Friday, February 21, 2020

February 18, 2020 Meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission

Hi, everyone,
Here is a summary of our February Commission meeting.

                                FEBRUARY 2020 AGENDA
1) Call to Order

2) Roll Call Determination of a Quorum-In attendance were Deborah Stone Hess, Ann Gearhart, Maryanne Martin Bailey, Janice Vincent, Bob Swensen, Louis Eguzo, and by phone were Larry Townsend, Julie Salter, and Roy Plummer.

3) Approval of January, 2020 minutes
Here are the minutes as approved:
BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES
ADVISORY COMMISSION
January 21, 2020

The forty-fifth regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 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, Louis Eguzo, Roy Plummer, Julie Salter, Bob Swensen, Larry Townsend (by phone) and Janice Vincent.

Minutes

Minutes from November 2019 were approved. 

TNR Law

Deborah spoke with Kevin Usilton about the need for a TNR law that would eliminate the problem of citizens refusing to allow TNR’d cats to be returned to the place where they were trapped. 

Deborah will be meeting with Janice Vincent, Caroline Griffin, who used to chair the Animal Abuse Commission in Baltimore City and is a co-founder of Show Your Soft Side, and Michelle Gatos who is involved in TNR efforts in Baltimore County. They will work on drafting language for a TNR law. There is hope that the County will be open to approving this type of bill.  

Fourth Quarter Statistics for 2019

The statistics look very good. Over 94% live release rate for dogs and over 89% live release rate for cats. 

Meeting with County to discuss Commission’s 2019 Annual Report

Will be meeting with Dr. Donatelli and Kevin Usilton to discuss the Commission’s 2019 Annual Report.

Volunteer and Events Coordinator

BCAS Volunteer Coordinator Heidi Cruikshank has resigned. There is an assistant, Lissette Hernandez, who will still be there. There is no word on a replacement at this time. 
  
New Volunteer Opportunities

There is now a volunteer opportunity to take a dog out of the shelter for a few hours. BCAS is  also allowing volunteers to be surgical assistants, to clean instruments and prepare them for the next day.  
            
Volunteer Video

Deborah Hess is making a video about volunteers at BCAS. Commission member, Louis Eguzo, wants to know how the video will be disseminated. Deborah is waiting to find out what is planned for the video other than posting on Facebook.
She told the Commission members that there are quite a few new volunteers. The program is growing. She suggested that everyone on the Commission try to offer some volunteer time to BCAS.  The shelter is also starting a  reading program with children reading to the animals.

Any Other Business?

Nothing at this time.

Visitor Remarks?

Ann George asked about whether volunteers are being used for jobs other than cleaning kennels. Deborah said there are many volunteers who come and walk dogs and cuddle cats. –

Ann George would like to see raw data that shows the circumstances involving each animal that is euthanized. 

Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rdfloor, Main Conference Room at 6:30 p.m.

Adjournment
at 7:00 p.m.

4) New Assistant to our Commission-Deana Gunto is replacing Ellen Blake as our Commission assistant. Deana works at BCAS as an Office Office Assistant, so her knowledge about the things we discuss will no doubt be helpful to her and to us. We welcome her.

5) Old Business
a) Website-For some time, we've been trying to get an update to the names of the Commission members that are posted online. The list online is very outdated. I've been assured the changes will be made soon.

6) New Business
a) Kevin Usilton here
Chief of Animal Services Kevin Usilton attended our meeting.
b) Health Department Response to Commission’s 2019 report
Both Kevin and Dr. Donatelli met with me in early February to provide a response to the Commission's 2019 annual report.
Just for starters, this is the first time that the county has ever provided a response to one of our annual reports. It says a great deal about the positive working relationship we are establishing and the new way that the county is approaching Animal Services and our Commission. We are grateful to have this dialogue.
Here is a summary of the county's response on numerous recommendations in our report, as well as added remarks from Kevin Usilton at the meeting:

               DEPT. OF HEALTH RESPONSE TO 2019 REPORT

1. INCREASE NUMBER OF RESCUES THAT WORK WITH BCAS
Dept. of Health response:
93 rescues currently pull animals regularly from BCAS. BCAS ‘s goal is to grow that number by 12 over the next year. They particularly want to increase the number of rescues that pull pittie breeds as BCAS gets so many of these dogs.
According to Kevin Usilton, rescues are often enthusiastic about pulling from BCAS because the shelter spays/neuters many of the animals before they leave BCAS.
In addition, even when an animal leaves BCAS unaltered, if a rescue has a foster who is a Baltimore County resident, they can sign up to have the animal spayed/neutered by BCAS and take advantage of Baltimore County's low cost ($20) spay/neuter fee.

2. INCREASE ADOPTIONS
Dept. of Health response:
Cat adoptions are going very well. In 2019 BCAS facilitated the adoption of 1242 cats and 514 dogs and sent 547 cats and 345 dogs to other agencies. BCAS has set a goal of growing that number by 5% in 2020.
In addition, the shelter is increasing its efforts to utilize social media more effectively. Some volunteers and employees attended a photography and social media seminar and learned numerous things about getting the most from social media...including the best times to post to get the most eyeballs on the social media posts.
They also have been able to improve the photos they take of the animals because they won a camera and a backdrop at a recent event.

3. USE THE CUDDLE SHUTTLE MORE
Dept. of Health response:
The Cuddle Shuttle attended 27 off-site events in 2019, facilitating 144 adoptions. BCAS says it hopes to utilize the Cuddle Shuttle more to help it reach its target of growing adoptions by 5%.

4. REACH OUT TO LOCAL MEDIA WHEN THE SHELTER IS FULL
Dept. of Health response:
The Health Dept. allows BCAS to waive adoption fees when the shelter is full and they promote this on social media. BCAS says it would welcome the Commission’s help in reaching out to the media to help increase community response. I have offered to do this if BCAS will notify me.
At our meeting, Julie Salter and Janice Vincent volunteered to work together to create a list of media contacts and will be responsible for sending out blasts to those contacts when Kevin notifies us of a space emergency.

5. RETURNING ALL ANIMAL CONTROL DUTIES TO THE ANIMAL CONTROL DIVISION INSTEAD OF UTILIZING POLICE AS FIRST RESPONDERS
Dept. of Health response:
Weekly meetings occur between the Police Dept., State’s Atty’s Office, and BCAS to ensure smooth investigation and prosecution of cruelty cases. Even if BCAS is not the lead on an animal cruelty case, BCAS is involved and collaborating on the case. There is active communication between the Investigative Service Team within the Police Dept. and BCAS. Overall, the collaboration is working well and there are no plans to change the workflow.
There are no plans at this time to change the current policy.

6. NEED FOR ADDITIONAL ACO TRAINING
Dept.of Health response:
BCAS says its officers are more than sufficiently trained to accomplish their job duties. Three have attended the East Coast Training Academy, one attended Animal Control Training in Florida, six attended Tactical Baton Certification, Officer Safety Course, and Pepper Spray Certification through ACTS. Those who did not attend East Coast Training Academy received training in investigative techniques for Cruelty and Neglect Complaints and Equine Cruelty/Horse Handling 101. Six officers have completed the FEMA sponsored training on Animals and Disasters and training on Safe Handling of Aggressive and Dangerous Dogs.
Moving forward, BCAS may stagger staff to participate in other training efforts and might expect attending staff to be able to share information/experiences with other team members.

7. IF THE BALTIMORE COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT IS TO CONTINUE BEING IN CHARGE OF INVESTIGATIONS OF CRUELTY, NEGLECT AND ABUSE, OUR REPORT RECOMMENDED RECREATING THE ANIMAL ABUSE TEAM. WE ALSO RECOMMENDED THAT TRAINING ON RECOGNIZING SIGNS OF ANIMAL CRUELTY, ABUSE AND NEGLECT BE MADE PART OF THE POLICE ACADEMY CURRICULUM AND ONGOING IN-SERVICE TRAINING FOR ALL POLICE OFFICERS.
Dept. of Health response:
BCAS provided in-service training to the Baltimore County Police Dept. on Sept. 9, 2019. As to other training suggested in the report, Baltimore County Dept of health is not able to speak to the training needs and/or duties performed by the Police Dept.
I am checking with the police dept. to find out if new Officers do receive training in recognizing signs of animal cruelty, neglect and abuse and whether this is also part of ongoing in-service training.

8. AFFIDAVIT REQUIREMENT
Dept. of Health response:
A notarized affidavit is only necessary in cases that go before the Animal Hearing Board. This is due to legal reasons. As enforcement entities need probable cause to enter private property, anonymous complaints do not legally satisy the probable cause requirement. The Dept. of Health defers to the County Attorney.
So, any time there its a case (for example, an aggressive animal that harms another animal) this kind of case would have to go before the Animal hearing Board and would require an affidavit from the owner of the injured animal. But an affidavit is not required for Animal Control to begin an investigation.

9. RESUME SPAY/NEUTER REQUIREMENT ON 1ST IMPOUND
Dept. of Health Response:
When a stray animal is impounded and the owner comes to redeem the animal, they are encouraged to allow the shelter to spay/neuter the animal...and they are told that spay/neuter will be required if the animal is impounded a second time. There is an incentive for the owner to allow the surgery after first impound: If they agree to do it, they can pay a smaller fee to redeem…Instead of $39 it is just $20.

10. TNR RECOMMENDATIONS
Dept. of Health Response:
With one staff person allocated to the BCAS TNR program, BCAS is currently running the program as efficiently as possible. It’s unknown whether additional funding will be made available to support enhancements to the TNR program in the next fiscal year.
They are trying to ensure that every cat picked for TNR has a caretaker to return to rather than carrying on with previous policies which allowed cats to be returned after surgery on county property as far as 1/2 mile away from the trapping point.
Also all of the TNR and spay/neuter throughout our area seem to be having a cumulative effect. Kevin Usilton says more and more of the animals that come in as strays have been spayed or neutered.
I met with Caroline Griffin and Michelle Gatos and we are working on developing wording for legislation for a TNR law for Baltimore County.
The Commission discussed a plan to take this proposed legislation to each Council member to encourage the Council to introduce and support such a bill.

11. NEED FOR MARKETING AND PR CAMPAIGN TO RECRUIT NEW VOLUNTEERS AND KEEP THEM ON BOARD
Dept. of Health response:
After the resignation of Volunteer Coordinator Heidi Griswold, the Dept. of Health looks forward to hiring a new Volunteer/Events Coordinator who will lead the effort to accomplish the recommended tasks.
I recently finished a volunteer video for the shelter. It will be shown during volunteer orientations.
After the meeting I learned that the video was posted on Next Door and resulted in new people calling to sign up for volunteer orientation.

12. NEED FOR MARKETING AND PR CAMPAIGN TO EDUCATE THE COMMUNITY ABOUT BCAS
Dept. of Health response:
The Dept. of Health looks forward to having a Communications liaison for Animal Services who may strategically collaborate with the Division in order to develop a marketing campaign, as resources allow.

c) General Assembly bills-Maryanne Martin Bailey talked about the upcoming Humane Lobby Day in Annapolis which is sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States. Everyone is encouraged to attend. Humane Lobby Day takes place on Feb. 26, 2020.
One of the bills being considered by the Maryland General Assembly this year is HB 406 in the House and SB 627. This bill mirrors Oscar's Law to protect animals that are outside from extreme weather.
The hearing on the House bill takes place on the sameDay as Humane Lobby Day at 1:00 in the House Environment and Transportation Committee. The Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Ben Kramer in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee at 12:00 on
I urge you to contact the Chair of the House Environment and Transportation Committee and the Chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to urge that they give a favorable report on this bill so it can advance to the full House and Senate.
Please call the House Environment and Transportation Committee at 410-841-3990.
Refer to the Extreme Weather Bill House Bill 406...mention that the hearing is coming up on the 26th  and say you urge a favorable report from the committee and give a brief reason why (for example, you can say that Baltimore County passed a similar bill...that it is common sense legislation to protect animals from suffering in extreme weather by ensuring that owners provide proper shelter to animals outdoors in the event of extreme weather).
You can also call the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and refer to the bill which is Senate Bill 627. It really does make a difference when lawmakers hear from their constituents.
d) Volunteer video-see above as we discussed this under Item 11 above.
7) Any Other Business? None
8)Visitor Remarks
9) Announcement of next meeting date and time-We will not meet in March, Our next meeting will be held on April 21, 2020 at 6:30 PM on the 3rd floor of the Drumcastle Building.
10) Adjournment


5 comments:

  1. Concerning # 8 Affidavit Required, I would refer you to MD State Code 10-615. The code points out that Balt Co, Dept of Health Dept approves and shall enforce this section.

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  2. What conclusion, if any, on citizens finding strays after hours and where to take them?

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