Thursday, December 17, 2020

December 2020 Meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission

 Hi, everyone!

Here's a summary of the December meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission. The main item on our agenda was the approval of the 2020 annual Commission report.

                               Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission 

                                                   December 15, 2020 meeting

                                                                  AGENDA

1) Call to order

2) Roll Call and certification of a quorum-In attendance were Deborah Stone Hess, Maryanne Martin Bailey, Roy Plummer, Janice Vincent, Steve Malan, and Chris Shaughness

3) Approval of November 2020 Minutes-Here are the minutes as approved:

BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVICES

ADVISORY COMMISSION

November 17, 2020

The fiftieth regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 via Zoom.

Members in attendance were: Deborah Stone Hess, Roy Plummer, Chris Shaughness, Steve Malan, Janice Vincent and Bob Swensen.

This meeting was called to order at 6:37 p.m. by the Chair Deborah Stone Hess.

Minutes

October minutes were approved.

New Business: 

New member – Steve Malan, who had a 36 year career as a bioligist for the MD Dept of Agriculture. In the early 80’s he spearheaded the creation of an emergency plan for companion pet sheltering which is still in use today.

The Commission reviewed BCAS’s statistics which were submitted to BAWA for October which show live release for 93% of dogs and 91% of cats.

There has been a resolution of the Bird River cruelty case. The owners reached a plea agreement with the State and the animals have been forfeited to BCAS for adoption, foster and rescue. 

There was discussion of the BCAS Working Cat Program, which started in July 2017 for feral and semi-feral cats and friendly cats with behavior issues. The program is growing and 201 cats have been placed through the program in 2020. 

BCAS has scheduled four virtual volunteer orientations.  

Currently working on BCAS video for dog-to-dog introductions. Trying to do a Thanksgiving/Christmas video, possibly a dog show type event and video.

Chris and Deb to work on Annual Report draft in the next couple weeks with hope to submit by the end of the year. Chris and Jonny Akchin to meet and discuss.

Next meeting scheduled for December 15, 2020 via Zoom.

Adjournment at 7:04 p.m.

4) New Business

a) Commission Annual Report-Here is the 2020 Commission annual report as approved:

2020 Annual report of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission

                                        Commission members:

                                       Maryanne Martin Bailey

                                               Louis Eguzo

                                               Ann Gearhart

                                                Steve Malan

                                               Roy Plummer

                                            Chris Shaughness

                                       Deborah Stone Hess (Chair)

                                                Bob Swensen

                                              Larry Townsend

                                                Janice Vincent


                                                     Table of Contents           

      Executive Summary                                        Page 3-4

I. Introduction                                                     Page 5

II. Statistics                                                           Page 6-7

I11. Improved/Expanded Programs:                       Page 8-9

A. Working Cats 

B. Foster for Dogs

IV. Animal Control                                                 Page 10

V. TNR                                                                  Page 11-15

VI. Volunteers                                                         Page 16

VII. Non-Profits                                                        Page 17

VIII. Sound Wall                                                Page 18

IX. Conclusion                                                         Page 19


                                                    Executive Summary 

                                                               of the 

                                                     2020 Annual Report 

                                                              of the

                            Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission    

The following is an Executive Summary of the findings of the Commission’s 2020 annual report.

BCAS’s live release rates are excellent, remaining over 90% in every quarter of 2020 for dogs, and over 90% for cats in the first and third quarters (and just under 88% in the second quarter.) Achieving a 90% live release rate is difficult and is seen as true indicator that the shelter is diligently working to find live placements for shelter animals.

BCAS has grown two of its important programs: 

1) the Working Cat program which finds unique placements for cats that are semi-friendly or friendly with behavior concerns

2) the Foster program which has expanded to include many more dogs

Both of these programs are very important in helping BCAS animals in the short and long term. 

The Animal Control Division seems to be working well, and there is ongoing cooperation between BCAS, the Baltimore County Police Department, and the State’s Attorney’s office in animal abuse, cruelty and neglect cases.

The BCAS volunteer program continues to face challenges due to the pandemic, partly because the shelter must restrict the number of volunteers allowed in the shelter at one time and also because the virus has made it even more difficult to get and keep volunteers. However, on the encouraging side, volunteers say they feel more appreciated and believe their input has more weight at BCAS than it did under previous shelter leadership.

The county has completed the construction of a sound wall on BCAS property that has eliminated neighbor complaints about the noise of barking coming from the shelter.

     There are two areas where the Commission recommends change at the county level.

The Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program is hindered by the lack of a TNR law in Baltimore County.  

TNR is seen as the only effective and humane method of dealing with the large population of free-roaming cats. Its use is supported by many organizations, including the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), while our own state’s Department of Agriculture gives grant money to Maryland shelters to conduct TNR. Even Disney Land and Disney World practice Trap Neuter Return. 

But Baltimore County, unlike many cities and counties (including Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, and Prince Georges County in Maryland) does not have TNR ordinances to support its TNR program and enable it to always follow best practices. THE COMMISSION STRONGLY RECOMMENDS THAT THE COUNTY PASS A TNR LAW. 

             We urge you to read our report’s entire section on TNR where we explain how and

              why our TNR program could be best served by passage of a TNR law. 

 It’s critically important if we are to more fully protect human health, improve services to the public, and care for community cats.

Volunteers run two non-profit organizations to benefit BCAS. They do great work. However, the county needs to make it easier for these organizations to buy equipment for the shelter. For example, the purchase of an incubator has been stalled for four months while awaiting county approval. THE COUNTY NEEDS TO TAKE STEPS TO EXPEDITE THIS APPROVAL PROCESS.

     Overall, the Commission is very encouraged by the accomplishments of BCAS in 2020 and those who are leading it. There is new transparency and cooperation with the Commission. We see bright days ahead for our shelter under current leadership. 

          For more information on all that we address in this Executive Summary, please see the Commission’s full report.

I. Introduction

          2020 has been another year of transition at Baltimore County Animal Services. 

     The pandemic upended many policies and procedures, and BCAS lost its new Chief of Animal Services, Kevin Usilton, who resigned in June after only a nine-month tenure. 

     When Mr. Usilton departed, the Baltimore County Health Department named BCAS Veterinary Services Supervisor Dr. Sandra Andrulis as Acting Chief of Animal Services. 

     Despite the obvious difficulties of operating during a pandemic, Dr. Andrulis, who is enormously well-liked and respected by BCAS staff and volunteers, appeared to move seamlessly into the leadership role. She carried out changes in operations to accommodate for the pandemic.

     BCAS was forced to temporarily prevent members of the public from entering the shelter and to stop accepting strays and animals from the public.

     “Meet-and-greets” for those considering adopting dogs were moved outside the building, and this practice continues as of this writing. 

     “Meet-and-greets” for adoptable cats moved to the shelter’s mobile adoption vehicle, known as the Cuddle Shuttle, but have since resumed indoors.

     While coping with very difficult constraints due to the pandemic, Dr. Andrulis has exercised a calm hand at the helm of BCAS. At the same time, she makes herself very accessible to the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission and has attended virtual Commission meetings. 

     In August 2020, the Baltimore County Health Department named Dr. Andrulis the permanent Chief of Animal Services and created a position of Deputy Chief, naming Jonathan Akchin to that post. Mr. Akchin previously served as Assistant Baltimore County Attorney and served as counsel to the county’s Animal Hearing Board since 2013.

     Like Dr. Andrulis, Mr. Akchin has also joined virtual Animal Services Advisory Commission meetings and has made himself very accessible. He has stressed an overall philosophy of openness, transparency, and cooperation with staff, volunteers, the Commission, and the community as a whole. 

     It’s fair to say that a new day has dawned at BCAS where openness is encouraged, and one where shelter leaders and the Commission work toward common goals. 

     The Commission’s members are deeply gratified to see this transformation, as well as many positive changes being implemented at BCAS.

     While the pandemic makes everything more difficult, BCAS continues to work very hard for the welfare of animals in its care.

     This report will bring you up to date on current BCAS programs. It will also outline some recommendations aimed at furthering BCAS’s mission to provide shelter and care to homeless animals and provide services to the public.

     We submit this report respectfully to the Baltimore County Council and the Office of the County Executive.

II.  Statistics

     As always, statistics give the bottom line on how BCAS is accomplishing its overarching mission to save lives.

     Despite the very difficult circumstances created by the pandemic, BCAS has continued to reunite members of the public with lost pets, facilitate adoptions, send animals to rescue organizations and other shelters, perform TNR for free-roaming cats, and continues to post extraordinarily low euthanasia numbers and correspondingly high live release rates.

     Euthanasia is a necessary reality at all open admission shelters, as there will always be some animals not suitable for adoption or rescue, either because of illness or behavior-related issues. 

     Shelters strive to keep live release rates at or above 90%. And BCAS is doing very well in that effort.

     Below are statistics for the three quarters of 2020 that BCAS has compiled as of the writing of this report. The final line in each table gives the live release percentage.


                                    1ST QUARTER 2020 BCAS STATISTICS


                                                DOGS                      CATS

Intake                                           572                        692

Adoption                                     171 (24.7%)             245 (35.4%)

Redeemed by owner                         173                        37

Pulled by rescue                     114 (19.9%)           166 (23.9%)

Non-owner-requested euthanasia  51 (8.9%)                      64 (9.2%)

Live Release Rate                         91.18%                       90.8%


                                        2nd QUARTER 2020 BCAS STATISTICS

                                                              DOGS          CATS

Intake                                                         344                    458

Adoption                                                    63 (18.3%)        172 (37.5%)

Redeemed by Owner                                   109            14

Pulled by Rescue                                     75   (21.8%)       64 (13.9%)

Non Owner-Requested Euthanasia                21 (6.1%)          57 (12.4%) 

Live Release rate                                            93.9%           87.6%


                                     3rd QUARTER 2020 BCAS STATISTICS


                                                            Dogs             Cats

Intake                                                      440               909

Adoption                                                     22%              44%

Redeemed                                            37.7%            2.2%

Pulled by Rescue                                    27.5%           27.7%

TNR                                                      NA                72

Non Owner-Requested Euthanasia    8.6%           7.3%

Live Release Rate                                    91.4%          92.7%

III. Improved/Expanded Programs

     This section of our report is extremely important. It’s critical for the success of any shelter to always evolve and grow its programs. 

     The goal is not just to increase live outcomes, but also to provide enrichment for animals in the shelter’s care. 

     Below are two major program improvements. The first has helped BCAS make an enormous leap forward in saving the lives of cats.  

A. Working Cat Program

     Working cat programs are common at many shelters around the country and are intended to find live outcomes for cats that aren’t well suited to traditional adoption. 

     These cats are semi-friendly or friendly cats with behavior concerns. However, they can be well-suited to living in non-traditional adoption settings, like barns or businesses and often provide a natural solution for rodent control. Some working cats are best suited to live outdoors or be indoor/outdoor, while others are best suited to live indoors-only, with cat-savvy adopters (who are experienced working with cats on behavior concerns, using positive reinforcement techniques and patience.)

     BCAS began a Working Cat program in July 2017 and placed 5 cats that year. The program has continually grown, and so far, in 2020, BCAS has placed 219 “working” cats at farm properties, stores, a garage, inside homes with families, even a distillery. Some of these cats just need behavior modification to help them become more social. With this help, some of BCAS’s “working cats” turn into wonderful household cats and are adopted into loving homes.

     BCAS hopes to grow the Working Cat program and create live outcomes for more cats in this way. In addition, there is ongoing discussion about ways to create a free-roaming indoor space for them, as well as an enclosed outdoor space so they can be more comfortable while waiting for placement. The Commission wholeheartedly supports these efforts.

     The importance of the Working Cat program can’t be overstated. Without these non-traditional placements, many more cats would have to be euthanized.

     It’s clear that working cat placements are positively affecting live release numbers for cats at BCAS and this is a wonderful achievement.

B. Foster for Dogs

     The BCAS foster program is growing.

     The hiring of two BCAS staff members has helped in this effort. The first is a part-time animal behaviorist. The second is an assistant who splits his time between the Volunteer Program and the Rescue/Foster program. 

     This additional hands-on help has made it possible for the Rescue/Foster Coordinator to grow the Foster Program.

     For several years, that program has focused primarily on kittens, many of which are so young they require bottle feeding. 

     In addition, BCAS has sometimes used foster placement for older cats that need time to recover from illness, and on rare occasions, when puppies would come to BCAS, they too were eligible for foster.

     This year, the foster program has grown to include many more dogs. As of this writing in November, thirty-six dogs have been through the foster program this year. 

     Here’s the breakdown of why these dogs went to foster:

Two were underage.

Five needed time for medical recovery.

Two had behavior issues requiring more personal behavior modification than they could receive at the shelter.

Ten were designated foster-to-adopt during the pandemic closure.

Seventeen (including a litter of nine puppies) were on Administrative Hold, waiting for resolution of a cruelty case. Putting them in foster homes enabled them to avoid many long months in a cage at BCAS.

     BCAS also sent one guinea pig to foster for medical reasons, as well as eight hamsters on pregnancy watch (one of which had 4 babies in foster care).

     There are plans in the works to continue to grow the foster program, and this is an extraordinarily positive development.

     What BCAS needs most are foster volunteers who can take in animals that are being held pending resolution of cruelty cases, as well as those needing behavior modification and medical recovery time.

     There are ongoing efforts to grow the foster network.  Fosters are an important part of the life-saving puzzle, and the Commission is very encouraged by the growth of BCAS’s foster program. 

IV. Animal Control

     In 2018, Baltimore County shifted part of Animal Control’s responsibility to the Baltimore County Police Department. The police are now first responders when citizens call regarding suspected animal abuse or neglect.

     In addition, the PD shut down its Animal Abuse Team which had been responsible for investigating cases of cruelty, neglect and abuse. 

     Animal cruelty and neglect complaints are made through the PD non-emergency number. When a police officer responds, he or she writes a report which goes to the Police Department’s Investigative Service Teams as well as to Animal Control.

     At all hours, if a responding police officer needs animal expertise or assistance on scene, he or she can request response from a BCAS Animal Service Officer.

     BCAS follows up on all incident reports, including those where a police officer finds the complaint is unfounded. 

     If a complaint is criminal in nature, BCAS confers with police to determine the proper course of action and whether the State’s Attorney’s office should get involved. 

     In addition, BCAS staff members meet regularly with a Police Department liaison as well as with the State’s Attorney’s office. 

     In these “case review” meetings, they go over any pending or new cases that may be criminal and discuss the status of each investigation as well as what is needed to be done. 

     It appears that BCAS, the police and the State’s Attorney’s office are working well together.

V. Trap Neuter Return (TNR)

     The issue of free-roaming community cats in Baltimore County continues to be a concern, as it is in virtually every jurisdiction in the country. 

     Millions of these cats live throughout the United States. It’s impossible to know how many are in our area. Suffice it to say, there are many, and they’re in neighborhoods throughout Baltimore County. 

     Community cats live in colonies, in places where they find food, water and shelter, usually provided by people in the community known as caretakers.

     For years, throughout the United States, the most common solution used to try to eliminate free-roaming cats was to trap them and bring them to a local animal shelter, where they were usually euthanized. The killing of community cats by shelters was one of the biggest contributors to high shelter euthanasia rates. 

     This continued even though “Trap and Kill” was ineffective, doing nothing to reduce the overall number of cats. 

    Today the use of Trap Neuter Return is considered best practice when it comes to community cats, instead of that old, cruel, and ineffective Trap and Kill model. TNR is favored by many organizations, including the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and others.

     The Maryland Department of Agriculture gives grant money to Maryland shelters to conduct TNR. 

     Even Disney Land and Disney World practice TNR. In fact, those who care for the cats on those properties are known as “cat cast members!”

     Grounded in science, TNR is the most effective and humane approach to controlling populations of free-roaming cats. 

                                                    What exactly is TNR?

     Cats that are TNR’d are spayed or neutered to stop the breeding cycle, and are vaccinated for rabies, thereby protecting human health as well as the health of the cats. In addition, a tip of each cat’s ear is removed to show they’ve been altered. Then the cats are returned to the place where they were trapped. Some TNR programs, including the one in Baltimore County, microchip TNR’d cats. This way, if they’re brought to the shelter again, they’re identified through microchip, given a rabies booster, and returned to their proper location.

                                                  What TNR accomplishes

          TNR reduces the cat population by stopping the breeding cycle through spaying and neutering. It protects human health by vaccinating the cats against rabies.

It makes cats healthier. 

     And, very importantly, because it reduces cat colony size over time, and because spay/neuter reduces nuisance behaviors, TNR provides a valuable service to people who complain they don’t want the cats on or around their property.

                                                       Where We Were

     Until the summer of 2015, Baltimore County employed the Trap and Kill means of coping with community cats. It’s evident that was ineffective in getting rid of the problem, because we still need a solution today. 

     Trap and Kill is ineffective even in reducing numbers of cats in individual colonies because of something called the “vacuum effect “.  

     Here’s how the City of San Antonio Animal Care Services webpage describes the vacuum effect caused by Trap and Kill:

     “What is the vacuum effect? Community cat colonies, like other populations of animals in the wild, have a certain population size at which they are most stable. When the population size of a colony is drastically reduced in a short amount of time, the colony reacts by trying to return to the stable size. The remaining members of the colony increase mating activities in an effort to create more offspring and stabilize the colony population size. A reduction in size also opens the door for newcomers to the colony - other cats in the area may move in. Because of the vacuum effect, "catch and kill" has no lasting impact on the size of a community cat colony.”

     In 2015, then-Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz saw the potential benefit of TNR. He changed the county position that had supported Trap and Kill and had labeled community cats as dangerous. Mr. Kamenetz tasked BCAS with beginning a TNR pilot program which was initially carried out by a group called Community Cats Maryland until BCAS hired a TNR Coordinator in August 2016.

                                                       Where We Are Now

     Since it began its pilot program, Baltimore County has TNR’d over 4200 cats. To grasp the importance of each of those TNR’d animals, consider the shocking number of cats that can result from just one un-spayed female and one un-neutered male that produce two-three offspring a year. Those offspring begin reproducing. Their offspring do the same, and so on. Some estimate several hundred thousand cats can result in eight years. It’s difficult to know if that’s accurate. Suffice it to say, cats reproduce quickly, and this is why it’s so critical to spay or neuter them to stop the reproductive cycle.

     In addition to reducing the number of free-roaming cats, there’s another important indicator of the BCAS TNR program’s success already: it has reduced the stray cat intake numbers at BCAS, freeing up cage space for additional numbers of cats, including owner-surrendered cats and colony kittens that can be impounded and put up for adoption.  

    Unfortunately, BCAS does not have staff to carry out TNR trapping. It relies on community caretakers to bring their cats to the shelter for the TNR service. 

     In addition, the pandemic forced the closure of the spay/neuter facility in Dundalk, but TNR continues at the shelter in Baldwin. 

     Despite this, the BCAS TNR program is thriving as BCAS has begun what are called TNR Fridays. Every Friday, members of the public can bring in as many cats as they want to be TNR’d without appointment.

     TNR Fridays are going very well and have received good reviews from the public.

                 Where We Need To Go and Why We Need a TNR Law To Get There

     There are several problems facing Baltimore County’s TNR program.

     They all stem from the fact that it operates without explicit authority. In other words, it continues as a “pilot” program without the benefit of county law to back it up. 

     This is problematic in several ways.

First and foremost, BCAS cannot go onto private property to return a TNR’d cat unless a property owner signs a form allowing them to do so. When a property owner refuses, BCAS can no longer follow TNR best practices in returning cats to the place where they were trapped. This is critical so the cats can find their source of food, water and shelter. Without a property owner’s permission, BCAS attempts to reach out to people close to the trapping location to ask for their permission to return the TNR’d cat on their property. If this is unsuccessful, BCAS is forced to identify county property (usually within a quarter mile) where they can release the cats. This is a serious problem because, at this distance, there’s no guarantee a cat will find its way back to its source of food and shelter.  

Another problem resulting from a lack of a TNR law occurs when cat caretakers find themselves in conflict with neighbors who consider the animals a nuisance. BCAS tries to offer guidance and resolve disputes by offering ways to deter cats from roaming onto a particular property. But BCAS staff can only do so much. They need the support of local ordinances and laws to enable them to always use best practices and make the TNR program successful. 

     Many states including Maryland’s neighbor, Delaware, have TNR laws, as do a large number of cities and counties across the U.S. These include conservative jurisdictions like Colorado Springs, Colorado and liberal ones like Berkeley, California. They include large areas like New York City and Cook County, Illinois, as well as tiny Elko New Market, Minnesota which has only fifteen hundred residents.

     In Maryland, three jurisdictions (Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Anne Arundel County) have TNR ordinances protecting community cats and caretakers. 

    Baltimore County has no such laws or ordinances.         

                                                 Current Baltimore County Code 

      Portions of the county code pertaining to animals may actually bring negative consequences for cat caretakers.

     For example, § 13-7-310 prohibits dumping of garbage, trash or manure and says that 

no one may feed animals in a manner that the food constitutes a source of rodent food.

     This county code can punish those caring for community cats when code enforcement officers determine that homemade cat shelters constitute garbage, and that food left out for cats could draw rodents. This allows code enforcement to force citizens to remove cat shelters and food and can also result in fines.

     Clearly, the county is sending mixed messages by employing TNR and encouraging the community to bring in cats for TNR, but at the same time failing to support the program. 

                                              Past Commission Recommendations

     The Commission most recently addressed TNR concerns in its 2019 annual report and then recommended several improvements to the program. Among them:

BCAS hire additional staff to conduct trapping for TNR or re-engage with an organization like Community Cats Maryland to conduct TNR trapping. 

As mentioned earlier, this has not taken place. Hiring additional personnel is unlikely at the present time due to the pandemic’s resulting financial constraints. That said, the Commission recommends that TNR trapping staff be hired as soon as is fiscally feasible to expand the TNR program and bring it to more areas of the county.

BCAS provide medical care to TNR cats that need it. IN a very positive development, BCAS is increasingly providing medical care to TNR’d cats, such as medication for upper respiratory infections, tail amputations, wound closures, hernia repairs, dental cleaning and extractions. BCAS addresses medical concerns at veterinary discretion with approval from the Chief of Animal Services. 

While BCAS provides more care for these cats than in the past, it does not have the financial resources to address all medical problems. 

     In addition, when cats present with wounds of unknown origin that could potentially be a bite from another animal, the county requires a lengthy rabies quarantine. It’s very difficult for BCAS to provide cage space for multiple cats needing this lengthy quarantine, and caretakers often don’t have the ability to carry it out themselves. Many of these cats are therefore euthanized. This is, of course, unfortunate. A possible solution would be one employed by the MD SPCA which says that, in the case of wounds of unknown origin, it tries to find fosters who can perform the rabies quarantine but is not always able to do so. 

      In our last annual report, we also recommended that Baltimore County create a TNR law.

This continues to be our most important recommendation. 

     Such a law would provide incentives to do TNR, define community cats as distinctly different from strays, define the roles of their caretakers, and identify the issues that pertain to them. 

     This would enable BCAS to better protect the public, the cats and the people who care for them. 

     In addition, any ordinance must contain specific language allowing BCAS to bring TNR cats back to their original location without requiring signed property permission forms.  This would allow BCAS to follow best practices in every case by returning animals to the exact place where they were trapped. 

                                                            Conclusion

     In conclusion, trapping and killing is ineffective. It has been proven to do nothing to decrease cat populations in our communities. In addition, it’s inhumane. 

     TNR, on the other hand, is supported by many organizations, numerous states and many cities and counties around the country. 

     This is because TNR reduces the number of cats over time, resolves concerns from citizens about free-roaming cats on their property, protects public health and the health of community cats, and supports those who care for them.  

     Our state’s Department of Agriculture, clearly seeing the value of TNR, provides grant money for it. 

     Surely Disney Land and Disney World would not support TNR if cats on those properties posed any danger to visitors at those theme parks.  

     If Baltimore County wants to be at the forefront of best practices and life-saving measures, the time has come for us to create a Baltimore County TNR law and to fully embrace the benefits of Trap Neuter Return.

     We will be happy to provide copies of TNR laws from MD jurisdictions upon request.

VI. Volunteers

  Many wonderful volunteers have spent over 2300 hours at BCAS this year (as of this writing in December.) They perform numerous duties including:

Clean/reset cages and feed cats in Adoptable Cat Room

Walk adoptable dogs 

Help with Friday TNR Clinics 

Dishes and Laundry

Cleaning dog kennels

Preparing food for the dogs

     BCAS has always found it challenging to grow its volunteer program. Unfortunately, as with everything, the pandemic has made it even more difficult. 

     For one thing, Covid19 has forced limits on the number of people who can be inside BCAS at any given time, and this includes volunteers. This restriction has had a pronounced effect on those who volunteer in the cat room, as BCAS only allows up to three Cat Cuddlers to be scheduled at a time to allow for social distancing. 

     Dog volunteers are less affected as they spend most of their time with dogs outside for walks and playtime. Dog walkers are allowed in unlimited numbers, but no more than 5 dog walkers can be in the Adoptable Dog Room at one time. 

     Since Deputy Animal Services Chief Jonny Akchin assumed his position at the shelter, he has focused on improving volunteer participation. Unfortunately, the second surge of Covid makes everything more challenging.

     On the bright side, volunteers seem to feel more appreciated at BCAS than in years prior, and also feel that management values their feedback. 

     The post-pandemic period will tell the future of the volunteer program at BCAS, but things do appear to be going in a positive direction, despite the pandemic’s effects. 

VII. Non-Profits

     Volunteers have also helped BCAS through two non-profit organizations formed in 2018: Friends of Baltimore County Cats and Friends of Baltimore County Dogs.

     These non-profits raise money to help BCAS in numerous ways.  

     In one instance, Friends of Baltimore County Cats raised $12,000 to purchase a dental machine for BCAS. This has been enormously helpful.

     Dental disease is extremely common in animals that come into the shelter. Most cases are mild and don’t require treatment, but for those that do need it, the machine allows BCAS to clean and also to extract diseased teeth.  

     In the last year BCAS has performed fifty dental clean/polish procedures, with and without extractions.  

     Prior to getting the dental machine, cats with severe dental disease were almost always labeled “rescue only” and were not available for routine adoption.  Non-profit rescue organizations that took them were forced to use their own funds to pay for expensive dental treatment. 

   It’s a huge benefit that BCAS can now provide this service, making it less expensive for non-profit rescues that pull these animals. One can only assume it makes it more likely that rescues will take these animals, providing live outcomes for yet more animals at BCAS.

     In addition to purchasing equipment, Friends of Baltimore County Cats and Friends of Baltimore County Dogs also can give money directly to rescues to help absorb other medical costs for animals they pull from BCAS. 

     It’s wonderful that non-profits raise money for BCAS, but they face difficulties and extensive delays in getting these purchases approved.

     BCAS, as a county-run shelter, cannot just take money raised by Friends of Baltimore County Cats and Friends of Baltimore County Dogs. These organizations must obtain county government approval to authorize the use of the money they raise.  

     This is an ongoing problem right now as Friends of Baltimore County Cats has been seeking county approval to purchase an incubator for BCAS since August 2020 (four months ago)

     Such delays are wasteful. New equipment that could help the shelter is left unpurchased for months while waiting for final approval. This is frustrating and discouraging for the non-profit volunteers who are working so hard to help BCAS.

     It’s extremely important that Baltimore County find ways to eliminate red tape and expedite this process.

VIII. Sound Wall

     From the moment the county built its new shelter facility several years ago, there were many complaints from neighbors about noise from barking dogs.

     Dog runs at BCAS are behind numerous homes on adjoining properties. Measured noise levels were reportedly above those allowed by state law.

     As a result, Baltimore County decided to construct a barrier wall.

    With the wall completed in 2020, we can happily report that complaints have been eliminated.

IX. Conclusion

     Baltimore County Animal Services is doing a wonderful job despite being faced with the terrible difficulties of the pandemic.

Its live release rates are high. 

It is growing its programs such as those for “working” cats and animal fosters. 

Animal Control, the Baltimore County Police Department, and the State’s Attorney’s Office are working well together.

There is an ongoing effort to grow the volunteer program, and volunteers feel more appreciated at BCAS.

Non-profits are working to help BCAS.

The sound barrier has been built and has eliminated neighbors’ noise complaints.

     We make only two major recommendations:

The elimination of red tape to allow for rapid approval when non-profits raise funds to buy equipment for BCAS.

The adoption of a TNR law in Baltimore County to support the BCAS TNR program. 

TNR is considered best practice when it comes to reducing populations of free-roaming community cats. It’s the only program that works and is humane. Trap and Kill is ineffective. If it worked, this problem would have been fixed long ago, as Trap and Kill has been the primary means of handling community cats around the country, as well as in Baltimore County until 2015.

Many cities and counties have realized the importance of TNR ordinances to support their TNR programs and have passed such laws. Baltimore County needs to join them. A TNR law will enable BCAS to further reduce the number of free-roaming cats, help complainants who don’t want the cats on their property, protect the health of Baltimore County citizens as all TNR’d cats are vaccinated for rabies, and further the shelter’s life-saving efforts. 

     The Commission believes BCAS is in wonderful hands. Animal Services Chief Dr. Sandra Andrulis and Deputy Chief Jonny Akchin have proven their dedication to the shelter’s mission and work. The staff care deeply about the animals. Volunteers are highly motivated. Our Commission is engaged and feels like a partner in the process.

Everything is going in the right direction in spite of a pandemic.

     This is enormously encouraging as we all work together to make Baltimore County Animal Services a leader in saving lives and caring for animals. 

b) State Legislation-Maryanne Martin Bailey discussed animal-related legislation that will come before the General Assembly in its upcoming session which begins in January. 

5) Any other business? Deborah, Chris, Steve and Maryanne set a date in January for a phone call to discuss how to move forward in our effort to get Baltimore County to approve a TNR law which was the most important element of our 2020 annual report.

6) Next meeting date and time Our next meeting will be held January 19, 2021 at 6:30 PM via Zoom.

7) Adjournment