Not only was there a large crowd, but we covered a tremendous amount of information. Here's a summary of the meeting.
JANUARY 15, 2018 MEETING OF THE BALTIMORE COUNTY ANIMAL SERVIES ADVISORY COMMISSION
1) Call to Order
2) Roll Call-Determination of a Quorum-In attendance were Deborah Stone Hess, Larry Townsend, Ann Gearhart, Gerald Brooks, Roy Plummer, Julianne Zimmer, Janice Vincent, and Joy Freedman.
3) Approval of December Minutes-Minutes from our December meeting were approved. Here are those minutes:
The Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was formed by a bill passed unanimously in the County Council in 2015. Each of the 7 County Council members appoints one member to the Commission. The Administration has 4 appointments. We are tasked with acting in an advisory capacity to the County Council and County Executive. We meet monthly, almost always on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 PM on the 3rd floor of the Drumcastle Building. We provide reports annually. This year we also submitted an addendum to our annual report.
5) Old Business
a) Owner Requested Euthanasia-At our last meeting, we discussed the large increase in owner requested euthanasia that is reported on BCAS quarterly statistics.
Here is a chart showing that increase by quarter since 2015.
They explained to us that employees at the shelter are instructed to exert pressure on those surrendering pets to sign a form requesting euthanasia. (When an owner requests euthanasia, these animals do not count against the shelter's live release rate.) We also learned that when staffers are unsuccessful in convincing those surrendering pets to sign the form, they are instructed to call a supervisor who can then exert more pressure.
Deborah had sent a request for documents related to owner requested euthanasia for the third quarters of 2017 and 2018. BCAS provided that information on a disk.
There were almost 850 files on the disk, including forms fulled out by surrendering owners, physical exam forms, and other documents related to pets surrendered by owners requesting euthanasia.
Because there were so many files on the disk, Deborah was unable to examine all of them, but as she looked through them, many involved animals that were very old or very sick. These, of course, are the kinds of animals one would expect would be surrendered with a request for euthanasia.
But there were also some that appeared to raise red flags.
For example, one involved a 2-year-old unaltered English Mastiff. His owner describes him as playful and energetic, and said he can be loving. When asked, "Has your pet ever bitten or injured a person or another animal?", his owner mentions that over a year ago, he "playfully" bit a family member and left a bruise. (That would have happened while the dog was still under a year old.) But someone at the shelter wrote that he was "unadoptable" due to "2 bites."
On a form asking whether the owner was requesting euthanasia, the no box is checked then scratched out, and the yes box is checked. On another form, someone at BCAS wrote that the owner requested euthanasia for aggression.
Then there is another case involving an adult cat named Big Guy and 3 10-week-old kittens labeled Big Guy 1, 2 and 3 that came into the shelter in Sept. 2017.
Big Guy was 6-years-old. BCAS writes on a form that he has a chronic severe upper respiratory infection and is underweight and hairless.
The kittens are described as having upper respiratory infections, being severely dehydrated and emaciated with muscle wasting.
It would appear that this owner may have severely neglected these cats. Yet BCAS did not forward this case to the State's Attorney Animal Abuse Unit.
b) Oscar Case Outcome-Almost a year after Oscar died, the Oscar case has been resolved. Oscar’s owner pled guilty on Dec. 17 to one count of failure to provide shelter for which he received Probation Before Judgement , 6 months probation, a $500 fine, he had to pay the fee for the forensic veterinarian which was $2300, and he cannot possess animals for three years.
c) Guinea Pig Tallies-At the Commission's last meeting, we discussed a case involving about 60 guinea pigs that were pets surrendered to BCAS after the death of their owner. We learned that BCAS employees were on their way to a snake farm with some of the guinea pigs that they intended to leave there to be used as snake food. This is a shocking idea and there was such an outcry among BCAS staffers that those driving the guinea pigs returned with them to the shelter.
BCAS has provided the following information on the outcome of all the guinea pigs:
There were a total of 60 guinea pigs surrendered to BCAS on 10/17/2018.
We have been previously told by sources that many of those euthanized were pregnant females.
a) Failure to quickly post photos of animals on stray hold (Donna Metlin letter)
Baltimore County Animal Services is required to hold stray animals for three days to give their owners an opportunity to find their lost pets. Donna Metlin, who administers several lost and found websites sent a letter to us outlining numerous concerns she has. One is that some animals are being posted late into the stray hold period, giving owners less time to find their pets. Sometimes these animals' photos aren't posted until there is only one day left in the stray hold period.
Donna also raises concerns that the public is not allowed to go into the stray hold area to find their lost pets. Other municipal shelters, including Howard County and Anne Arundel County allow owners access to animals on stray hold in hopes that lost pets and owners can be reunited ASAP.
Baltimore County has a rule that says the public cannot enter the stray hold room.
The problem with this became very evident in a recent case involving a Rottweiler that was missing. Accidentally the shelter posted the wrong photo of this dog when it arrived at the shelter. Its owner called BCAS numerous times. BCAS told her she needed to look at the website photos, and she was not allowed to see two Rottweilers that were currently on stray hold to determine whether one of them was hers.
Her dog ultimately completed its stray hold, and went on the adoptable floor. Luckily an animal advocate reached out to volunteers to check the adoptable floor and send a photo of the Rottie. Indeed the woman's dog was at BCAS, and she was reunited with her pet. If it had not been for this intervention, her dog could easily have been adopted by someone and she would have never seen her dog again.
This raises very serious questions as to why BCAS would have a policy forbidding the public from seeing animals on stray hold.
b) Releasing info to prior pet owners-A dog at BCAS was adopted, and subsequently its previous owner filed a Public Information Act request for the personal information of the person who had adopted his dog. Gary Klunk called the adopter and told her that her personal information was going to be released to the previous owner. Members of the Commission learned of this and Deborah reached out to the County to find out why this information would be released. The County agreed not to release the information. But there are serious questions going forward as to whether adopters can be assured that their personal information will remain private.
c) Spay/neuter on second impound-There was recently a Yorkie at BCAS that had been impounded as a stray for the second time.
It is a county rule that all animals that end up at BCAS as strays twice must be spayed or neutered before they can leave the shelter. A dog owner who was trying to redeem a dog after its second impound didn’t want the animal altered. We have been told that Dr. Branch interceded and allowed the dog to leave BCAS without being altered.
This again is of real concern. The whole point of this rule to spay/neuter on second impound is aimed at preventing unaltered animals from contributing to the pet overpopulation problem.
d) Dog adopted to 70-year-old man-There was a dog at BCAS that volunteers described as so active and hyper that it took two volunteers to walk him. BCAS adopted this dog to a 70-year-old man. The man ultimately (and as one would expect) couldn't handle the dog. He returned it to BCAS after receiving numerous bites. Commission members talked at length about the need for adoption counseling so that animals are adopted to owners that are appropriate for their level of activity, etc.
e) Numerous returns by adoptees-need to provide resources to adopters-We have learned that 15 dogs have been returned to BCAS by their adopters in the last 45 days. This raises the importance of providing services to adopters that help them manage their new pets and be good pet owners. BARCS, for example, offers obedience training classes for every adopter. BCAS needs to examine the possibility of providing services to help keep adopted pets in their homes.
f) Quarterly Stats-Here are the 4th quarter 2018 stats for BCAS as well as a comparison with 4th quarter stats from 2017.
Name of Shelter Manager: Lauren Pavlik
Name of Person completing this survey: Gary Klunk
A. Live Animal Count at Beginning of Qtr
B. Stray/At Large
C. Relinquished by Owner
D. Owner Requested Euthanasia
E. Transferred in from another Agency
F. Other Live Intakes (impounds, births, animals placed in foster care, brought in for TNR, etc)
G. TOTAL LIVE INTAKE DURING QTR (B+C+D+E+F)
I. Returned to Owner
J. Transferred to another Agency
K. Other Live Outcome (includes TNRs released)
L. Died/Lost in Care
M. Euthanasia- at Owner’s Request
N. Euthanasia-All other than owner request
O. TOTAL DISPOSITION DURING QTR
P. Live Animal Count at End of QTR (includes Fosters). (A+G - O)
In order to better understand to what degree unowned cats are a source of intake and euthanasia, we need your help. To the best of your abilities, please indicate what percent and/or how much of CAT intake would you consider unowned (i.e. feral, or community cats) animals:
How many of the euthanized cats would you guess are unowned:
EUTHANIZED AT OWNER REQUEST
EUTHANZIED OTHER THAN OWNER REQUEST
OTHER LIVE OUTCOME INCLUDING TNR
LIVE RELEASE RATE
EUTHANIZED AT OWNER REQUEST
EUTHANIZED OTHER THAN OWNER REQUEST
OTHER LIVE OUTCOME INCLUDING TNR
LIVE RELEASE RATE
Again we raise the concern that the live release rates presented here are not accurate, due to the influence exerted on those surrendering animals to sign a form requesting euthanasia. As mentioned earlier, if an owner requests euthanasia, that does not count against the live release rate. If these owners did not sign this form, and these animals were euthanized, these euthanasias would go into the category of "Euthanasia Other Than Owner Request" and would count against the live release rate. This would lower the Live Release Rate for BCAS.
Here is a one sheet summary we provided to Samantha O'Neill.
Our meeting with Sam O'Neill lasted an hour and a half and was very pleasant and open. The Administration has important work to do to examine all of the issues and interview all involved as it determines how to move forward at BCAS. We look forward to working with the new Administration.
7) Any Other Business?
8) Date and Time of Next Meeting Our next meeting will be held on February 19 at 6:30 PM.