Monday, December 2, 2019

November 2019 meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission

Hi, everyone,
Well, the year is drawing to a close and the Commission will not meet again until January of 2020. We  have completed the Commission's 2019 annual report and you will find it in this post. It's lengthy, so for those who have a hard time making their way through the whole thing, feel free to scroll down to the last page which contains a summary and recommendations.
Here's a recap of our November 19, 2019 meeting:

                                  NOVEMBER 19, 2019 AGENDA

1) Call to Order

2) Roll Call-Determination of a Quorum-In attendance were Deborah Stone Hess, Ann Gearhart, Julie Salter, Roy Plummer, Bob Swensen, and Janice Vincent (by phone)

3) Approval of Minutes-Here are the October minutes as approved:

October 18, 2019

The forty-third regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, October 18, 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), Roy Plummer, Julie Salter (by phone), Larry Townsend and Janice Vincent.


Minutes from September 2019 motion for approval.

Motion – 

Motioned by: Roy Plummer
Second by: Janice Vincent
Decision:  Approved

Pets In Cars

Captain McManus (PD) is going to try to get an exact temperature where an animal is in danger where his health or safety is in danger when left in a vehicle. The current state law, Title 21, Subtitle 10, paragraph 21-1004.1 is too vague. Deb Hess is to meet with him again next week and will report back next month.  

2019 Commission Report

Hope to have this finished to vote on at the November meeting. 

Third Quarter Statistics

The current statistics were shared for the third quarter of 2018 versus 2019. The numbers are looking pretty good and constant. We will get a better look once we have a year with the new administration. There are new categories in the newer report, such as police seizures and dangerous animal seizures. 

TNR Trapping

BCAS no longer has the staff to be able to trap for TNR. They are lending out traps instead. Bob to reach out to Becky Sass-Crews about possibly volunteering to help trap cats for TNR.  

Walk-In TNR

Commission Website Update

Louis Eguzo, Commission member, advised that the website is severely outdated. Tom Boswell is taking care of updating that information.

Reading Program

BCAS hopes to start this program in mid-December. This is a great addition. October 23rd at 3pm there is a meeting on how to make this work. 

Animal Services Field Supervisor Position

Kahla Frankenkowski has been promoted to this position. 

Any Other Business?

Janice distributed “Dogs on Deployment” information. This is a national volunteer organization that finds foster homes for military personnel going on deployment.  

Visitor Remarks?

The TNR website has what looks like old information. It is not referencing back to the Dundalk site.

Deb reached out to Kevin to come to the Commission meetings in the near future.  

Did anyone ever find out if anyone is qualified to work on large animal cruelties? Deb said she will look into that and put it on next month’s agenda. Janice was wondering if the Ag Center has anything to do with large animal welfare, and Deb advised she doubted it. Joyce said she has called Animal Control about mistreatment of a calf, they advised the police are handling those cases and the police department has said that Animal Services is handling those cases. Joyce said Animal Control Officers should be handling those due to their experience. There is one person at each precinct that is the liaison for animal investigations. Joyce is trying to get information about animals that had been seized by police. There is no transparency and no one will answer if charges are being filed. Deb can look into getting more information about that specific situation. 

Michael Bunch has been training dogs for eleven years doing in-home obedience and aggression training. He would like to offer his services to the shelter. Deb will contact the county to let them know of the offer and they will be the ones to contact Mr. Bunch.

Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rd floor, Main Conference Room at 6:30 p.m.


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

Adjourned at 7:30 p.m.

4) 2019 Commission Report-The 2019 Commission report was amended and approved. Here is the report as submitted to the County Council and the County Executive (please note page numbers don't apply in this format):

                                                                     2019 Annual Report
                                                                                    of the
                                     Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission  


                                                                                 Table of Contents

I. Introduction                                          Page 3
II. Statistics                                                 Pages 4-7
III. Animal Control                                     Pages 8-12
IV. The Affidavit Process                         Page 13
V. Spay/Neuter                                         Page 14
VI. Trap Neuter Return (TNR)               Pages 15-16
VII. Volunteers and Fosters                      Page 17
VIII. Public Relations and Marketing      Page 18
IX. Report Recommendations                Page 19-21

      A great deal has happened since the last annual report and addendum of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission. Baltimore County Animal Services is embarking on a much-needed new chapter.
     Our last report outlined systemic problems overseen by a previous administrative team. The Baltimore County Administration has since removed that team from BCAS.
     Baltimore County Health and Human Services conducted a lengthy search for new leadership, and in the interim, Dr. Lucia Donatelli of the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services oversaw BCAS operations.
     Dr. Donatelli immediately took action to end some of the most disturbing practices implemented under the old administrative team.
     She also opened lines of communication with the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission, lines of communication that had been closed by the previous Baltimore County Administration.
     In September, 2019, Baltimore County hired a new Chief of Animal Services, Kevin Usilton.
     Mr. Usilton has a big task in front of him. After several years of mismanagement at BCAS, it will take time to fully right the ship. That said, at this writing, the Commission has heard that staff morale is improving. This is enormously important, as many employees told us that the work environment under the previous management team was toxic.
     We are very hopeful for the future with Mr. Usilton as Chief of Animal Services. Within a week of his arrival, he attended a Commission meeting to answer questions and received a warm reception.
     In addition, Commission Chair Deborah Stone Hess has held meetings with Mr. Usilton and representatives of the Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services. The working relationship has been collaborative and productive.
     Commission members hope for improvements and changes that will fulfill a progressive vision for BCAS, and we look forward to working with the Division of Animal Services with the common goal of making BCAS the best it can be.
     In the ensuing pages of this report, we will outline some of the changes and improvements the Commission recommends going forward.


     While statistics can never present the full picture of a shelter’s practices and success, they’re an important measure of live outcomes for shelter animals.
      It’s difficult to compare current BCAS statistics with those of past years because the previous management team implemented policies which skewed statistical results.
     Among them, shelter staff were instructed to pressure some citizens surrendering animals at BCAS to sign a form requesting euthanasia. This allowed BCAS to calculate a higher live release rate by not counting the euthanasia of animals whose owners, under pressure, had requested euthanasia.
     Fortunately, that policy ended when the county removed the previous management team from BCAS in the early part of 2019. Today those surrendering animals at BCAS are not pressured in any way to sign a request for euthanasia.
     At this writing, we’re in the year’s fourth quarter, so we can provide statistics for the first three quarters of 2019.
     These numbers are very encouraging with live release rates over 90% for dogs, and close to 90% for cats.  There will always be some animals that are too old, too sick, or too aggressive to be adopted or rescued. That said, the goal is to get all adoptable shelter animals adopted or pulled by BCAS approved rescue organizations, so that a shelter never needs to euthanize adoptable animals for lack of space.

     Below is a statistical summary of the three quarters of 2019, plus a separate summary for each of the three quarters of 2019.

       Dogs          Cats
Total Intake       1607         2443
Adopted         379          791
Returned to owner         534           70
Pulled by Rescue Organization         416           657
Trap Neuter Return (TNR)          495
Non-Owner Requested Euthanasia      118          293
Percentage Live Release     92.7%         88.1%

Here are the numbers for each quarter of 2019:

                     Jan.-March (1st quarter ) 2019

A.     Live Animal Count at Beginning of Qtr 47 157
B.      Stray/At Large 243 243
C.      Relinquished by Owner 99 124
D.     Owner Requested Euthanasia 62 42
E.      Transferred in from another Agency 0 0
F.       Other Live Intakes (impounds, births, animals placed in foster care, brought in for TNR, etc) 16 120
Will calculate automatically 420 529
H.     Adoption 74 166
I.        Returned to Owner 149 19
J.        Transferred to another Agency 128 196
K.      Other Live Outcome (includes TNRs released) 0 127
L.       Died/Lost in Care 0 3
M.   Euthanasia- at Owner’s Request 59 36
N.     Euthanasia-All other than owner request 28 80
 Will automatically calculate 438 627
P.      Live Animal Count at End of QTR (includes Fosters).  Will calculate automatically 29 59

                     April-June (2nd quarter) 2019

A.     Live Animal Count at Beginning of Qtr 29 59
B.      Stray/At Large 318 451
C.      Relinquished by Owner 185 251
D.     Owner Requested Euthanasia 40 30
E.      Transferred in from another Agency 0 0
F.       Other Live Intakes (impounds, births, animals placed in foster care, brought in for TNR, etc) 19 166
Will calculate automatically 562 898
H.     Adoption 156 271
I.        Returned to Owner 190 24
J.        Transferred to another Agency 107 174
K.      Other Live Outcome (includes TNRs released) 0 197
L.       Died/Lost in Care 2 14
M.   Euthanasia- at Owner’s Request 37 27
N.     Euthanasia-All other than owner request 34 108
 Will automatically calculate 526 815
P.      Live Animal Count at End of QTR (includes Fosters).  Will calculate automatically 65 142

                      July-September (3rd quarter) 2019

  A.     Live Animal Count at Beginning of Qtr 65 142
  B.      Stray/At Large 337 541
  C.      Relinquished by Owner 198 281
  D.     Owner Requested Euthanasia 53 32
  E.      Transferred in from another Agency 0 0
  F.       Other Live Intakes (impounds, births, animals placed in foster care, brought in for TNR, etc) 37 162
Will calculate automatically 625 1016
  H.     Adoption 149 354
  I.        Returned to Owner 195 27
  J.        Transferred to another Agency 181 287
  K.      Other Live Outcome (includes TNRs released) 0 178
  L.       Died/Lost in Care 4 13
  M.   Euthanasia- at Owner’s Request 54 26
  N.     Euthanasia-All other than owner request 56 105
 Will automatically calculate 639 990
  P.      Live Animal Count at End of QTR (includes Fosters).  Will calculate automatically 51 168

     BCAS statistics are encouraging. Keeping live release numbers high and improving them when possible is the ongoing task of the shelter. There will always be obstacles that can create enormous challenges, for example, when the shutdown of a hoarding situation results in a large influx of animals.
     To aid in the ongoing work to keep live release rates as high as possible, the Commission recommends efforts to
grow the number of BCAS approved organizations that pull BCAS animals for rescue
increase adoptions through additional community outreach and education, including use of the Cuddle Shuttle-This is a highly underused tool for getting animals to parts of the community that are not close to BCAS
create relationships with local media and regularly reach out to the media when the shelter is full or near capacity so that the community can respond and help free cage space for more animals


     BCAS has two equally important components, an animal shelter and an Animal Control Division.
     Animal Control responds to requests for help with animals in distress as well as animals causing disruption or those that may be wild and/or dangerous.
     Quite simply Animal Control Officers (ACOs) protect people from animals and animals from people.
     To perform these duties, ACOs must
be able to handle animals, including those that are aggressive
have extensive knowledge of and be able to enforce Baltimore County animal laws
be able to determine whether an animal is in good health and is well cared for
Be able to identify animal cruelty, neglect and abuse
     The Animal Control Division has been the subject of numerous concerns that came to light in late 2017 after a dog named Oscar died of exposure while in his fenced yard. The Commission subsequently learned that Oscar’s condition and exposure to bad weather had been the subject of numerous complaints to Baltimore County Animal Control over several years.
     An extensive Commission investigation showed that, over a period of two to three years prior to Oscar’s death, the (now previous) BCAS administration had fundamentally and systematically diminished the Animal Control Division. These changes appear to have contributed to the BCAS failure to address problems that led to Oscar’s death.
     Among other things, BCAS implemented a policy to prevent ACOs from investigating cases of cruelty and neglect. BCAS had also eliminated much of the training previously provided to ACOs, including attendance at the annual East Coast Animal Control Academy.
     In addition, they initiated a program of cross-training ACOs with shelter staff. Under this program, shelter attendants with no experience in Animal Control trained for Animal Control duties by riding along for three months with an ACO. Soon after, we’re told, those newly trained staff were tasked with training someone else.
     Other nearby jurisdictions, including Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, and Howard County have far more extensive training for their Animal Control personnel.
     The Health Department ended the cross-training policy after removing the previous BCAS administrative team.
     After steadily decreasing the training of ACOs, as well as stopping ACO efforts to address cases of cruelty, neglect and abuse, in 2018, the previous County Administration transferred primary responsibility for many animal complaints to the Baltimore County Police Department.
     As this shift took place, there appeared to be great confusion as to the division of duties between police and Animal Control. In addition, the change was implemented without any apparent training for police officers who suddenly found themselves tasked with a whole new set of duties.
     Our Commission saw this as particularly troubling and addressed this issue in our last annual report.
     We were, however, heartened when, in mid-2018, the Baltimore County Police Department created an Animal Abuse Team to handle cases of animal cruelty, neglect and abuse.
      The Commission developed a constructive relationship with the Animal Abuse Team, and we were happy to see the Team’s focused dedication to animal welfare.

Continued Changes
     The Baltimore County Police Department determined there were not enough cruelty and abuse cases to warrant a separate Animal Abuse Team within the Police Department, and disbanded the Team in July, 2019, handing its duties over to the Police Department at large.
    While this development was discouraging, the Police Department has taken steps to ensure that cases of animal cruelty are investigated and pursued legally.
     The Police Department has reassigned the Animal Abuse Team’s responsibilities to its Investigative Services Teams (ISTs) at each precinct. All animal-related investigations are now the responsibility of precinct personnel and the ISTs.
     The IST supervisor supervises these investigations, with an IST detective designated to handle animal-related investigations and offering needed assistance to police officers.
     In addition, one of the Animal Abuse Team’s former members was given the title of Animal Abuse Coordinator. She acts as the liaison between the Police Department and Baltimore County Animal Services, and has regular meetings attended by BCAS personnel and the State’s Attorney’s Animal Abuse Division.
     It appears those three entities are working well together.

      Under this new system, there have been improvements over the last six to nine months:
o Communication between Animal Services, the Police Department, and the State’s Attorney’s Office appears to have improved greatly.
o There appear to be clearer procedures designating which cases fall under the purview of police and which under Animal Control, with police responding to calls where a crime (abuse, cruelty or neglect) is suspected and Animal Control responding when the complaint is civil in nature.
o Baltimore County Police Officers have undergone some animal training.
o The Police Department opened a line of communication with the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission. Our Police liaison has been accessible and very responsive to the Commission and is clearly dedicated to animal welfare.
     These are all positive developments. But the Commission believes a great deal remains to be done before Baltimore County has a truly successful Animal Control approach, capable of uniformly handling all animal-related cases, including cruelty, neglect and abuse.
Baltimore County’s System Stands Alone
     Baltimore County appears to be unique in Maryland in the way it has tasked its Police Department with investigation of animal cruelty, neglect and abuse.

     To determine whether the Baltimore County approach is a good one, the Commission looked into national best practices and also examined how Animal Control operates in other Maryland jurisdictions, including Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, and Howard County.
     Unlike Baltimore County, in each of those jurisdictions, Animal Control carries primary responsibility for first response to all animal calls (including cruelty, neglect and abuse) during regular business hours, unless the call involves abuse or cruelty in progress.
     These other divisions operate under a simple premise:
     Why try to train an entire police force to respond to these calls when you can much more easily train a small contingent of Animal Control Officers? As an Animal Control Director in another jurisdiction explained, “You can’t train police on everything.”
      And we wonder, without extensive training, how will so many police officers provide a uniform response, regardless of which officer takes a call? With less training than typical Animal Control Officers, some police officers might not recognize when something needs urgent attention.

    In addition, many people don’t like or are afraid of dogs or cats. Surely, these people wouldn’t seek a career in Animal Control, but it’s very possible that some police officers might fall into this category. How will this affect their ability to respond appropriately to a call involving animals?

How does the Baltimore County System Work?
     In Baltimore County, animal complaints come primarily through 911, but also through a non-emergency line (410-887-2222). Dispatchers determine whether to send a Police Officer (when criminal behavior is suspected) or contact Animal Control when it appears to be a civil complaint.
     After a police officer responds to an animal-related call, his or her police report is forwarded to a designated person on the Investigative Services Team (IST) at the Officer’s precinct for follow-up. In addition, the Police Officer’s report is emailed to Animal Control.  We’re told that report is sometimes emailed the following day, but sometimes several days later.
     This presents a real problem. It appears that on some occasions, the delay in sending the email to Animal Control has resulted in an animal being left in danger.
     For example, the Commission has been told of incidents where animals were abandoned on outside decks without food or water when renters moved out. Police responded and felt it was not an emergency. Animal Control was notified hours and sometimes more than a day later. This obviously results in animal suffering and could easily lead to death.

How do other Maryland jurisdictions operate?
     Let’s compare Baltimore County’s protocols with that of other local jurisdictions, beginning with
o Baltimore City
     Baltimore City has what appears to be a great system, placing primary responsibility for animal-related calls on its Animal Control Division, but also coordinating Animal Control’s efforts with the Baltimore City Police Department.
     Baltimore City has 911 as well as a non-emergency 311 line. Citizens are instructed to call 311 if there’s suspicion of neglect or abuse or any other animal-related complaint.  
     If a citizen sees animal abuse in progress, they’re urged to call 911. That’s because police with vehicle sirens, etc. can respond more quickly than Animal Control to stop a crime in progress.
     Both 911 and 311 dispatchers have the ability to create service requests/complaints in a web-based system when a citizen calls either number (911 or 311). These requests are then viewed in real-time at the Office of Animal Control and by Animal Control officers on mobile laptops in their vehicles.
     Additionally, police dispatch has access to Animal Control’s 800 MHz radio channel to request immediate assistance at a location.

     In cases where 911 is called for abuse in progress, and police respond first, they can stop a crime in progress, but they’re not specially trained to investigate cases of animal abuse and neglect.
So, they immediately request Animal Control’s assistance through their dispatcher, who will then either contact the Animal Control Office via radio or enter a request into the web-based system.
Animal Control responds within 30-45 minutes.

      In addition, the Baltimore Police Department provides one detective assigned to animal abuse and neglect cases. This detective assists Animal Control with investigations, criminal charges, search warrants, and with identifying potential suspects. This detective works daily with the Animal Control Officers and the relationship is extremely cooperative.

o Howard County
     Howard County’s Animal Control Division falls under the jurisdiction of the county’s Police Department, but ACOs are not police officers. ACOs can request help from police when executing search warrants or if there’s a safety concern.
      During normal business hours, all animal-related complaint calls come into Animal Control directly and are dispatched immediately to the sector officer who prioritizes the calls.
     While Baltimore County no longer sends ACOs to the East Coast Animal Control Academy, all Howard County ACOs attend the Academy. They also attend or do online training seminars for skills like baton use, euthanasia, and remote capture.

     In addition, every police trainee who goes through the Police Academy attends a course taught by Animal Control to receive instruction in Animal Control Standard Operating Procedures and learning what Animal Control will respond to after hours.

o Anne Arundel County
     During business hours, calls either come directly to Animal Care & Control or, if they come through 911, the 911 dispatcher forwards the call to Animal Care & Control or passes along the information.
     Like Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County generally relies on police as first responders only if there is an aggressive animal or an incident of cruelty or abuse in progress. But Animal Care & Control is notified and responds as soon as possible.
     Anne Arundel County Animal Care & Control also sends all its Animal Control Officers to the East Coast Training Academy and the county provides other training as well, including, but not limited to, asp (baton), pepper spray and driving training with the Police Department.
     Animal Care & Control also provides some training for recruits at the Police Academy.

Professional Animal Workers of Maryland (PAWS)

     PAWS is an organization made up of Animal Control agencies and animal shelters across Maryland and is the entity that stages the East Coast Animal Control Academy for two weeks each year in cooperation with Carroll County Community College.
     Almost all Animal Control agencies in Maryland participate. Baltimore County does not. As mentioned earlier, the former BCAS administration stopped all Baltimore County ACO participation in the East Coast Animal Control Academy.
     Dr. Donatelli of the Baltimore County Health Department says it’s a goal to get Baltimore County ACOs this training, but there are obstacles. One is the cost which is just under two thousand dollars for each attendee. The other is the hardship that would result from taking ACOs out of service for two weeks.

     Patty Crankshaw-Quimby is the Chief Animal Control Officer for Talbot County, the director of Talbot Humane and the President of PAWS. She does not support the Baltimore County system where police officers at large respond to incidents of suspected cruelty and neglect.
     Crankshaw-Quimby believes that Animal Control divisions should be the primary responder for animal-related calls, with police only providing backup when needed.
     “Why have Animal Control Officers if they’re not going to be doing what Animal Control Officers are supposed to do?” she asked.
     She adds, “This is not what police officers are trained for. They don’t know what standards of care are. They don’t know the animal cruelty laws; they might read them but might not know how to interpret them. Police officers don’t know how to identify animal cruelty. They don’t always know the resources available to help people.”
     In discussing Baltimore County’s system, Crankshaw-Quimby worries that “something is going to get missed.”
What’s happening on a national level?
     These thoughts are echoed by Scott Giacoppo, President of the National Animal Care and Control Association (NACA). NACA is a leading voice for Animal Control nationally, providing training and certification programs for those in the Animal Control profession for more than 40 years.

     Giacoppo agrees that Animal Control divisions should ideally be handling all Animal Control-related duties, including investigations of cruelty, neglect and abuse “because they specialize in this. It’s all they focus on. They’re going to gain more experience on a daily basis to successfully resolve or prosecute those cases.”
     He adds, these divisions should “have the proper resources including equipment and particularly training, as well as the statutory right to enforce all the laws related to animals.”

     He says there are an increasing number of jurisdictions in the U.S. choosing to create specialized units within their police divisions to handle cases of cruelty, neglect and abuse. Giacoppo says these programs can be successful, as long as the unit’s members are well trained for these duties.
     As mentioned earlier in this report, the Baltimore County Police Department had such a unit, but it has been dismantled.
     Regardless of which agency handles animal cruelty investigations, patrolmen (officers on the street) are first responders when crimes are committed and will surely encounter animal abuse in the course of these duties. As a result, Giacoppo favors in-service training for all police officers to recognize the signs of animal abuse, just like they have training to recognize signs of domestic, child, or elder abuse.
     Police officers must be trained to know when an animal is malnourished, abused, and diseased, and must know the kinds of evidence collection necessary to prove cases of cruelty, neglect and abuse.

Baltimore City Animal Control has 16 Animal Control Officers who handle 21,000 complaints a year. Its population is approximately 602,000.
Anne Arundel County Animal Control has 10 Animal Control Officers handling approximately 7100 calls annually. Its population is approximately 576,000.
Howard County Animal Control has 5 ACOs and one supervising ACO, handling about 1700 service calls a year. Its population is approximately 323,000.

Baltimore County’s population is approximately 828,000, higher than Anne Arundel County, Howard County and Baltimore City. Baltimore County Animal Control has 8 Animal Control Officers.  It’s not known how many service calls they would handle if cruelty and abuse calls (now handled by police) were to be included.

Based on interviews with experts in the Animal Control field, and for all the reasons outlined above, the Commission recommends change in how Baltimore County handles cases of cruelty, neglect and abuse. Ideally all Animal Control duties should be returned to the Animal Control Division of BCAS, and no longer be the purview of the Baltimore County Police Department.
In order to successfully accomplish this, BCAS would need to increase its Animal Control staff. How this could be accomplished and how many additional ACOs are necessary would have to be determined through discussions and coordination between BCAS, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Police Department.
The Commission understands the county is operating under financial constraints, but if we are committed to Animal Welfare, and want to ensure that we properly carry out our duties to animals and the community, this change is critical.
Baltimore County ACOs should receive additional training. While the Commission would like to see all ACOs attend the East Coast Officer Training Academy, we understand it presents challenges: its cost, the fact that the Academy is only held once a year and lasts two weeks. We recognize that with current staffing levels, a two-week commitment away from their duties would put a great strain on BCAS.
There are, however, many online webinars. And, in fact, NACA is preparing to take its certification courses online in 2020.
We recommend that BCAS explore these options.
If the choice is made to keep all investigations of cruelty, neglect and abuse within the Baltimore County Police Department, then we recommend the re-creation of an Animal Abuse Team within the Baltimore County Police Department.
Finally, we recommend that training to recognize signs of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect be included in the Police Academy curriculum as well as ongoing in-service training provided to all Baltimore County Police Officers.

IV. The Affidavit Process
     The Commission addressed this process in our last annual report. We’re told it continues to be problematic, particularly in cases involving aggressive dogs.
    To keep communities safe, cases involving aggressive dogs (especially when a bite is involved) must be handled as quickly as possible.
     A county requirement that complainants provide a notarized affidavit to initiate Animal Control response and action can delay the response, leaving citizens in danger and resulting in legal liability for the county.
     This affidavit requirement must be eliminated.
     As we stated in our 2018 annual report, we checked with numerous jurisdictions (Anne Arundel County, Howard County, Harford County, Carroll County, Prince Georges County, Talbot County, Montgomery County and Baltimore City) to find out whether they have an affidavit requirement.
      None of these 8 counties require a notarized affidavit to launch an investigation. And there are good reasons why.
      The Administrator of another Maryland jurisdiction’s Animal Control Division says, quite often, a person doesn’t want to file an affidavit because they’re intimidated by the animal’s owner, and says, “Our (Animal Control) Officers… interview the victim...and that’s enough to prove the incident occurred.”
      The Director of another Maryland Animal Control Division says, “Requiring an affidavit creates obstacles for the victim who might not have transportation to a notary’s office or the money to pay for that service.”
      And a third Animal Control Director says that requiring an affidavit would be “a deterrent for the public to call in” because they wouldn’t want to “go through the legwork on their end.”
      Requiring an affidavit delays investigation and action to protect the public and their pets and is a real public safety threat.

V. Spay/Neuter Programs

     Spay/neuter is a critically important part of any effort to address animal overpopulation. BCAS has a wonderful low-cost spay/neuter program. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
     Baltimore County pet owners can make appointments online to bring their cats and dogs for spay/neuter surgery to the Baldwin shelter location or to a spay/neuter clinic located at 7702 Dunmanway in Dundalk for a very reasonable cost of $20.00. The surgery is free if the animal’s owner is on food stamps.
     Included in this service are
vaccinations for distemper, bordetella, and rabies for dogs
vaccinations for distemper and rabies for cats
a microchip
a county license

     While the Dundalk spay/neuter clinic is very busy, another clinic set up on the county’s west side struggled from its inception to draw clientele. As a result, the county closed that location at Southwest Area Park on April 30, 2019.
      Here are the 2018 and 2019 numbers of dogs and cats spayed/neutered for the public at the Baldwin, Dundalk and Southwest Area Park locations.

       Baldwin              Dundalk   Southwest Area Park
       1248                3823                           774              

         Baldwin             Dundalk   Southwest Area Park
         1190               2669                                    295            

     BCAS also spays/neuters all animals that are adopted. In addition, if an animal is impounded more than once at BCAS, an owner must agree to have it spayed/neutered before they can reclaim their pet.
     Because spay/neuter is so critically important, animals that have gotten loose and been impounded at BCAS should not be released back to their owners without being spayed/neutered. BCAS currently requires these animals be spayed/neutered on second impound. The Commission recommends that BCAS perform spay/neuter surgery on first impound.
     An exception could be made if the pet-owner could prove they are a licensed breeder. But if that animal is impounded a second time, it would have to be spayed or neutered before the owner could redeem it.
       We understand that some owners protest this rule. But BCAS is tasked with reducing overpopulation, and all pets should be spayed/neutered. If someone’s pet has gotten loose once, it’s the county’s duty to ensure that the animal cannot get pregnant or impregnate another animal should it get loose again.


     The number of free-roaming, abandoned and feral cats in the United States is enormous. Some estimates place it between 70 and 100 million.
     Grounded in science, TNR is the most effective and humane approach to controlling this population of what are commonly called community cats. It stops the breeding cycle, ends many unwanted behaviors and improves the health of the cats, therefore, improving their lives overall.  
     Baltimore County began a TNR program several years ago, offering free spay/neuter for community cats.
     Cats typically congregate in colonies with citizen caretakers that lovingly give them food and water and often provide shelter. It’s critical that cats trapped for TNR be returned after surgery to these locations where they have found safety, food and water and know the patterns of wildlife, traffic and even the neighborhood dogs.
Concerns about the BCAS TNR Program
     In the Commission’s 2018 annual report, we outlined numerous concerns about the policies and procedures implemented in Baltimore County’s TNR program. These concerns continue. They include the following:

Returning cats as far as ½ mile away from where they were originally trapped. It appears this happens in at least three kinds of circumstances:

1) When a complainant /property owner brings in a stray cat to BCAS do not give written permission/consent to have the cat returned to their property
2) When a citizen who is not a property owner wants to utilize the TNR Program but cannot transport the cat and needs transportation provided by Animal Control
3) When someone brings a cat in to BCAS for TNR and then fails to pick up the cat.

In all of these circumstances, BCAS finds itself in an untenable position. Baltimore County law prevents BCAS from trespassing on private property to return a cat to its trapping point. The Commission is told that the only option is to return the cat on county-owned property, as long as it is no more than ½ mile from the original trapping point.

Returning cats as far as ½ mile away from where they were trapped goes against best practices of many reputable and experienced TNR organizations.

Best Friends Animal Society, nationally recognized as the authority on animal issues, lays out the best practice that TNR cats must be returned no more than 300 feet from the place where they were trapped. This ensures they will find their way to their source of food, water and shelter.
Not doing so is technically considered abandonment. It’s the equivalent of “dumping the cat” where it may not be able to survive.

A second concern raised in our 2018 Commission report involved returning some cats to the field too soon after surgery. Many organizations believe some cats, including those that are older or pregnant, need longer than 24 hours of recovery time post-surgery.
The MD SPCA policy is that all females and older male cats should get 48+ hours recovery time.
Neighborhood Cats of New York, considered an influential organization that teaches TNR technique, also recommends 48 hours of recovery time for both males and females.
BCAS however, releases every TNR cat 24 hours post-surgery with no exceptions made for cats that may need additional recovery time. When a caretaker is known, BCAS sometimes recommends that he/she wait to release some cats that need additional time to recover. But in cases where there is no known caretaker, BCAS says it has no option other than return after 24 hours because to extend the cat’s stay, BCAS would have to impound the animal.
     This must be remedied. BARCS in Baltimore City, has a specific TNR holding area to accommodate most cats that need to be held longer, should a caretaker not be able to provide this additional recovery time. BARCS policies do not require that these cats be impounded.
BCAS should ensure that all cats have ample opportunity to recover from surgery before they are returned to the outdoors.

A third concern raised in our 2018 annual report was failing to provide for other medical needs of TNR cats.  The previous administrative team at BCAS told the Commission that TNR cats received only a basic TNR package while at BCAS.
Unfortunately, cats that have been living outside often arrive with medical issues. It’s unfair to return these cats after surgery without attending to those medical needs.
BCAS says it now does provide prescriptions that caretakers can fill for cats that need medicines. If there are more serious health problems, caretakers must seek help through organizations like the MD SPCA, Community Cats Maryland (or other reputable non-profits) or a private veterinary practice offering additional medical interventions including amputations, removal of infected eyes, and administration of injectable antibiotics.

In addition to these continuing concerns, Baltimore County no longer has funding to conduct the trapping portion of the TNR process. Traps are being lent to the public. This, of course, leads to fewer cats being TNR’ed and potential issues that come with inexperienced trappers, such as leaving traps unattended, using the wrong kind of trap for a specific need (i.e. Moms with litters), and even trapping the wrong target (such as an opossum.)
     We recommend
additional staffing for this purpose
reaching out to organizations that conduct TNR trapping (for free) to bring them on board at BCAS.
     At one time, Community Cats Maryland, Inc. conducted TNR clinics for BCAS at the Dundalk spay/neuter facility. They did an amazing job, but the county’s partnership with Community Cats ended when BCAS hired a TNR Coordinator.
     We recommend that the county re-examine this and consider re-engaging Community Cats Maryland, Inc.
     (We have learned of one positive change since the removal of the previous BCAS Administration. Previously when TNR cats arrived with wounds of unknown origin, they were euthanized because of the risk that the wound may have come from an animal infected with rabies. We are told BCAS now allows caretakers the option of keeping the cat in rabies quarantine. This is a difficult endeavor with stringent county requirements. But it is an improvement that BCAS now offers this option.)

     As we stated in our 2018 annual report, the point of TNR is to provide a humane solution to control the population of community cats. Returning cats too far from the trapping point, too soon after surgery, and without needed medical care is not humane.
How do we fix the problem?
     Baltimore County legislation is needed to facilitate the TNR program and enable it to utilize best practices. The primary goal is for TNR to be a regular and accepted practice in our communities. An ordinance is one tool among many to achieve this objective. The passing of local ordinances supporting TNR in other communities increased ten-fold from 2003 to 2013 and continues to rise.
     We recommend that Baltimore County join the many other jurisdictions that have passed TNR legislation.
     Chief of Animal Services Kevin Usilton has expressed openness to this idea. He and the Commission are beginning work to draft such legislation. We sincerely hope that this will lead to a TNR law in Baltimore County.
Conclusions and Recommendations

     The Commission recommends that
Additional staff be hired to permit BCAS to conduct trapping for TNR or that the county re-engage with an organization like Community Cats Maryland, Inc.;
BCAS create temporary housing when needed for additional post-surgical recovery when cats are not being returned to a caretaker who can provide the additional recovery time;
BCAS provide medical care to TNR cats that need it;
BCAS work with Baltimore County to create a TNR law so that BCAS can adhere to TNR best practices.


     The BCAS volunteer and foster programs have come a long way in the last several years.

     In the recent past, citizens could foster animals at BCAS only if they were Baltimore County residents. That rule has been changed and now fosters can come from any location as long as they can comply with Baltimore County foster rules and requirements. This is a very positive change that creates the possibility of increasing the number of BCAS fosters.
     While kittens and cats are the animals most often placed in foster, the BCAS program has grown to include dogs that need medical recovery time before they can be available for adoption. This part of the program is still in its early stages.  

      While the number of volunteers has grown, there is still only a small group of dedicated and passionate volunteers who visit BCAS regularly. They perform numerous duties: walking dogs, socializing and tending to the cats, and photographing the animals. In recent months, volunteers have been permitted to perform additional duties like Office Assistant and Shelter Greeter.
     Volunteers provide critical enrichment for the animals that keeps them mentally and physically healthy during their stay.
     For a long time, volunteers complained that they felt unwanted at BCAS. We’re told that has changed dramatically since the removal of the previous BCAS administration. This is extremely important.
     However, it’s a continuing struggle to recruit new volunteers (and fosters) and to ensure that they continue volunteering for the long-term. The Commission believes this calls for a strong marketing and PR campaign to ask for the community’s help in this regard.
We recommend reaching out to a marketing expert willing to offer free services to help BCAS market these programs on social media.

    In addition, Baltimore County, with its many employees, could be a real resource here. It’s possible that many of these workers would be happy to volunteer to help the county’s shelter if they only knew more about BCAS and how important their volunteering could be for the animals’ welfare.
     The Department of Health and Human Services has put out a flyer encouraging employees to volunteer and foster. We recommend that this message go out via internal communications to all county departments.
     If this is successful in getting county employees to volunteer and foster, the county could create an ongoing campaign, recognizing these efforts and profiling some of the ways these volunteers help create happy ending stories at BCAS.

VIII. Public Relations and Marketing
     There’s a lot of confusion in the Baltimore area about which shelter is which. In our immediate area, we have two private shelters (Baltimore Humane Society in Reisterstown and the MD SPCA in Baltimore City) as well as the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) which, like BCAS, is an open admission shelter.
     If you ask a Baltimore County citizen for the name or location of our county open admission shelter, most would not know.
     In addition, BCAS, located in Baldwin, is not in a convenient location for many county residents.
     We believe BCAS needs to conduct a PR and marketing campaign to increase awareness about BCAS, namely to teach our community about BCAS’s location, its mission, its programs (including rabies clinics and low-cost spay/neuter services), how the animals in the shelter are just as wonderful as those you can buy through a breeder or a pet store, what to do if a citizen finds a stray animal, how citizens can help homeless animals by adopting, fostering and volunteering, and why the shelter needs the support of the community around it.
     Knowing that funding is very tight in Baltimore County, we believe in reaching out to find a marketing expert who would be willing to volunteer their time to create a marketing plan.
In addition, the Commission’s members are willing to do what we can to help the county carry out that plan.
     Communities show their support for shelters when they know specifically what they can do to help. We would like to see the county reach out to the community to let them know their help is needed.
     On a positive note, the Commission is working with the county and BCAS to plan a series of PSA’s for traditional broadcast outlets and informational videos that can be shared on social media.

IX. Summary and Report Recommendations
     The Commission urges that the following recommendations be acted on as soon as possible to improve safety, services, and conditions for animals and the people who care for them:

1. To aid in keeping live release numbers high and improving them when possible:

grow the number of organizations that pull BCAS animals for rescue
increase adoptions
Utilize the Cuddle Shuttle to reach potential adopters by getting BCAS animals into other parts of the county-The Cuddle Shuttle is a highly underused tool for getting animals to parts of the community that are not close to BCAS
reach out to local media when the shelter is full so that the community can respond and create cage space for more animals

2. Change the way Baltimore County handles cases of cruelty, neglect and abuse by making the following changes:

All Animal Control duties should be returned to the Animal Control Division of BCAS, and no longer be the purview of the Baltimore County Police Department. This will surely necessitate an increase in the number of Animal Control Officers.
ACOs should receive additional training. There are numerous options available, including the East Coast Officer Training Academy. There are also many online options.
If the choice is made to keep all investigations of cruelty, neglect and abuse within the Baltimore County Police Department, then we recommend the re-creation of an Animal Abuse Team within the Baltimore County Police Department.
In addition, we recommend that training to recognize signs of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect be included in the Police Academy curriculum as well as ongoing in-service training provided to all Baltimore County Police Officers.

3.     The county requirement that complainants provide a notarized affidavit to initiate Animal Control response and action must be eliminated. Requiring an affidavit delays investigation and action to protect the public and their pets and is a real public safety threat.

4.     BCAS should resume spay/neuter on first impound. Animals that have been running free and impounded in the shelter should not be released back to their owners without being spayed/neutered.

5. The BCAS TNR Program needs significant improvement through the following actions:

Adherence to best practices established by reputable experts and animal welfare organizations, particularly with regard to when and where TNRed cats are released.
The Baltimore County Council should adopt a local ordinance that enables the BCAS TNR program to adhere to best practices concerning the return of cats after spay/neuter surgery to their original trapping location.
BCAS should create a space to hold cats temporarily for recuperation after surgery when a caretaker cannot provide this care and no longer require impound of cats staying past 24 hours.
Baltimore County should provide additional funding to pay for BCAS to conduct TNR trapping. If this is not feasible, we recommend re-engaging an organization like Community Cats Maryland to help bring more colonies in for TNR and to conduct TNR clinics.

6. BCAS needs a strong marketing and PR campaign to recruit new volunteers and to ensure that they continue volunteering for the long-term. Baltimore County, with its many employees, could be a real resource for potential volunteers. Baltimore County should reach out through internal communications to convey this message through an ongoing campaign to highlight the great work that county employees are doing as volunteers and profile some of the happy ending stories that these volunteers help facilitate.

7. BCAS needs to conduct a PR and marketing campaign to increase awareness and education about BCAS in the community. We suggest finding a marketing expert willing to volunteer his/her time to create a marketing plan with emphasis on the following:
BCAS’s location, its mission, its programs (including rabies clinics and low-cost spay/neuter services),
how shelter animals are just as wonderful as those you can buy through a breeder or at a pet store,
what to do if a citizen finds a stray animal,
how citizens can help homeless animals by adopting, fostering and volunteering, and
why the shelter needs the support of the community around it.

     In addition, we present a vision for what we hope BCAS can be going forward…a place where a cohesive management team
brings employees and volunteers together
treats animals with kindness
provides enrichment (including outdoor walks) to every animal in the shelter, including those that are “Rescue Only” and those on Administrative Hold
expands efforts to find live outcomes for animals, including outreach to more rescue partners
designs and develops educational outreach to complement the work of BCAS
develops protocols for better educating adopters before they leave the shelter with their adopted pet
increases the number of volunteers and fosters
provides additional volunteer opportunities in more areas of the shelter
actively works with the Baltimore County Police Department and State’s Attorney’s Office to pursue cases of cruelty, neglect and abuse
engages with the community and provides additional resources to adopters including obedience training
is transparent and works openly with the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission
is open to trying new ideas
     As BCAS embarks on a new path under new leadership, we are excited to see what lies ahead. We believe positive change is coming. Commission members look forward to contributing to that change and helping in any way we can.

Respectfully submitted by the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission
Deborah Stone Hess (Chair)
Maryanne Bailey
Louis Eguzo
Ann Gearhart
Roy Plummer
Julie Salter
Bob Swensen
Larry Townsend
Janice Vincent

5) Animals in Vehicles-Capt. McManus of the Baltimore County Police Dept. says that they are adding language to their manual that says to keep in mind that even when the temp is 70 degrees it can reach 90 degrees in a vehicle. Officers are alerted when there are additions or changes to the manual and must sign off on having received the info and having read it.

6) Adoption Survey Process-BCAS has piloted an adoption survey process for adopters. Here's hoe it works:
When adopters arrive at the shelter the front staff/volunteer will hand them a clip board with an adoption survey.
The staff member/volunteer will swipe them into the adoptable cat room or adoptable dog room and allow them to walk around on their own. They will be instructed to fill out the survey with the names of any animals they are interested in while walking through the adoptable rooms.
They will also be instructed not to open cages or stick their hands/ fingers inside the kennels.
Once the adopters are finished looking around, they will make their way back to the adoption lobby and hand the survey to a staff member/ volunteer.  That staff member/ volunteer will then find an available staff member/ volunteer to help them meet those animals that they had listed interest in meeting.
The goal of these adoption surveys are to alleviate the stress of staff and volunteers assisting more than one adopter at a time and also allow staff and volunteers more time to complete other tasks instead of needing to escort every adopter through the adoptable rooms.  BCAS has many adopters that come through that simply come in to just “look” and not adopt. BCAS hopes this will free up more time for our volunteers and staff.

7) Deployment Pets-Janice Vincent had notified the Commission about an organization that helps military personnel who are deploying and must leave pets behind. New Chief of Animal Svcs. Kevin Usilton says it is very rarer for this situation to present itself at BCAS.

8) Any Other Business? Ann Gearhart ran into Dr. Donatelli and again discussed including the FEMA brochure in the packet that adopters receive.

9) Anyone signed up to Speak? Several people who came to observe the meeting signed up to speak.

Joyce Barnett asked who was responsible for investigations of cruelty, abuse and neglect. Deborah Stone Hess advised that the county police department has investigative service teams which are located at each precinct. There is a concern about police investigations and the emails detailing police investigations of complaints of cruelty, neglect or abuse not being sent to animal services in a timely fashion.

Another person who spoke was Mike Bunch who had attended an earlier Commission meeting saying he is an obedience trainer and wanted to donate his time to help BCAS with adoptable dogs. He told us he is moving forward with this and is scheduled to attend a volunteer orientation at BCAS.

Leah Biddinger, who is President of the Sussex Community Assn. said a community member had a stray behind her house and was trying to get the cat altered through BCAS. There was a long wait before she could book a timeslot to do it. Ms. Biddinger says more spay/neuter time slots are needed.

In addition, she learned of an animal that was trapped at Diamond Point Plaza. BCAS Animal Control responded. The dog was emaciated. The ACO took the dog but told her it would not be at BCAS until the ACO finished for the day and returned to the shelter. Ms. Biddinger was concerned that an animal that she felt needed urgent care would have to spend hours before it would get thecae it needed when the ACO returned to BCAS.

10) Next Meeting Date and Location-The next Commission meeting is scheduled for January 21, 2020.
Happy holidays to everyone.

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