 6:30 p.m.

Adjournment

Motion to adjourn
Motion by: Joy Freedman
Second by: Roy Plummer
Motion approved.

Adjourned at 7:50 p.m.



4. New Animal Services Chief-After many months, we are happy to report that we have a new Animal Services Chief. His name is Kevin Usilton. Here is the press release sent out by Baltimore County about him:
page1image55839168
IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS:
Stacie Burgess
Phone: 410-887-0236; 443-829-9944 (c) sburgess@baltimorecountymd.gov
Elyn Garrett Jones
Phone: 410-887-3072; 443-791-0853 (c) egarrettjones@baltimorecountymd.gov
Baltimore County Announces J. Kevin Usilton as New Chief of Animal Services
Baltimore County, MD, September 9, 2019 — The Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services welcomes J. Kevin Usilton as the new Chief of Baltimore County Animal Services. Usilton begins his tenure with the County today, where he is assuming responsibility for the operation of the animal shelter, enforcement of animal control laws and the administration of community outreach programs.
“Following vigorous recruitment efforts, Mr. Usilton emerged as the ideal candidate to lead Baltimore County Animal Services,” said Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Director and Health Officer. “I am confidentthat his extensive experience and compassion for animals will strengthen leadership at the shelter.
Usilton most recently served as executive director for First State Animal Center and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). His 30-year animal welfare career includes the Baltimore City Bureau of Animal Control, the Humane Society of Wicomico County, the Delaware Humane Association and the Humane Society of Greater Dayton [Ohio].
As an animal lover, I am excited to join the Baltimore County team,” said Usilton. “I look forward to partnering with the staff, volunteers and community as we continue to help pets live healthy and safe lives.”
The Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promotes well-being among individuals and families by providing quality health, housing and social services. Along with an administrative unit, HHS is comprised of the Departments of Health and Social Services.
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page1image62332032


5. Q and A with Animal Services Chief-Deborah met with Kevin Usilton and Dr. Lucia Donatelli last week and Kevin attended this Commission meeting. The Commission welcomed him. He introduced himself and took questions from Commission members. Here's a summary:

Kevin explained that he's been in the animal sheltering field since the 80’s. He said he
loves to help stabilize organizations and that he has been in charge of government animal control functions in Baltimore and for non-profits as well.
He's happy to come to Baltimore County.

He supports the use of TNR to reduce the number of cats coming into the shelter and mentioned that the Dundalk spay/neuter clinic is now allowing walk-in TNR without appointment.
He wants to stop cat population growth and hopes the community will help in that regard.

He praised the vets at BCAS saying a large number of animals come in to BCAS
in desperate need of medical care and that the shelter's vets provide immediate relief by prescribing a treatment plan.

He also praised the volunteer program as an invaluable resource in helping to provide critically important enrichment by walking dogs and socializing them, and also providing help by cleaning cages and working to help get animals adopted.
He plans to focus on expanding the volunteer program and said he would love more community engagement with volunteers.
He emphasized the need to get animals available for adoption or out to rescue as quickly as possible after they arrive at BCAS.
Kevin brought flyers for the rabies clinics and urged everyone to promote the clinics whether that means posting it on the Next Door app or on other social media sites as well as placing posters where appropriate.

He mentioned that Animal Control officers are equipped with microchip scanners and they are allowed and encouraged to return the animal to its home in the field whenever possible without ever have to bring the pet to the shelter.

Kevin said he has met with ACO's, the State's Attorney’s office, and Baltimore County police to talk about cruelty cases. Just last week there were 15 cases which he said seems like a high number. He discussed the link between domestic violence and animal abuse.
He also said the States Atty’s office provided training to Baltimore County ACO's last week.

Kevin explained his views on Animal Control saying he believes Animal Control is the first responder for animal welfare and human welfare...to protect animals from people and people from animals.
He said that often people are unhappy, either believing Animal Control hasn't done enough or has done too much. He said there's a need to balance that.

We asked Kevin whether the county can send out a notice to all county employees letting them know that our county shelter needs volunteers and fosters.
Stacie Burgess, Communication Director for HHS said she could coordinate a county request for volunteers and fosters. HHS has a weekly newsletter that’s an internal vehicle that could be a place to start.

We asked about SOP's and whether Kevin would be working on creating SOP's for BCAS. He said yes.

Kevin was asked how often the shelter is full and out of space. He said it can happen on any given day, especially with cats.

There were questions concerning the overnight hours when an ACO is on call.
There is an ACO on duty till 11 pm. Between 11pm and 7am they are on call to only address true emergencies like an animal hit by a car. If someone calls 911 overnight with a non-emergency situation like a barking dog complaint, 911 contacts the on call officer and the officer calls the citizen to let them know the complaint will be addressed in the morning.

There are just 8 ACO's and once a week each is on call and then still must work a full shift the next day.

There were some concerns about the script that 911 dispatchers were using in animal-related calls. That script has been revised.

We asked Kevin about TNR and BCAS practices of not always returning the cats exactly where they were trapped when citizens complain they don't them back on their property.
Best Friends protocols call for returning cats no further than 300 feet from where they were trapped.
When I met with Kevin last week, I suggested that a TNR law is needed in Baltimore County like the law in Baltimore City. That law makes it illegal not to return a cat where it is trapped. This would help Baltimore County in dealing with the issue of property owners who don't want cats back.
This will surely be an ongoing conversation.
In addition, as we all know, cats that come in with wounds of unknown origin are usually euthanized because of the risk of rabies. Kevin said that because cats live on the street, its unrealistic to expect them not to have injuries. He said he thinks the state vet is working on new recommendations about this issue. I will look into that.

Commission member Louis Eguzo mentioned that he has extensive experience as a manager with the Red Cross which works extensively with volunteers, and  offered to provide assistance in getting PSA's on the air and develop talking points for the media to encourage more volunteerism at BCAS.

The county is scheduled to start construction on a sound wall to reduce noise for neighbors of BCAS at the end of September. This will greatly impact the back yards and outdoor kennels which will have to be shut down during construction. Construction is going to take about 6 months.

Stacie Burgess announced that a volunteer appreciation event is in the planning stages. It will  probably take place in early November and will be held outdoors. There will be a DJ.

6. Reach out to your own districts-When I met with Kevin last week, he asked whether Commission members discuss animal-related concerns in their districts at our meetings. I said no and that most often we are just talking about animal issues in the county in general. His question made me realize that we could be much more effective if we reach out to people in our individual areas via social media to let them know they can turn to us when they have animal issues. We can also help educate the public this way about where the shelter is, the services it offers, and what to do when they find a stray or need to look for a lost pet, etc. I recommended that each Commission member do that.

7. Safety Issues-
a) Volunteers walking dogs go in and out of the shelter to and from Yard 6. The door is solid and there's a risk that animals could accidentally come face to face as walkers bring one in or take one out. This can be a real hazard. At my meeting with Kevin and Dr. Donatelli I brought this up and asked whether they might consider putting a large glass panel in the door so volunteers can see who's coming or leaving through the door. We will keep this on the front burner.

b) Water tables under the shelter have shifted and particularly when it rains, water is seeping up in different areas around BCAS. I’m told Yard 6 turns into a marsh. To try to deal with the problem the county placed stones back there but I understand they aren’t even. Obviously we don’t want anyone falling, which could lead to injury and/or a dog getting loose. Dr. Donatelli says they’re aware of the problem but it won’t be addressed until the sound barrier is finished.

8. 911-I’ve been hearing that it is more productive for those in the community with animal control issues to call 911 rather than the non-emergency number because sometimes the dispatchers at the non emergency number do not document calls and there is no follow up if it is not during regular business hours.
Dr. Donatelli tells me she believes that the call takers are the same whether it is 911 or x2222. At our  meeting last week, she explained that Animal Services reviewed and updated the script that the calltakers use.  There was supposed to be a manager’s meeting today at the center to discuss. She’s hopeful that this will resolve any confusing messages that the public are receiving.
For now, I would suggest the public use 911 rather than the non emergency number.

9. Maryland 2000-The annual Maryland 2000 took place in July with all shelters in the state working to reach 2000 total cat adoptions for the month.  Here are the final tallies: As a state, there were 2,765 cat/kitten adoptions in the month of July! That is 175 more than last year when there were 2,590 adoptions. Baltimore County placed 6th out of 21 organizations that participated.  And BCAS also increased its numbers, up from 142 to 165 adoptions!

10.   Foster-You no longer have to be a county resident to be a BCAS foster. However you must be a county or city resident to foster a dog that is on rabies quarantine.

11. New Assistant Volunteer and Events Coordinator Lissette Hernandez started August 24th.
Lissette joins BCAS with three years of experience in Animal Welfare from two other area shelters.

12. Mobile Pet Pantry-Michelle Szper (pronounced Spear) who runs a non-profit pet food pantry. called MCQE Mobile Pet Pantry. She works with numerous area organizations that help those in need who also need help feeding their pets. Her organization gives out literally tons of pet food. One of the groups she works with is in Baltimore County. It's the Reisterstown Crisis Center.
I think this could be a great resource for BCAS as some people who surrender animals do so because they can’t afford to keep them. Wouldn’t it be great if we could offer this resource to them and prevent the need to surrender their pets!?!
I will be passing along her contact info to Kevin.

13. Walk-in TNR at Dundalk Facility-As mentioned above the Dundalk spay/neuter facility is now accepting walk-ins for TNR.

14. Police Dept. Efforts-
a) I spoke with Capt. McManus at the Baltimore County Police Dept. He is very concerned about an issue that he and I have discussed in the past…animals left in vehicles that can quickly overheat. He told me he’s planning to speak to the county council to propose a law that would make it a crime to leave a pet in a car whenever the temperature is over 78 degrees.
I have emailed him today to ask whether he might consider lowering that temperature to 70 degrees? The internet indicates that at 70 degrees on a sunny day, after a half hour, the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees. It would seem that these temperatures are high enough to cause serious harm.

In addition, BCAS receives a copy of every police report on an animal related call and whenever there is a case involving someone leaving a pet in a vehicle, BCAS sends out a flyer to that person to inform them of the dangers of leaving pets in the car and how quickly the car can heat up.

b) Police recently participated in a “training” with the State’s Attorney’s office, Detective Monica Ward who used to be on the Animal Abuse Team and is a liaison between police and BCAS, representative of BCAS, so that everyone can have a full understanding of the roles that each plays.

15. Annual Report-Annual Report-Joy Freedman, Maryanne Bailey, Bob Swensen and I  have been working on our 4th annual Commission report. We have wanted to wait until the new Animal Svcs. Chief was in place to work on it extensively. Now that we have a new Chief, we’ll be working to get the report finished.

16. Next Meeting Location, Date and Time-Our next meeting will be held on October 15, 2019  at 6:30 PM at the Drumcastle Building.
17. Speaker Sign up-Some of those in attendance discussed some of the needs of BCAS including the need for newspaper. One of the attendees asked whether the county could establish a location for people to drop off newspaper. Stacie Burgess said she would look into it.

Another attendee praised the Dundalk spay/neuter facility and those who work there.

18. Adjournment